Tag Archives: Holy Family

When marriage gets tough, faithful get stronger

When Mark lost his job after 21 years of service to a nonprofit organization, it was a devastating blow for our family. The organization was downsizing and decided to dismantle its in-house print shop, of which he was the manager. That was basically the only job he’d ever known during our entire married life, and the prospect of starting all over again was frightening. It was compounded by the fact that four out of our six family members have chronic illnesses, and so adequate health insurance is an absolute necessity.

Marge Fenelon

We tried to keep the kids out of worry’s way, but weren’t completely successful. Tensions were high, and it was like walking a tightrope without a safety net. In spite of that, we rallied around Mark, assured him of our confidence in his resourcefulness and abilities, and used every opportunity to boost morale – both his and ours.

Additionally, we tried to accentuate the resourcefulness of each family member so that we could pull together as a cohesive, purposeful unit. We had to focus on what was good in our lives so that we could keep moving in a positive direction. First and foremost, that included each other. This was a crucial time for encouraging each one to do whatever he or she could to help the family and to practice sacrificial patience!

…If we judged by the images of the Holy Family on Christmas cards, we’d think they lived in total placidity. Perhaps they did at times, but likely their lives were speckled with disharmonies as well. Did St. Joseph make his decision to quietly divorce, and then in turn not divorce, Mary without any struggle? At the same time, our Blessed Mother was tending to her cousin Elizabeth as she waited for St. Joseph to make his decision, wondering if he would ever again trust her, contemplating the possibility of being stoned to death, and trying to figure out what would happen to the Child within her womb should St. Joseph abandon her. Then Jesus came, and with him came tremendous joy, but also some really tight spots… How did they handle having to suddenly pull up roots and flee to Egypt?

…Think too of the complexity of their daily life. St. Joseph, although head of the family, was actually the lowliest of the three: he was just a man, while Jesus was God and the Blessed Mother was born without original sin. Nevertheless, the Blessed Mother …was a simple housewife and bound to submissiveness to her husband and service to her son. Jesus, the King of Kings, experienced all the frailties of the human condition while at the same time having the ability to rise above them. In spite of their “celebrity status,” the Holy Family lived simply and inconspicuously, waiting patiently upon each other and loving one another completely and unconditionally.

Excerpt from Chapter Five, “Good Times and Bad” from Strengthening Your Family: A Catholic Approach to Holiness at Home, © Marge Fenelon. Published by Our Sunday Visitor. Used by permission.

Award-winning author, journalist, blogger, and speaker, MARGE FENELON is weekly guest on Relevant Radio’s “Morning Air Show,” and blogger for the National Catholic Register. She’s written several books on Marian devotion and Catholic family life. Her latest title is Our Lady, Undoer of Knots: Living the Novena (A Guided Meditation from the Holy Land).


By its very nature conjugal love requires the inviolable fidelity of the spouses. This is the consequence of the gift of themselves which they make to each other. Love seeks to be definitive; it cannot be an arrangement “until further notice.” The “intimate union of marriage, as a mutual giving of two persons, and the good of the children, demand total fidelity from the spouses and require an unbreakable union between them.”

It can seem difficult, even impossible, to bind oneself for life to another human being. This makes it all the more important to proclaim the Good News that God loves us with a definitive and irrevocable love, that married couples share in this love, that it supports and sustains them, and that by their own faithfulness they can be witnesses to God’s faithful love. Spouses who with God’s grace give this witness, often in very difficult conditions, deserve the gratitude and support of the ecclesial community.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1646, 1648

Advent, Mother Teresa, Holy Family

FR. SHENAN BOQUET writes that Blessed Mother Teresa will inspire you this Advent . . .


Blessed Mother Teresa’s tendency to offer quotes of spiritual genius offers timeless inspiration. In all the good she did, it was her faithful disposition that led her to accomplish great things for God’s glory.

Her willingness to help those suffering physical poverty, regardless of race or creed, clearly demonstrates “love for neighbor,” as demanded by biblical and Church teaching. Yet her greatest gift was her concern for people’s spiritual poverty. How can we acquire such a disposition in light of our own obstacles and sufferings?

Perhaps the holy woman of Calcutta simply placed herself where material and spiritual poverty knew no bounds. Picture the dramatic scene in Bethlehem. Joseph, keen to protect and provide for his expectant wife finally reaches his destination. The couple desperately seeks lodging after a long, weary journey on a road rife with dangers.

When a shelter is finally discovered, it’s just a very simple dwelling — a drafty, dank, dark and pungent cave surrounded by curious creatures. To make matters worse, what comfort could a feeding trough — a mere shallow and empty depression used to nourish livestock with food or water — provide for a swaddled newborn babe?

Imagine the holy couple amid such great difficulty, completely dependent on God, trusting in him to provide for their material and spiritual needs. History’s greatest accomplishment is delivered in the nativity, God’s gift of salvation through the joyous birth of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

Even in the face of suffering, discomfort, and uncertainty, the greatest of deeds can be accomplished — just as the greatest of gifts can be unwrapped. This scripture passage presents God’s disposition for unveiling his eternal gift of salvation through the incarnation: “Though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9).

This is precisely why, in the humblest of settings, God’s works are accomplished completely through the desired dependence and disposition that the holy couple possessed. How to embrace such a disposition toward God is best explained by Mother Teresa: “Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in his love than in your own weakness.”

Life’s many obstacles are best overcome with complete dependence on God. Likened to the trough of the nativity scene, God cradles all of our material and spiritual needs in the most humbling and mysterious of ways when we empty ourselves. Following in the holy footsteps of St. Joseph and Our Blessed Mother, we too must embrace the cradle of a greater poverty of spirit, an impetus for an intimate and life-saving prayer life.

Such transformation allows God to fully maximize any talent, ability, wealth, reputation, influence and achievement to bring about great accomplishments for his kingdom. As Mother Teresa cautions, “Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at his disposition, and listening to his voice in the depth of our hearts.”

In this season of anticipation, joy, and wonder, consider for a moment the disposition we should have toward God, the giver of all gifts. Are we allowing ourselves to be emptied, addressing the temporal and spiritual poverty of our neighbor  — like Mother Teresa and the Holy Family — through our personal and professional lives?

I strive to live this very disposition in serving the Lord and his Church — my neighbor — as priest. The Lord continues to inspire me to exercise this disposition to accomplish great deeds in his vineyard in my current role as president of Human Life International. Such wondrous transformation brings about great accomplishments as seen in this admirable Catholic and educational apostolate. Throughout HLI’s 40-year mission, we have worked to encourage the faithful to embrace a disposition toward God and neighbor, following his will to cultivate, sustain and build a Culture of Life around the world in defense of life and family.

Perhaps this final pearl of wisdom from Mother Teresa will be an inspiration for your own disposition: “It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you.”

FATHER SHENAN J. BOQUET is the president of Human Life International and a priest of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, La.