Mysteries of the Holy Family

Immanuel Kant’s essay, What Is Enlightenment, explains for the modern world what “enlightenment” means.  To be enlightened, he says, is to become entirely independent in thought.  Children grow up depending on others for everything, of course, and even for their thoughts and opinions, but to be enlightened means that one throws aside childish dependence and thinks entirely for oneself. Something about the claim rings true, especially for our ruggedly individual age.

Yet without saying so explicitly, Kant’s position casts the family as a necessary evil.  We have to grow up in families, but they train us to live below our dignity by thinking like slaves.  To reach human perfection is to shake off the effects of family life.

Yesterday’s feast and today’s solemnity remind us that the family is a path to enlightenment; that childhood as such is a path to humanity and even beyond; that the bonds between parent and child are bonds indeed, but not fetters.

Along these lines, let me toss out three mysteries relating to the Holy Family:

  1. A parent can stand in for the child’s own will.

This is just a natural reality, but isn’t this a remarkable thing?  When my son had a life-threatening medical condition, I had to decide—on his behalf—what would be done to his body, what course would determine all.  Before my children were ever aware of their surroundings, I chose where they would live, and consequently what nation and what state would claim their citizenship, and as a result what laws they would be under.  Extending this natural reality, I even committed my children to God through baptism, and by so doing I brought on them all the obligations of a Christian.  It is an astonishing and wonderful thing that one human person can be so entrusted to another.

  1. The child Jesus had both a divine and a human will.

When I teach about the mystery of the Incarnation, students are typically ready with the formula they learned in their catechisms:  Jesus is one divine person in two natures, one divine and one human.  But they are typically shocked by the obvious implication that Jesus has a divine will and a human will, two roots of love, two ultimate centers of desire.  Of course, even Jesus’ human will is the human will of a divine person:  the life of the Word of God extends into time and space through the Incarnation, such that anyone who has seen the man Jesus has seen the Father.  Consequently, the love of the Word of God is replayed in the love of the man Jesus:  this man loving the Father is God’s own Son loving him through a human nature!  A human nature has been caught up into and, so to speak, included in the inner life of the Trinity.

  1. The previous two mysteries together make a third.

Joseph acted as foster father and Mary as the natural mother of the child Jesus.  When they circumcised him—an event commemorated as part of today’s feast, according to the current Martyrology—they chose God on behalf of the Word of God.  When they committed Jesus to the faith of Israel, they turned toward the Father on behalf of his own Son.  They were caught up into the mystery of the Incarnation, and for the brief period of his infancy they stood in for the theandric will of the God-man.  Now that just makes this parent break out in goose bumps.

God be praised for the family!  God be praised for the mystery of the Incarnation!  God be praised, I say, for the mystery of the Holy Family.

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Mysteries of the Holy Family

Immanuel Kant’s essay, What Is Enlightenment, explains for the modern world that enlightenment means becoming entirely independent in thought.  Children grow up depending on others for everything, of course, and even for their thoughts and opinions, but to be enlightened means that one throws aside childish dependence and thinks entirely for oneself. Something about the claim rings true, especially for our ruggedly individual age.

Yet without saying so explicitly, Kant’s position casts the family as a necessary evil.  We have to grow up in families, but they train us to live below our dignity by thinking like slaves.  To reach human perfection is to shake off the effects of family life.

Yesterday’s feast and today’s solemnity remind us that the family is a path to enlightenment; that childhood as such is a path to humanity and even beyond; that the bonds between parent and child are bonds indeed, but not fetters.

Along these lines, let me toss out three mysteries relating to the Holy Family:

  1. A parent can stand in for the child’s own will.

This is just a natural reality, but isn’t this a remarkable thing?  When my son had a life-threatening medical condition, I had to decide—on his behalf—what would be done to his body, what course would determine all.  Before my children were ever aware of their surroundings, I chose where they would live, and consequently what nation and what state would claim their citizenship, and as a result what laws they would be under.  Extending this natural reality, I even committed my children to God through baptism, and by so doing I brought on them all the obligations of a Christian.  It is an astonishing and wonderful thing that one human person can be so entrusted to another.

  1. The child Jesus had both a divine and a human will.

When I teach about the mystery of the Incarnation, students are typically ready with the formula they learned in their catechisms:  Jesus is one divine person in two natures, one divine and one human.  But they are typically shocked by the obvious implication that Jesus has a divine will and a human will, two roots of love, two ultimate centers of desire.  Of course, even Jesus’ human will is the human will of a divine person:  the life of the Word of God extends into time and space through the Incarnation, such that anyone who has seen the man Jesus has seen the Father.  Consequently, the love of the Word of God is replayed in the love of the man Jesus:  this man loving the Father is God’s own Son loving him through a human nature!  A human nature has been caught up into and, so to speak, included in the inner life of the Trinity.

  1. The previous two mysteries together make a third.

Joseph acted as foster father and Mary as the natural mother of the child Jesus.  When they circumcised him—an event commemorated as part of today’s feast, according to the current Martyrology—they chose God on behalf of the Word of God.  When they committed Jesus to the faith of Israel, they turned toward the Father on behalf of his own Son.  They were caught up into the mystery of the Incarnation, and for the brief period of his infancy they stood in for the theandric will of the God-man.  Now that just makes this parent break out in goose bumps.

God be praised for the family!  God be praised for the mystery of the Incarnation!  God be praised, I say, for the mystery of the Holy Family.

