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Reflections on the Feast of the Holy Family

alec vanderboom

I sat down in my church pew before the Feast of the Holy Family and found out that I felt so unhappy and sad inside my heart. My feelings felt really surprising to me. I love the Holy Family. This Feast Day is usually a time of such Joy and Hope for me.

I sat quietly with my feelings in front of Jesus inside the Tabernacle. I think some things came into focus. 2014 has been such a year of failure for me. My husband has asked me to stop blaming him when ever things go wrong in my life. It's humiliating to recognize that I can not fix that fault. I know that is wrong intellectually. I work on it. I still fail. I fall into that fault as easily as if I often tripped over an actual sidewalk crack outside my home.

In that moment of sitting quietly before the church service started, I recognized that I "have" to feel anger at someone else, because otherwise I fall easily into depression by blaming myself. It's like I've got the "Prosperity Doctrine" deeply stuck in my heart. I can't accept that sometimes things are just "hard." Sometimes I have suffering. I feel like any suffering that I have is because "I'm doing it wrong" and the deep shame I feel about being stupid, and wrong, and a failure. That shame spiral hurts so much that sometimes I distract myself with a litany of "things my husband did wrong." That's a deep issue and I'm not sure how to fix it on my own.

I also realize that I still feel like I failed my son by having a premature birth. In my head, I can say "This wasn't my fault." But inside I feel like a failure. I feel like I let him down. I feel like I should have fought harder to stay in the hospital when I ended up there for a bleed only 7 days before my scheduled early c-section. I was tired of the hospital. I wanted to be home. When the doctor on call said "you can go home today", I left. I didn't argue for more time or ask for an earlier c-section date. Less than 72 hours, my water broke at home. My son is totally healthy and fine now. But both my husband and I aren't over that emotional trauma yet. I feel somewhat responsible for that emotional injury. I think that if I had my waters break inside the hospital my son's birth wouldn't have been nearly that scary for us.

Then I have the failure of not being loving enough to my 2 year old. It's been nine months of her being 2 and I feel like I fail in front of her all the time. I fail to be patient. I fail to be kind. I fail to really appreciate how hard this stage in life is for her.

The Feast of the Holy Family--it's become a day of reckoning for me. It's not always comfortable for me to look at the Holy Family as a role model. There is a lot of ways that I don't line up with Mary, the Mother of God.

The Mass ended up being really, really great.  We're blessed to have a retired Seminary teacher as one of the priests assigned to our parish. Father talked about some of the real life struggles the Holy Family faced. The Holy Family was homeless. The Holy Family had to become refugees in order to avoid persecution. St. Joseph had to struggle to make a living in a deeply uncertain economy.

Father said "The cross is a central part of marriage." Family life is a struggle. It's a struggle to take care of a newborn. It's a struggle to stay patient and calm around a feisty two year old. It's hard to make ends meet in this economy right now. It's hard to educate kids--in the Faith, in school, in manners, etc.

I felt a lot of healing. I'm in good company. Mary, Joseph and Jesus struggled a lot too. While I certainly bring a lot of my own sin and brokenness to the equation, family life is always supposed to be A Noble Hard.

In the end, its an honor to take that struggle into the 21 Century. Even in the hard times, I'm really, really blessed to be on this path.

Mary, the Mother of God, pray for us!