Yesterday marked the Feast of the Holy Family: the day dedicated to celebrating Mary, Joseph, and Jesus – not as individuals – but as a unit. A family, just like yours and mine. This Feast Day is also an opportunity to examine how Mary, Joseph, and Jesus’s relationship can teach us something about the relationships we have with our own family. Following the Feast of the Holy Family, we honor Mary as the mother of Jesus, in the highest of ways with the Solemnity of Mary.
As a mom with two young boys who struggles endlessly to find the strength needed to parent them through the sleepless nights, interminable fights, and willful cries, I have spent a lot of time contemplating the struggles Mary may have encountered raising Jesus as a young boy. Jesus’s childhood is practically absent from scripture. The Bible doesn’t address the nights that Mary spent awake by her young son’s side, or the power struggles she very likely endured with three-year-old Jesus. It doesn’t tell us how her parenting style may have varied from Joesph’s and how they may have disagreed on how to discipline or raise their son.
These are all things that parents struggle with and it would be naive of us to think that Mary was spared any of the trouble. God sent Jesus to live among us, as a boy, a son, a human being, so that his experiences would be comparable to ours. He was conceived, albeit immaculately, and naturally birthed. Suffice it to say, Jesus too, was a child who needed to be nurtured and cared for. He had to learn to roll over, crawl, and walk before he could run. He had to listen to his mom and dad say no when he desperately wanted them to say yes. I am certain too, that he was a child that drove his mother to the brink of insanity, at times. Knowing that Mary had to birth Jesus in a manger full of farm animals instead of a cozy hospital room and eventually suffered the greatest pain of all when she watched her son die at Calvary, why wouldn’t she have also experienced the smaller, more trivial challenges that accompany motherhood? I pray that I never have to experience a fraction of the pain that Mary experienced as a mother, but her gentle strength is a constant reminder of the type of matriarch I strive to be: compassionate, patient, and full of trust and forgiveness.
It has taken me years to seek consolation in Mary. My grandmother gave me a statue of Mary holding baby Jesus when I was just a little girl. Her love and admiration for the Blessed Mother were evident. But as a child, I was not a practicing Christian, let alone a practicing Catholic. I paid little attention to the love and sacrifice of the Mother, but after coming back to the Church and choosing to raise my children Catholic, my heart has developed a soft spot for Mary. I look at the images of her holding her son in her arms, the sweet love of a mother ever-present, and I see everything I want to be. Mary never wanted to be anything more than a vessel for God. She never wanted recognition or to be praised for doing what she believed she was destined to do. She is the most beautiful and humble of all mothers. She brings us closer to her son when we allow her to and she softens our hearts.