The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

30 December 2012

Family and Four

Today is the Feast of the Holy Family. This Advent and throughout these days of Christmas, I've been reflecting on what the little family of Joseph and Mary and Jesus was like. It must have been quiet and simple and humble, don't you think? I speculate that they had a large and supportive community, because I think that's what everyone had in that time and place. Today's Gospel reading supports that idea - a caravan of people travelling together so large that family members could lose track of each other.

I do the Holy Family a disservice by discounting their humanity, their ordinariness. It's very easy to assume that their heroic virtue, their saintly holiness, exempted them from ordinary, daily life. I forget that they had to care for each other in relationship just as any family must do. They looked after neighbours, chatted at market stalls, debated whether they could afford new shoes, looked forward to news of loved ones far away.

Were they quiet and unremarkable, or was theirs the home people went to for a meal, for advice, for solace? Did they debate the issues of the day over the evening meal? Were they quick to laugh, or were they sober and serious?

I like to think there was a lot of joy, a lot of laughter, a lot of affection. A home like that would have drawn many other people to it, spreading the joy and laughter out into their community – the first instance of bringing Christ into our homes and place of work, no?

We are also not to be foolish and empty-headed (I’m sure none of us here are) but still, I prize joy and laughter.

My own family was small and quiet and very ordinary. We had our trials, as all families do, and went through less than stellar periods together.  But today, on this feast day, and the fourth anniversary of my dad’s death, what I remember and treasure the most is the laughter and the joy.  My dad’s gift was seeing and appreciating the humour in ordinary things, and his greatest happiness came from simple things – a good book, a crossword, a glass of scotch. Along with his eyebrows, those are qualities I inherited from him, and I consider myself greatly blessed.

I give thanks for the blessings of the past year – those easy to accept as well as the difficult – and face the new year coming with joy and laughter.


  1. I think we all discount the humanity of saints to a certain extent, but that is a natural tendency isn't it? The Church tells us that a certain person is now in heaven, granted special status and is known to have miracles attributed to their intercession. It's difficult NOT to discount their humanity when we view saints in this way. However, in discounting their humanity we defeat the whole purpose of the Church in giving us saints.

    Saints were ordinary people living ordinary lives while having extraordinary faith. Not only did they wash the dishes or vacuum the carpet they also struggled with their faith as we all do. They are models of faith in an ordinary world in which we live.

    Who would have ever thought that behind the young innocence of St. Therese de Lisieux a saint was in the making while she was washing floors because she was low man on the totem pole in the convent??

    Yet we grumble at washing our own floors. We are not made saints because we walk on water or raise the dead but because of our motivation in which we do things for others in the ordinary course of our lives; love of God.

    I love the thought that Mary may have pulled out splinters from her son's finger after helping Joseph build a table, or their accommodating an annoying neighbor who decided to drop in at an inopportune time of the day. Why would they have been exempted from such things? I believe they weren't. Not if they were human and they were to the fullest extent of humanity.

    My dear Tess, as I look back in time with eyes of maturity, I see my father, a man who struggled with the mundane of life, who could lose his temper at stupid things, jumped to conclusions without thought and never had a handle on how women thought or felt, especially his wife, my mother.

    Yet he had a sense of humor that my own children inherited. He made people laugh, intentionally or not. He also found joy in simple things such as your father did, especially when it came to family. He was serious when it came to important things and la di da when it involved things one had no control over. Above all, he was a man of his word.

    Every night we said the rosary as a family, but later that night, every night, he said the rosary again by himself because of a promise he had made to our Blessed Mother concerning a favor he received from her. That went on for decades up to the night before he died.

    Those are the things we remember about our fathers Tess, you and I. Men who understood in their particular way the nature of God's Truth and imparted that knowledge to us. That is why you can write about faith the way you do.

    This month it is the 4th anniversary of your daddy's death and next month will be the 34th of my own. I still miss him as if I he died yesterday, but without the grief. Just a yearning and Hope to see his face again. No one crosses our path in life without reason.

  2. It was also 4 years ago (Decemeber 28, 2008) that my father passed away, and what I remember most is how he liked to laugh.

  3. Bobby, you've given me something I'll be pondering for a while: we are not saints because we walk on water or raise the dead. My head know that, but I haven't entirely taken it into how I live.
    Four years or thirty-four - I'm beginning to understand the empty place never goes away.

    KR - my condolences. My goodness, what a coincidence. Four years ago we didn't know of each other, yet we were united in this. May your father rest in peace.