A Daily Act of Consecration to the Holy Family

JMJ

Today is the Feast of the Holy Family. It’s falling on Friday this year because the Sunday after Christmas is 1 January, which is the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God. I have a particular devotion to the Holy Family on behalf of all who experience dysfunction, divorce, or any sort of Familial Loss either through no fault of their own or because of their actions. I fall into the latter category in someways, the former in others.

Please note: what follows is not an officially approved devotion in any way. If you find it useful, amen. If you feel it needs correction please let me know. I invoke Joseph and Mary under titles that include other devotions (Seat of Wisdom, Terror of Demons): feel free to use titles that resonate with your piety.

HOLY FAMILY OF NAZARETH, hear the prayers of a prodigal son. I have sinned before heaven and against you. Take me as one of your hired servants.

SAINT JOSEPH, TERROR OF DEMONS pray for me! I consecrate myself to thy most chaste heart!

Like thee may I be chaste and stable. May my work be done with all due speed and diligence; ever be ordered only to the provision, safety, and advance of God’s Kingdom, the Church. Bless my skills and talents that, like thee, I may ever use them to God’s glory and not my own. By thy prayers, may my work be crowned with the virtues of fortitude, prudence, and temperance. Let me be neither greedy nor sloth; let not the noonday demon find me ready to make a mockery of God’s labor or my own. Fix me in chastity in action, word, and thought.

Pray for me, St Joseph, together with thine All Immaculate Spouse, that I may work out my salvation in fear and trembling; that having thee as my father and Mary as my mother, I may truly have Jesus as my brother and may be a devoted servant of the Holy Family of Nazareth, at home in the household of God.

HOLY MARY, SEAT OF WISDOM, pray for me! I consecrate myself to thine immaculate heart!

Like thee may I be open to the will of God, ever trusting him without knowing the cost, and ever certain that what ever he has asked of me he will give me the grace to accomplish. May I never place myself between others and thy divine son save only to say “Do whatever he tells you” and like thee may I ever make intercession before God’s throne especially for those in most need of his mercy. Cause me, by thy prayers, through pious devotion and faithful adherence to the divine precepts, to yield a fruitful harvest of Faith, Hope, and Charity, and all the other virtues.

Pray for me, Holy Mary, Mother of God, together with thy Most Chaste Spouse, that I may be constantly bringing forth the Word of God to the Joy of all the World; that having thee as my mother and Joseph as my father, I may truly have Jesus as my brother and may be a devoted servant of the Holy Family of Nazareth, at home in the household of God.

JESUS I TRUST IN THEE. I consecrate myself to thy Sacred Heart!

Hear the prayers of thy All Immaculate Mother and thy Most Chaste Foster Father on my behalf. May the fount of mercy flowing from thy side wash me. Set up thy Cross in my soul. Nail my flesh to the fear of thee. Undo my slavery to my own reasonings. Take away my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh, on fire with love for the world, and wounded with compassion for the weak and lost, especially for those whom daily thou sendest to me.

May I truly have Mary as my Mother and Joseph as my Father, and be thou, Jesus, my Brother, Saviour, and Friend; that in service to the Holy Family of Nazareth, I may live in stability, safety, and peace.

May thy Church be my only home, thy Word my only teacher, thy Cross my only guide, and thy Eucharist my only food. My Jesus, I trust in thee!

DEAREST JESUS, after the example of the Chaste Heart of Joseph and through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer thee all of my plans, dreams, and intentions, all of my thoughts, words, and deeds, all of my joys and sufferings, my hopes and fears, all of my crosses and crowns of this day and all of my life, all for the intentions of thy Sacred heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, for the salvation of souls, the remission of sins, the reparation of blasphemies, the reunion of all Christians, and the intentions of our Holy Father, Pope Francis.

Amen.

The Holy Family

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner!

JMJ

The assignment was a 7 minute homily on a specific feast in the Advent/Christmas cycle. My assigned day is Holy Family Sunday (which is actually a Friday this year).

Be available to be someone’s chosen family.

WHAT IS THE MOST INTIMATE thing you can do with someone in public? Any guesses? 

It’s eating together. Sharing food is the most intimate thing you can do.

We eat together with our families and our most intimate friends. Yes, we might also eat together at work – team building is important! Dates. Proposals. Business deals. We do these all over food (and drinks, of course).

We see this every day, downstairs, at the Lima Center where guests need not only food but also love, social interaction, and simple human decency.  Come for our famous Chicken Adobo and showers, but stay for the feeling of being one of the family.

As a devotion, the Holy Family enters the Church recently: Showing up in France in the 18th Century. It doesn’t catch on for nearly 200 years, becoming a feast for the whole church only in 1921. 

It’s one of those curious feasts that does not mark an event or date, but rather an idea. The devotion was intended to show families how to be.