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Sacred Heart Enthronement Hymn

When I first met the woman who would become my wife, her family had been saying a prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus every night for as long as she could remember.  It was a variant on the Renewal of the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart.  Now Jacinta and I have said that same prayer every night with our kids for years and years.

A few weeks ago, we began Project Bard:  we determined to build a treasury of songs by singing more or less every night–rounds, hymns, camp-fire songs, whatever.  To approach the ocean by little streams, we began with some of the goofier selections from Cedarmont Kids’ 100 Singalong Songs for Kids.

We always end our singing session with night prayers, so one day it hit me:  why not sing night prayers?  It wasn’t hard to adapt our Sacred Heart prayer to a traditional hymn tune from the Roman Breviary, drawing on Fr. Samuel Weber’s Hymnal for the Hours.  The result was just a little thing for my family, not really memorable poetry, but given Austin Kleon’s principle about sharing your work, and given that today is the memorial of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, I think I’ll toss it up here: Continue reading “Sacred Heart Enthronement Hymn”

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X-Ray Reads: for the voracious teen reader

If you have a teenage reader, you have had this problem.  All through their childhood you have fed them good books, fended off junk and inappropriate material, and maybe even previewed library books they wanted to read.  But one day they show up with a stack of Young Adult books, each one three to five hundred pages long, none of them familiar, and all of them so—so teen.

And you realize you just can’t do it anymore.  You can’t keep up. Continue reading “X-Ray Reads: for the voracious teen reader”

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Amoris Laetitia: Pope Francis on Marriage and Family

By chance, I received a copy of the Pope’s new apostolic exhortation yesterday, about nine hours before it was published.  So of course I started skimming it, if only to enjoy my brief time of being “in the know”:  never forget, all you bloggers and blog readers, that when it comes to Amoris Laetitia I’m nine hours ahead of you.  And I always will be.  😉

On a quick first-skim, I think there are two things to say about the document: Continue reading “Amoris Laetitia: Pope Francis on Marriage and Family”

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The goats and the kid

My mother recently sent me a picture of myself at about ten years old milking a goat. We lived in Redfield, Arkansas, miles away from even a small town, on a four-acre plot of land surrounded by an endless forest. The picture brought a lot of memories back. Specifically, I recall now: Continue reading “The goats and the kid”

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Roll over, Moses

Near the banks of the Nile, around the year 2000 BC, Moses stood in perplexity. “Did God say ‘Stretch out your hand’ or ‘Stretch out your rod’?” He wondered aloud. “Hand or rod? Shoot, my memory must be slipping.” Tentatively, he waved his rod in the air. Nothing.

Or so he thought. Unbeknownst to Moses, he had angled his rod into the sixth dimension and let loose a bolt that crossed a small wrinkle in the space-time continuum, thus missing Egypt and the 2nd Millenium BC entirely…. Continue reading “Roll over, Moses”

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It’s in the jeans: my boy can do math!

I am overweeningly papa-proud of my son Isaiah, who took 4th place in the central Wyoming 7th-grade math competition.

Isaiah Math PrizeThe kicker:  Isaiah isn’t in the 7th grade.  He’s in the 6th grade, but he placed above thirty or forty other kids anyway.

The kicker to the kicker:  He didn’t practice at all.  He just walked in cold and did it.  In his jeans.

The kicker to the kicker to the kicker:  His parents don’t work with him on math.  We bought Teaching Textbooks and he just does it, without ever asking for help.  He thinks math is just FUN.

I wish I could claim that all my kids are geniuses or that we have discovered the secret to home schooling in math.  But the reality is just that Isaiah is a pretty cool kid.  He makes math look easy.

Writing now….

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Talking our way to love

On Valentine’s Day, we fed the kids early and sent them off to watch a movie while we shared a special dinner and talked. OK, so we got a few words in edgewise here and there around baby Matthew’s escalating demands for food, but it was still Valentine’s Day and we were only shouting over one small voice.

Talking our way to loveWe’ve always talked a lot. That’s how we got married: we would stand outside Jacinta’s dormitory until curfew, just talking and talking, and I remember thinking to myself one night as we stood by the fence, “Gee, I could just do this forever.” We got married so there would be no curfew and no reason to stop talking.

Sheldon Vanauken describes how a married couple can suffer “creeping separation” if they don’t share enough of life. It takes shared experience, and shared thoughts about shared experience, to knit two souls together: Continue reading “Talking our way to love”

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Buckets, beads, and the Imago Dei

The night before last, Matthew got the dreaded Cortisol Dump. According to the books, babies have a natural window within which they need to go to bed, and if they don’t then their system drops a half-pint of stimulant into their bloodstream—no doubt a survival mechanism left over from an era when infants killed off their parents at an early age and ruled the earth.

pac_man_energy_drinkWe saw it coming a long way off. Matthew didn’t sleep well the night before that, which meant that his morning nap came too early, which meant that his afternoon nap came too early, which meant that he took an early evening nap, which meant that he stayed awake through the Magic Window and got the Dump. (I imagine the sound was like when Pac-Man eats an energy pill.)

The downside was that I was tired all yesterday and marked almost nothing off of my to-do list. The upside was that I played games with Matthew all alone until after eleven o’clock, and I was privileged to see exactly where he is: Continue reading “Buckets, beads, and the Imago Dei”

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