Mary and Joseph: The Ultimate Family Counselors

This is the time of year when Christians are most focused on the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.  Reflection on the Holy Family is more than just the Nativity scene.  Naturally, Christmas focuses on the birth of the Saviour, and Mary and Joseph play key roles in this most important event.  The Child born in Bethlehem in a stable is, no doubt, what Christmas is all about.

But there is a reason the Church incorporates a feast day of the Holy Family within the days of Christmas.  There is much to reflect on in addition to the historic event of Jesus’ birth.  The Church wants us to have this opportunity.

For singles, the Holy Family represents what they hope to have in their own lives; a loving, caring spouse and children.  Holy means to be set apart.  They are the “Holy” Family because of the unique purpose each was called to do together. What can we learn from the Holy Family as we endeavor to be married and have a family?

Consider the parenting of Mary and Joseph, and the environment they created for their Child to be raised in.

Just as Jesus had no need of baptism, yet allowed himself to be baptized as an example to us, He had no need to be formed as a person by His earthly parents, yet submitted Himself to them in all things.  It is in this submission to Mary and Joseph that He was full prepared for His mission of saving the world.

We start out as an infant and are completely at the mercy of our parents to form us into the person we were created to be.  Without good parenting, we are at risk of not becoming who we were meant to be, but rather some distorted version of that person.  Thus, if we are neglected, abused, unloved, poorly educated, misguided, or many other things that fall under bad parenting, we do not turn out to be what society would call a “good person,” nor what the Church would call a “Christian.”

Parenting matters in the formation of every child as a healthy, virtuous, civil adult of good character.  The parents we have and the environment we grow up in play major roles in our becoming the person we are as an adult.

Therefore, it is no small matter to choose a spouse whom we believe will make a good parent, and who desires to establish a home environment that will give children the best opportunity to become the person they are each created to be by God.  And you should be this person, too, for it is the kind of person your future spouse is seeking.

Here is where we can turn to the Holy Family for a universal example.  The home of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph was a peaceful, harmonious home, full of joy and simplicity of life.  It was a stable environment, where mutual love and respect was a priority.   Jesus was taught normal things and guided by His mother and father.  His human will was developed to confirm with God’s will.  There was no place for anger, aggression, and dominance of one over another in their home.  Jesus was able to grow up with real freedom of self-discovery.

Jesus had two parents who were on the same page.  They both loved God and their religion was central to their lives.   The teachings of their religion governed their daily actions.  They taught their son to love God and follow the teachings of their faith.  Mary and Joseph were consistent and without controversy when it came to everything important.  Therefore, a husband and wife should be striving after these same things.

It is important to find someone who believes in peace and is a person of good will. It is so critical to a happy and healthy home.  It’s critical to authentic love, which should always (and I mean always) be seeking peace and resolve.  A person of good will has the other’s best interest in mind.  Even if there are times of conflict, the end result should be a desire to make peace.  The home should be where love and forgiveness are lived.

From the environment of peace and good will comes well adjusted children who make the transition into adulthood with a firm sense of who they are, and the confidence to seek out what it is they are to do.  They were free to become the person they were created to be.  Their parents did not try to control them in their transition, but guided them through with the freedom to discover themselves.

The environment a couple raises their children in influences who they become.  It’s a concerning thing to see households where everyone is so busy “doing,” and parents who have their children busy achieving and participating.  It is an environment that is fast paced and cluttered with activity, anxiety, pressure, excessive entertainment, etc.  There is a place for these things, but we must be careful about the home environment being counter-productive.

We don’t know if Jesus was ever on the honor roll, or won awards in athletics, etc.  But we do know He led a humble, simple, and predictable life obedient to Mary and Joseph.  The message seems to be that what is important in the vocation to marriage and life as a family is simplicity, and is very attainable for all.  It is a serenity that comes from within with God at the heart.

Above all, the Holy Family prayed.  Therefore, a couple should be praying for each other, as well as with each other.  Without this cornerstone, the entire structure falls.  Those who believe in peace and are people of good will are definitely people of prayer.  So make sure you consider the prayer life of the person you are considering for marriage.

St. Augustine defined peace as “the tranquility of order.”  To have an ordered life with God as the head and center of all things will ensure the peace that is so critical to living the meaning of Christmas all year round.

May the peace and good will that was at the heart of the life of the Holy Family be the priority of all who seek love, marriage, and family life.

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  • laurak

    I pray that every young person out there, who would like to get married and raise a family, carefully consider this article. It is the best article I have ever read on the subject of marriage and family life. It should be included and taught in the pre-cana marriage preparation programs, for all couples who are preparing for matrimony. This is sound advice.

    Part of the problem though, is that bad parenting is often passed from generation to generation. It takes a conscious effort to want to learn how to live a better way. Not find fault or blame our own parents for their failings, but to learn to model our marriage and family life more fully by the example of the holy family.

    The pattern of bad parenting and a disharmonious marriage and family life will continue to repeat itself, until young couples recognize this pattern and decide for themselves, to learn how to live a better way. This is difficult without a good, sound example to go by. And it can be difficult to overcome long ingrained habits and ways of relating to one another in families. But, it can be done, through prayer and by God’s grace.

    God’s gift of baby Jesus and the holy family really is the greatest gift we will ever receive. A good, sound, and holy example for us to model our own marriage and family life on.

  • janetdjm

    The Holy Family is a great model for the Sacrament of marriage, but not all are called to this vocation. God created each of us with a plan and purpose, and His way is best. I have heard it said that many more are called to the priesthood than respond with a yes. God loves us regardless. I know it has been moving for me to read Catholic Extension’s magazine. They have wonderful writers that share wonderful stories of priests and nuns who have said yes, who are heroes in their community. The world focuses on those with fame/money in acting, music, sports as the life to pursue, not serving the poor! Blessed Mother Teresa had NO intentions of founding an international order and all the travel, she did NOT like her picture being taken (she made a bargain with God for every photo, a soul would be released from Purgatory), she certainly did not like banquets in her honor and insisted her food be the same as what she is able to feed the poor. Yet God multiplied her efforts, and her yes would made known worldwide as an example for us all.

    First I prayed to know what I was called to do–religious life? married life? single life? When I discerned and it was confirmed that it was marriage, then I prayed for a Joseph. I prayed for whomever the man would be that God would be preparing him and me to fulfill His will. God knows the heart, what I and my spouse needed to learn what love is. Since marriage is a lifelong covenant, I wanted God’s help for me to know who I was called to marry. God is good, when we look to Him, He will make it as obvious as we need it to be. After waiting for years, and several novenas, who was to be my husband became known to me. We even decided to make the sacrifice to not even kiss until we were married and offer it up for the world’s offenses against God’s plan for our sexuality (that it’s reserved for marriage).

    I have a friend who is single that says to me that I am so lucky since I am married. I tell her marriage isn’t an answer to life’s problems, its just a different set of problems/challenges! I was surprised learning there are still feelings of loneliness, for no one person can be all one’ needs. We are called to die to self, love unconditionally, and that isn’t easy, but God knew those lessons are what I needed!

    God bless!

  • bronwyn

    The article and the comments are truly inspiring! I passed this little gem of an article to my daughter.

    Re: breaking the chain of “bad” parenting
    It can be done if you either set your mind to it or seek help. My friend had a very unloving mother who told her that she was unwanted and tried to miscarry. My friend was born prematurely and is one of the most loving, inspiring women I have ever met. She broke the chain and is an awesome mother and even grander (if possible) grandmother.