By Carrie McCormack
WE are born with a mother and a father yet there is an invitation beyond biological family.
As children of God, through baptism we are adopted by God as sisters and brothers to Jesus Christ, and therefore have a permanent family connection to Mary, Joseph and the entire Church.
The Holy Family offers us the model of an ideal family.
The Holy Family was faced with challenges that relate to our everyday.
For example, the courage shown by Joseph to trust God and marry Mary (Matthew 1:20) and how he responded trustingly when told by an angel to flee to Egypt for safety (Matthew 2:13).
Mary displayed courage when she encountered Simeon who prophesied that Mary’s heart would be pierced (Luke 2:35), and later witnessed and endured her son’s death.
The family is the centre for the promotion of human flourishing and in particular the bearing and nurturing of the young.
Edith Stein speaks of the role of the parents beautifully in her book, Essays on Woman.
She writes, “… grace in the child is like a hidden flame which must be painstakingly tended and nursed and defended against anything which could extinguish it”.
The elderly are also sustained in the family.
My Grandma was a great role model to me in living life to the full.
She died recently after a long life of over 96 years.
Five years ago at the time of the papal election my eldest daughter casually asked, “So when Great Grandma dies, do we get a new one?”
I still smile about this.
Within the hearts of children is a hopeful image of the family and I argue, a deep understanding of full, perpetual communion.
Even when we suffer loss there seems to be a hope which remains that the fullness of communion with deceased members of the family is waiting for us.
Being a mother I often turn to the motherhood of Mary and I frequently lean on her courage in my everyday life.
I refer to two examples in my life where Mary has assisted me personally.
Mary models a response to pain in her life.
I carry with me in life a broken heart from when my parents divorced: it was like having my heart ripped out.
When I take time to pray the Rosary and sit with the mysteries I am ministered to by Mary’s pierced heart, her willingness to endure God’s plan despite the pain. I am inspired to keep moving, to keep bringing new life out of the pain, as Mary has done.
In the past, I carried the attitude that I must be healed before I could be worthy.
I learned that, in fact, I am called to be a wounded warrior, ready to be sent daily to embrace life even though I have been wounded.
I am not paralysed in my pain anymore.
The gift of my pain secures my humility and enhances my need for the role model of the Holy Family and, in particular, Mary.
Mary is moved with haste (Luke 1:39) at times in her family mission.
It evokes in me a desire to seek a perfect union of body and spirit – to have a single-mindedness about God’s purposes in everything.
St Augustine sums it up neatly in these words: “Live as if your body will live forever, and as if your soul will die tomorrow.”
I enjoy this as it emphasises the tension about family life being demanding both physically and spiritually.
Being family in today’s culture requires a good stretch of hope.
While many forces exist to extinguish the grace that families and children need the Holy Family is ready and waiting to assist us.
The effort requires many virtues including dedication and vigilance but it is worth embracing this vocation knowing one day we will become more than just conquerors (Romans 8:37).
Carrie McCormack is the founder of Mother Effect, a ministry that promotes parents as the first educators of their children, and understanding the potential of the child.