Paul calls the steps here:

Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, Bearing with and forgiving one another…  in love… and the peace of Christ

This does describe Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, but Paul is actually telling us how to live in our own families. 

Who would not want to gather around a table with a family like this? 

 The Holy Family devotion arose at a time when the family as we knew it had been destroyed by the industrial revolution. Gone were the days when multiple generations lived and ate together, caring for each other. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph would not have known themselves as a “nukular family” but as part of an extended tribe of support. They become a good aspirational image for how the family could be – despite the changes of the 18th and 19th centuries. 

But what of now? 

San Francisco is a city of broken families. Not only divorce – although certainly that. From the Gold Rush to the Tech Booms, people are called to the City by the siren song of the Petshop Boys.

Go West! 

Everyone goes west. 

Not always happily: sexual choices or drug issues cause families kick out their children. Wives leave their husbands. 

Families crash and break up on one rock or another and the flotsam and jetsom end up here, eating alone. 

Walking away from the past, hopes are high. 

Yet, the dark side is here, too: when things don’t work here, the westernmost city, where else is there to look for  “​​compassion, kindness, and patience”?  

San Francisco had at one time the highest suicide rate in the country (today it’s Las Vegas).

Sociologists see two types of families: “Birth Families” and “families of choice”. San Francisco author, Armistead Maupin, calls them “Biological Families” and “Logical Families”. He suggests folks come to this city – mostly alone – and weave new, Logical Families together to replace the Biological ones back east, in the past. 

What shall we – the Church that dines weekly (or daily) with the Holy Family – do about the flotsam and jetsom? Not just at homeless ministries, but in our homes.

When Christ calls us to welcome the stranger do we imagine them at our family table? 

My Catholic faith has been blessed and strengthened by two Brothers in the Knights of Columbus. Their families have welcomed me into their homes, especially at holidays and family events, helping me at difficult times, and making me feel included. I’m honored their children call me Uncle Huw! 

Is there someone in the pews for you to invite home? Do you have room around your table for a new aunt or uncle from St Dominic’s?

Let me and my Catholic extended family invite you to see the Holy Family as a model for us to be someone’s family in this city of singles. Try weaving Maupin’s phrase, “Logical Family” with one of the Greek titles for Jesus, “The Logos” the word. That’s where “logical” comes from, anyway.  Mary and Joseph are – literally – a family of Jesus’ sovereign choice, the Logos family. 

In the Holy Family we have a beautiful family of choice to emulate. 

Joseph embodies the virtues of strength, family support, and courage, Mary, full of grace, is courageous as well, and loving: a Jewish woman who keeps her home orderly so her husband can raise their son in the faith and traditions of Israel. Jesus is a stranger, not theirs and yet fully their own. And Jesus, one of us in all ways except sin, is almighty God living in humble obedience to his chosen parents. 

When making me part of their Logical Families, my Brother Knights model the Holy Family for me – for all of us.  

We can, through the Holy Family’s intercession, consecrate ourselves as new Logos families gathered around larger tables. Not only at Christmas but year-round. Our Holy Families of Choice can become the places described in the psalm:

Where we can eat the fruit of our handiwork and be blessed.

Extend an invite. Go blessed!

We can choose to build huge, intimate families of uncles and aunts for our children, including us all in the arms of faith and love around our dining tables and around this table where the God of all Love, of all community, of all family, gives himself to us, body, blood, soul, and divinity. 

Let us eat together with God, inviting all the world with us around this Eucharistic Table. 

There’s plenty of room here.

Let us all be the Holy Family!


Familial Consequence

The Readings for the Solemnity of the Holy Family

Et veniens habitavit in civitate quae vocatur Nazareth
And coming he dwelt in a city called Nazareth.

JMJ

NYC 1990. Working in retail at Christmas I was given a window to do. A 2nd Ave storefront, one block from the UN, was a huge challenge. I turned it over to the folks in the offices upstairs: in the center was a large (4.5 feet) painting of the Blessed Virgin with the Christ Child in her womb. I was at least a decade away from knowing this was the “Virgin of the Sign”. And hanging all around them were images of my coworkers and their families from upstairs. Even then, I knew that “family” was a fungible term in the secular mindset, so I made it clear that any definition of family was allowed. Nevertheless, I received an anonymous memo (remember those?) typed up on the back of my poster inviting photo submissions, telling me that I had once again underscored to this person they were excluded from Holiday because they had no family. My “family” at that time was me and 2 roomies in Brooklyn. If anyone could afford to live alone in the city, they clearly had made that choice themselves.

Family is the smallest unit of Church. Think of how Genesis 2 has a man “leaving his father and his mother” to cleave to his wife. There are no “singles” in this picture. Despite what our culture says today, it’s you and your parents until you’re married either to God or a spouse. If you don’t believe me look at how childish all our single adults are (including myself). The commitment of family, of childrearing, is what makes us adults. We have not “transferred ownership” yet. I say that at 55. We all find ourselves assembling families, even so.

