A Vincentian View: A Wider Holy Family
In his weekly reflection for FamVin, Fr. Pat Griffin reminds us that as we see our immediate families grow we are invited to see everyone as members of the Hoy Family.
Owen Matthew Richards entered the outside world on October 24, 2019. When I got a festive envelope from his parents, my niece and her husband, I knew that there would be a Christmas card therein, and the odds were that the card would have Owen as a central figure. I was not disappointed. I do not exaggerate when I say that most (all?) of the cards that I get in these years from young families feature the children, and sometimes the whole family. I like the attitude captured by these greetings. They remind me that I am part of a larger family as brother, uncle, great uncle, cousin, friend and so forth.
As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, I amused myself with the thought that the “Christmas cards” of Mary and Joseph might look like the traditional religious cards that we sometimes use. We can recognize Mary and Joseph pictured around the newborn child. Yet, I think that we can also imagine Jesus within a bigger world and a broader family in these earliest days.
In a past Christmas, I preached about the possibility that more people than the Holy Family could have occupied the stable in which Luke describes the birth of Jesus. Perhaps Mary and Joseph were not the only ones for whom “there was no room at the inn.” Perhaps, at his coming, the poor and the homeless who gathered with him treated him as a special guest. They surrounded him and showered him with a special attention and love. Perhaps Joseph and Mary told Jesus about his birth in this way, and perhaps he thought about it as he grew up. Perhaps it influenced his particular attention to parents and their children. (I muse that the experience of Jesus and the repentant thief on the cross brings that story at his birth full circle.)
I wonder about the grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, and others who would have soon been involved in Jesus’ upbringing and his welcome into a particular family. Can you imagine him being held by Aunt Sarah or Uncle Joab, or being watched by cousin Ezra, or bathed by Grandma Ann? Can you hear from the lips of the growing Jesus the affectionate terms that a Hebrew child might use for his parents and grandparents? Thinking about Jesus as a member of a larger circle anchors him in our world and in our experience. He lived as part of a wider holy family.
At Thanksgiving, the one-month-old Owen circled my family gathered in the Common Room. He passed from uncle to aunt to cousin at some intervals. (I still think that my sister held him five minutes more than I did, but that is another matter.) If he was the Christ-child, could he have been handled more lovingly or with greater wonder? What if he was a child of the poor? Our Vincentian hearts can find in this season still more reason to be open and generous to our brothers and sisters who have particular need. We see in them and in their children the Holy Family. We can hear the summons to be united to that family.