This week is a double-header: The Feast of the Holy Family + the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We’ve got seven ways to be your own holy family this week, including a cool way to do New Year’s resolutions. Plus” the Pope on why large families are good for society.
COMING THIS WEEK
Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14: “God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons….”
Colossians 3:12-21: “Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another. . . .”
Luke 2:22-40: ” . . . when the parents brought in the child Jesus
to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,
He took him into his arms and blessed God. . . .”
Thursday, January 1: Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God (Holy Day of Obligation)
Seven Ways to Become a Holy Family This Week
1. Read & reflect on Sunday’s readings
Think you need to have halos and plastic smiles to be a holy family? Think again. The Church offers a different model to aim for in this Sunday’s readings.
What action words appear in the readings? (Honor, respect, obedience, patience, kindness, and so on.)
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph are often presented not as just holy, but as perfect. But look more closely at the Gospel reading. How do you think Mary and Joseph reacted to the proclamation of Simeon and Anna?
Based on the readings, what do you think it means to be a holy family?
Bonus: Look at the alternate readings for even more insight into what it means to be a holy family. What would Abraham and Sarah say makes for a holy family?
2. Celebrate the New Year
It’s no coincidence that the New Year falls on the eighth day after Christmas, what the Church calls the Octave of Christmas. The “eighth day” symbolizes the beginning of something new (seven days + one = the new week), which is appropriate because the birth of Christ ushered in the New Covenant . . . and an entirely new era in human history. Here’s how to celebrate:
Go to Mass. It’s the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God; you can preview the Mass readings here
Try seafood paella for New Year’s Eve. You can read about it at Catholic Cuisine, where they also have ideas for celebrating the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Feast of the Holy Family.
3. Dedicate family prayer to blessing the New Year
If you own Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers, look up “Prayer for the New Year.” If you don’t have a copy, that’s okay; you can find it over at the USCCB website.
4. Read the Pope’s message for the World Day of Peace
Every year, the Pope issues a message for the World Day of Peace. You can catch a summary of this year’s message at the Vatican Information Service (after it comes out).
5. Make an examen of 2014
You know why the media do all those year-in-review stories at the end of the year? So they can recycle old news stories during their Christmas holiday. But never mind . . . doing your own year-in-review could be a fun and fruitful way to finish out the year.
For a more formal approach (adults and teens), adapt the Ignatian daily examen to the year. Read how to do it here: Daily Examen.
For a less formal approach (younger children), sit down as a family with your 2014 calendar and go through it month by month, talking about what happened each month. Alternatively, pull out your digital photo album and go through it month by month. As you share memories, talk about what were the highs and lows, using this Highs and Lows article as a guide. You can think of this as a “light” version of an Ignatian examen.
6. Make spiritual New Year’s resolutions as a family
If you do an examen of 2014, follow up by making spiritual New Year’s resolutions as a family.
You can make traditional New Year’s resolutions, but for this activity, focus in a special way on spiritual virtues that you want to increase over the next year: patience, kindness, charity, courage, truthfulness, temperance, obedience, modesty, respect, understanding, silence, and so on.
Older children and teens can write their spiritual resolutions down in their Prayer Journal, or make a family poster to hang up on the refrigerator for the month of January.
If you are super ambitious (give yourself a star for this one), make a progress chart of virtues that you are working on as a family, and do a check-in/examen every Sunday for a month.
7. Sow seeds of peace with acts of forgiveness
On the World Day of Peace following the September 11 tragedy, Pope John Paul II talked poignantly about the connection between peace and forgiveness:
The enormous suffering of peoples and individuals, even among my own friends and acquaintances, caused by Nazi and Communist totalitarianism, has never been far from my thoughts and prayers. I have often paused to reflect on the persistent question: how do we restore the moral and social order subjected to such horrific violence? My reasoned conviction, confirmed in turn by biblical revelation, is that the shattered order cannot be fully restored except by a response that combines justice with forgiveness. The pillars of true peace are justice and that form of love which is forgiveness. (No Peace without Justice, No Justice without Forgiveness)
The pope went on to talk movingly about the meaning of and the need for forgiveness.
In honor of the World Day of Peace, talk about the connection between peace and forgiveness with your kids. With older kids, talk about how forgiveness and justice aren’t contradictory concepts: they can and must co-exist, the Church says.
Model a spirit of reconciliation by looking for opportunities to say, “I’m sorry” this week. It doesn’t need to be over something big—even a small slight, like being late to pick someone up or bumping into someone, can be an opportunity to politely apologize.
If you find yourself entering the new year holding a grudge, now would be a great time to forgive that person. A good way to begin is by writing the person a letter; even if you don’t send it (which might be wisest), it could help you move along the path toward forgiveness.
Check out…the latest album by Tom Booth
I love everything musician Tom Booth does, but he hasn’t put out a new album in a long time. So I was thrilled to see that he has a new album out (released in November) called Time Stands Still. I bought it without previewing it, and I wasn’t disappointed. The album features an eclectic mix of styles, most with a meditative quality, although there are a few catchy, upbeat numbers (“More Than Conquerors,” “In My Father’s House,” “You Are All I Need”). The lyrics are thoughtful, theologically rich, and often based in Scripture. Some of the more meditative songs could easily double as prayer. The gorgeous “My Lord Walks on the Water” has the quality of a psalm, while “The Jesus Song” beautifully adapts the Jesus prayer to music.
You can download an MP3 of the album at Amazon (Time Stands Still) or buy it on CD at SpiritandSong.com. And if you like the music, for heaven’s sake, leave a positive review and spread the word so we can hear more great music from Tom Booth down the road.