These are the choices we make and choices always have consequences. Some choices are made in a family are not our own, however. My family fits all the stereotypes of dysfunction found in 70s households. Multiple divorces, half-siblings of different fathers – all of whom were absent, a single mother on food stamps, etc. These are the bits I can talk about. There are other bits that don’t need to be in a public blog post (although I take them to confession & spiritual direction). My family is one of the reasons I am broken in the ways that I am: I am one of the consequences of my family’s choices. I also made choices in response to my family: these are my own fault. My choices have consequences for my family too. Every time my parents speak to a church arguing against the traditional biblical teaching on human sexuality, that is a result of my actions in my family.

I’m so thankful for my friends who are getting married around me. They are building solid social cores for their future children. However, there is more for, as someone once said, “it takes a village.” Even a family is not able to stand alone. A “nuclear family” is all primed to explode unless it is solidly embedded within the wider social bedrock of the Church, of a network of friends, and an even-wider mesh of family. So it seems to me that we all (even the “singles”) have an obligation to build this network, to make things safe for these growing families. These networks also require commitment: you cannot build a family in the rootless cosmopolia we inhabit these days. Something must be done to counteract our growing, state0-centered, atomizing, individualist culture of destruction. This something must start with prayer.

The Act of Consecration to the Holy Family arose from a sense in my heart that, for me, the Holy Family had become my own family for all these reasons. The Holy Family had become a refuge for me, a place where I can indulge in that modern fiction: “the family of choice”. It can be contrasted with our given family; or as Armistead Maupin calls it, our “Logical Family” as opposed to our “Biological Family”. I have found over the last 35 years or so, that even the “logical families” I’ve assembled have been just as dysfunction as my biological one. I’ve run away from them as well. They become more disposable as I get rid of each one. In the Church, in Nazareth, I find my true home: coming to myself, I return to the home of my father where even the servants have enough.

Here then, is my true Family, the Holy Family of Nazareth, the root and base unit of the Church. In this family, I find my roots and grow.

Mom said I could help.

JMJ

The Readings for the Holy Family, Sunday within the 8va of Christmas:

Puer autem crescebat, et confortabatur plenus sapientia: et gratia Dei erat in illo.

The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.


Once again we find this scary concept that God is growing up.

This is the God that loves us.
That came to be one of us:
Not just with us
One of us.

How can God empty himself so deeply, so fully?

This is a divine mystery.

Yet it stands not alone: for God the Father emptied himself fully in the Son, and the Son created all of life, pouring himself out on the Universe.

And when we rejected his love,
He poured himself out yet more
Becoming infinitely small.
The smallest life humanly known
A cell.
Fully human, fully divine, fully alive.
The Conception of Divinity
The Immaculate Virgin as Ark of the Covenant
Then two cells.
Four
Eight,
Millions and millions
And Jesus.
Born of his Mother,
Held in Joseph’s arms.

And we ourselves can know this outpouring best
can mirror this emptying
By doing it.

The Letter to Diognetus says, “And if you love Him, you will be an imitator of His kindness. And do not wonder that a man may become an imitator of God. He can, if he is willing. For it is not by ruling over his neighbours, or by seeking to hold the supremacy over those that are weaker, or by being rich, and showing violence towards those that are inferior, that happiness is found; nor can any one by these things become an imitator of God. But these things do not at all constitute His majesty. On the contrary he who takes upon himself the burden of his neighbour; he who, in whatsoever respect he may be superior, is ready to benefit another who is deficient; he who, whatsoever things he has received from God, by distributing these to the needy, becomes a god to those who receive [his benefits]: he is an imitator of God. Then thou shalt see, while still on earth, that God in the heavens rules over [the universe].

This is only possible, though,
In God’s family: the Church
And today, we celebrate the beginning of that family
In Nazareth.

All is sacrifice, 
All is emptying out
And all is Joy.

God grows up.
What is this mystery?

What is the miracle that is sung at Christmas?

That God wets the bed.

That Joseph had to get out of bed in the wee hours (no pun intended, maybe)
To change bedding
To sing the child to sleep
To wonder about waiting for sleep to find him again
Wondering what had happened.

And Mary nursing the child
Life flowing from her breast
to Life himself.

And baby poo stinks.

And the first summer when there were birds
and the child – who made them –
Saw them finally as his eyes
learned to see
other things than Mom’s face
and Not the Mommy

And there was a thing
hidden in the room
that only babies can see
in the dark
and it is scary
and did Joseph have to keep a light?

Or were the stars enough?

Go and help your father.
Me? Really?
This was the first time I’d been asked to help
This was important.

What are you doing here?
Mom said I should help.
Oh. Get down here and help then…

The image ends there…. but God has done so.

And loves us the more for it
And we him.

Merry Christmas