Today is the anniversary of a terrible accident in which two of my daughter’s friends were killed. I remember it every year and I pray for them and their families. I know that she could so easily have been with them that day and that my life would never have been the same. There are parents today who know that grief, that unspeakable grief, and my heart goes out to them.
Just the other day, in my genealogical research, I came across the obituary of my grandmother’s nineteen year old brother, Leonard. He was a normal, healthy kid who was stricken with pneumonia and was dead within a few days. That was in 1928, the very year that penicillin was discovered, an antibiotic that would revolutionize medicine. Sadness permeated the small town newspaper account of all the Mass cards and floral tributes the family received from their shocked friends, young and old. I teared up thinking of Leonard and felt very grateful that we really don’t have to fear illness the way previous generations did.
As parents, we tend to think that as our children get older they are safer. They know to look both ways before crossing the street and later, not to drink and drive… We have concerns about cyber-bullying and sexting – things we didn’t even have words for when we were young. We try to prepare them for life. Unfortunately, one error in judgment can have serious consequences. And sometimes disaster comes for no apparent reason. We come to realize that life was easier when we were pulling toddlers off the kitchen counter or holding our breath when the training wheels came off the bicycles.
Today, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, we recall Mary and Joseph bringing their infant Son to the Temple:
Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
February is the month of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. We can and should look to them in our times of worry and sorrow. Now, I admit I used to think Mary had it pretty good with one perfect child, no less than God Himself. And, sure, I imagine He was as sweet a child as could be. But none of us would trade places with her at the foot of the Cross. We should not forget that she feels our pain as she shared in her Son’s Passion, and as we also feel our children’s pain when they struggle. When we suffer for love of each other, we can share in Christ’s Passion.
As I have written previously, by coming into a family unit, Christ has sanctified families for all time. Our families, made up of flawed and sometimes sinful people, are intended to be holy entities where the exchange of love between the persons reflects in our small way the love between the Persons of the Blessed Trinity. Let us turn to the example of the Holy Family and pray for the grace to live as they did, faithful to God, a humble loving family trying to do His will.