We call them the Holy Family yet neither Joseph nor Mary had planned on marrying and having a child as each had taken a vow of virginity. God honored the generous vows they had offered Him yet look at The Child they were given! For us! For me! For all! God gifted them with the best of both worlds (literally!).
Poor Saint Joseph. He loved Mary and believed her when she told him she had conceived of the Holy Spirit. He was never tormented, just heartbroken, when he decided to provide for her privately so as to get out of God’s way. Humble Joseph never considered that ‘he’ could ever be a part of God’s mighty plan to save mankind.
Of course, if Joseph had been more religiously minded, than spiritually attuned, he would have immediately given her over to the hierarchy; those rigid, legal purists who knew and followed the absolute letter of The Law. And in so doing, he would have missed the opportunity of a visit from an angel confirming what he already believed in his heart to be true.
The Lord really knows how to shake things up (and His Vicar acts just like Him!) It’s not hard to imagine Jesus having the ‘smell of sheep’, from the get-go, as an Infant, in a manger, in a stable.
Who would have thought the Creator of the Universe, the Living Bread come down from Heaven, the Bread of Life in human flesh, would be born in a little podunk town whose name means House of Bread in a dwelling built for livestock and placed in an animal feeding trough? Only God could think of such an outrageously inappropriate thing!
It has taken 72 years for me to be ‘labeled’ a liberal Catholic for the very first time in my life. Imagine anyone who voted for Trump being accused of being a liberal about anything!
The very same things our dear Papa Francis is being accused of; the horrible condemnations being hurled at him; the false judgments on his person being wielded; the terrible names he is being called; the hateful and disdainful sentiments spewed towards him draped in mockery and ridicule; even the ‘respectful’ doubts of his teaching, demands for action, and challenges to his authority, by the ‘faithful’ are all the same words spoken against Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, even our dear Saint Pope John Paul II and, yes, Leo X also.
I remember well, as a young, teenage girl, the very first time, in the early 1960’s, my father invited me to sit at the dining room table with he and his little band of merry men – philosophers and plumbers, theologians and garbage collectors, clergy and truck drivers, those who taught history and those who studied history, the learned and the wise (not necessarily occupying the same physical space) – with a bottle of Jack Daniels planted in the center of the table.
Lively dialogue and debate always ensued with my mother poking in from time to time to remind us, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all “.
Yet during heated discussions of heretics and heroes, of saints and sinners, of Popes and Prelates, of reformers and renewers, the overriding consensus seemed to be that the greater danger came from the extreme right side of the aisle; the rigid legalists, the experts in The Law; the impatient ones who demanded immediate action; the ones who would have had the pregnant Mother of God stoned to death had it not been for the ‘liberal’ Saint Joseph. It had proved true in the past and it would prove true again in 1970. Will it happen again today?
While there are many gems of wisdom taken from those gatherings, each a gift I have treasured throughout my life, one stands out as a particular blessing – my father continued to reiterate one thing over and over and over again – “When the smoke clears the only ones remaining in Christ’s Church will be those standing with His Vicar”.
And so it has been from the beginning, and so it will be till the end.
Wishing all of you, my dearest friends and my dearest foes, a most Blessed and Merry Christmas! May we all have the humilty of the anawim as we, together with our Holy Father, Papa Francis, humbly approach the Holy Infant laying in the manger who came to save us all! And may we be as liberal with God’s Mercy with each other as He is with each of us. I love you all!