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.
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