Ordinary of the Mass
Today's Mass text - Latin
Today's Mass text - English
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“And he went down with them, and came to
and was subject to them.”
In the night office
today, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux points out that Jesus was subject not only
to Mary, but “to them,” meaning both Joseph and Mary.
“That God should obey a woman is lowliness without parallel, that woman
should rule over God, an elevation beyond comparison.” And Joseph, of
course was not even Jesus’ biological father—yet Jesus chose obedience to
both of them. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph are proposed to us—for our
imitation—as the ideal model of a family.
I think it is safe to
say that even growing up in happy family surroundings always entails some
difficulty. With three or more people there will be three or more
personalities—with the possibility of arguments over how things are to be
done. There may be clashes over how resources are shared, about the friends
each member may have, how to dress, what hours to keep, what to eat—and an
untold number of other things.
According to the
saintly Pope Leo XIII, devotion to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as “the Holy
Family” is said to have originated in Europe by the seventeenth century.
Pope Leo urged that everyone living in a family—the rich and the poor, those
of high estate or low, every father, mother, son and daughter—could learn
from and be comforted by the lives of the Holy Family. After all, they
lived very normal lives, and faced the same difficulties as normal people
and normal families. We don’t read of any miracles worked by God to make
their life any easier—there were real‑life chores for all of them. Jesus
was a full grown man of thirty before He worked His first domestic
miracle—changing water into wine, not for His family, but for His mother’s
Pope Leo wrote at a
time when the industrial revolution was in full swing. Industry can be a
wonderful thing—it made food and medicine more available for everyone, warm
clothing for the poor, and leisure time for art and education. But for many
families it came at a high price. It meant that they could not live in
extended families on the hereditary farm, but instead, they had a great
incentive to move to a city to obtain factory work. Quarters were cramped,
and mothers and children were often induced to take factory jobs which
disrupted quality family time, and may even have been dangerous.
On the family farm a
large family lived a better quality of life than a small one, and it was
relatively easy to shelter and feed each additional member. City life could
easily lead artificial birth prevention and marital infidelity. Quite
likely, this was on the Pope’s mind when he wrote his Apostolic Letter—and
on the mind of Benedict XV, when he extended this feast day to the entire
continued to improve since the 1890s—and it continues to have a mixture of
good and bad effects. Again, basic necessities have become even more
available—we have made great strides in medicine, and food and clothing from
around the world have become affordable. Yet sellers and financers of these
products have made a concerted effort (largely through the media and public
education) to convince modern people that they have the right to make use of
our abundance, even in sinful ways.
Modern medicine (often
in conjunction with modern law) has made it much more convenient to prevent
or even eliminate one’s children and to eliminate one’s elderly
relatives—indeed, in many places, you can even eliminate yourself. The
Internet can be used for wonderful good things, but it
can also be the vehicle of sinful entertainment, and an opportunity for
children and spouses to meet the wrong people.
I am a reasonably
technology‑savvy person, but some of the recent developments sound to me
like science fiction gone wrong. Regularly, we hear that there are male and
female robots out there—with the implication that you can own
a perfectly obedient spouse—a spouse with an “off switch”! There was even a
recent article about a Japanese fellow (a school administrator) who married
a hologram—a rather small 3D laser projection that this poor man now thinks
of as his “wife.”
As a priest, I am of
course concerned with the moral aspects of these things. But even the
atheist should be concerned with the practical aspects. Disrupted families
bring high societal costs. Professor Walter Williams tells us that:
According to the 1938 Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, that year
only 11 percent of black children were born to unwed mothers. As late as
1950, female-headed households constituted only 18 percent of the black
population. Today it’s close to 70 percent. In much earlier times, during
the late 1800s, there were only slight differences between the black family
structure and those of other ethnic groups. In New York City in 1925, 85
percent of kin-related black households were two-parent households. Welfare
has encouraged young women to have children out of wedlock.
Boys and girls both
suffer from the fatherless home. Education is inhibited and crime soars.
People are not
replacing themselves. Recent statistics hold that “the nationwide
[fertility] rate was 16 percent lower than what is considered the level for
a population to replace itself.”
We are having less than two children per family!
Clearly, things are far
worse than when Pope Leo wrote his apostolic letter. Whether for God or for
society, whether we are children or well past the child bearing years, the
only answer is that we must conduct our lives in imitation of the Holy
Family—Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
Recently, I have been
adding the Collects of the Holy Family to most of our Masses. Please
consider attending additional Masses to pray for the return of Christian
principles to our society!