Today is the Feast of the Holy Family. What makes a family holy? Obviously, in the case of this feast, it is the presence of Jesus and his Mother, Mary. Now, have you heard the one small joke? Since Jesus and Mary were without sin, anything that went wrong in the Holy Family had to be the fault of St. Joseph. I told you, it was a small joke, and not a very good one.
But let’s go back to the question: what makes a family holy? Do you have to have someone like Saint Therese of Lisieux as part of your family? Both of her parents were canonized, at the same time. They are not the first couple to be canonized, but they are the first couple to be canonized together. Their names were Louis and Marie Martin.
What makes a family holy? Or maybe, the better question is: who has the biggest influence on making a family holy? If a child in the family has a strong faith experience, such as a summer Bible camp, less than 4% of the families will catch an interest in the faith because of the child. If the mother has a strong faith experience, 17% of those families will catch an interest in the faith. But, if the dad has the strong faith experience, 93% of the families will catch an interest in the faith. This is one of those one-liners that help make an even better case: “moms make the home; dads build the family.”
That is why a father has a strong influence on the family. That is also why Satan wants to attack dads. He does that in all kinds of ways in our modern culture. It has even become a phrase in our modern society: “deadbeat-dads”. Now, I am not saying that men are the ones who are responsible for all the problems. But without a strong faith in the man of the house, the ability of the family to stay together is diminished. What is sorely needed in our society, and in the church, is a rejuvenation of what it means to be a Man of God.
The war on families, in my estimation, rests in the way men have been attacked for being men. This is not about “toxic masculinity” as has been talked about in so many circles of our society. However, it is true that a good image of what a good Christian man should be has been distorted by our society in such a way that it is hard for men to truly be Men of God.
There have been numerous attempts at trying to help men to restore their own sense of purpose in being a Man of God. I think we need more work in this area. Unfortunately, I am not sure I have any instant solutions. It took time to destroy the family, to destroy the leadership of the father. It will take time to rebuild it.
Maybe you think I am overstating the problem. But, look around, not here in the church, but in our society. What are the ideals that are being held up for men to follow? Are they really Christian in their origin?
Now, I am not trying to canonize my father, but he was an example to me of what I am suggesting has been lost. I could probably take examples from anyone from what we have often referred to as “the greatest generation”. They were, and are, men of faith because of what they went through and because of the way they were taught.
One story about my dad. It was the first time I saw my dad cry. It was at the funeral home the night before we buried my grandfather. My dad gathered my two brothers and I, I am the oldest and I was only eight, to talk to us. He knelt down in front of us and said “boys, if I can be half the father to you that my dad was to me, I will consider myself a success.” I could give you many other examples from the memories of my dad. But I don’t think there are any that better portray what I am trying to talk about.
What makes a family holy? Okay, I have another story about my dad. I don’t know what prompted him to say this, but I remember it very clearly: “You may end up hating my guts, but by God, you are going to respect your mother!” Obviously, St. Joseph would never have to have said this to Jesus, but my dad to me? Maybe he did.
But, what dad was saying was that his love for his wife was more important than our love for him. And he was going to see to it that she received everything that was her due as the mother in the family, even if there was a risk that we would turn against him.
So, my brothers in Christ, are your families part of that 93%? It is never too late to start working to make your families holy. Do you need help to reset your values in line with Christ? My suggestion for the first place to look is “”. They have been producing videos for 7 seasons on EWTN.
I would also like to mention St. Joseph Covenant Keepers, which emphasizes eight commitments on the part of men to be truly men of God: 1) following St. Joseph – the loving leader and head of the Holy Family, 2) loving your wives all of your lives, 3) affirming Christ’s Lordship over your family, 4) turning your hearts toward your children, 5) educating your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, 6) protecting your family, 7) providing for your family, and 8) building your marriage and family on the rock, which is the church.
During this Christmas season, we are reminded by the world around us of how much the family is needed. We remember the Christ child; we remember the trials and tribulations that Mary and Joseph went through; we remember our own stories and experiences of faith. But the world around us does not see this as something of value.
What a waste. If people would turn to the Holy Family, they would see the strength and determination necessary to follow God. Again, do you, my brothers in Christ, see that, for the sake of your family, this relies mostly on you? Will you take up the challenge? It does not matter if you are not yet married, newly married, have had your children move out, or are now a grandfather, or even a great-grandfather. The challenge to be a true Man of God will help you lead your family to holiness.
As we are just before the beginning of a New Year, will you make that your New Year’s resolution: to become a true Man of God? That really is your job. Remember: “moms make the home; dads build the family.”