This weekend we celebrate back-to-back occasions—the Feast of the Holy Family today, Dec. 31, and the Feast of Mary, Mother of God, on New Year’s Day. My initial thoughts centered on threats to the family, the absence of many mothers who leave the country to seek work abroad as overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Without setting aside these threats that are real and which must be addressed, let us reflect on the gifts that the feasts remind us of.
Begin with the end in mind: The goal of a family is to provide an environment where its members can discover and discern their mission (their “deep gladness” that meets “a hunger of the world”).
Our work with public schools has twin goals: to build a caring community or environment, and to form teachers into mission-oriented educators/mentors who will love their students into excellence.
These, likewise, are the goals of a family, which is really the primary and more natural context or habitat for such goals. This is why teachers are told they are “in loco parentis” (in place of parents) when the students are in school. This is also why a home-school partnership is necessary.
To a certain extent, the family, the home and the school form one community tasked with the nurturing and formation of its young members. It takes a tribe to raise a child. To us, as well as many other cultures, the family is at the core of this tribe.
What are some of the qualities of the family as a caring community?
The first I would consider as basic, if not core, is that the family must be sacred space for its members. Sacred space is a home where the heart and soul are nurtured.
We can be sure that such was Christ’s family experience. We know little of those years, save for a few episodes—the Flight into Egypt, today’s Presentation Gospel, and the Finding in the Temple. After these, all we know was he advanced in age and wisdom.
When Christ reappears, he begins his ministry and takes it all the way to its fulfillment on the Cross and in the Resurrection. One can surmise how important his family was to all this.
As Fr. C. G. Arevalo, SJ, put it, Christ’s experience of Joseph’s fatherhood must have been so good that when we named his experience of God, he called God “Father.”
Ignatius of Loyola put forward in the Spiritual Exercises that though scripture does not say it, the Risen Lord must have appeared first to his mother, given how close they were to each other. Mary standing at the foot of the Cross on Calvary attests to this. —CONTRIBUTED