With Christmas over, gift-wrap recycled, and holiday cookies nearly gone, we are given the opportunity to celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. The opportunity lends itself to consider family life in the many and various ways in which we experience it. Speaking for myself, I belong to three families—my birth family, my Dominican family, and my parish family.
My birth family currently extends across five generations. My mother is a member of the Silent Generation born before 1945. The oldest of my siblings, like myself, are Baby Boomers. The youngest are members of Generation X. The seventeen grandchildren are Millennials. Most of the thirty great grandchildren are likely to be members of Generation Z depending upon where generational lines are finally drawn. This wide expanse of age means that some members of my family belong to a church while others do not. Those that do belong, might go to a Catholic parish while others go to the churches of their spouses. The similarities and differences in our faith lives invites us to be, understanding, patient, and tolerant like Mary and Joseph were with Jesus their “wondering” child.
My Dominican family includes priests, brothers, sisters, nuns, and laity. As members of the Order of Preachers, we know that our mission like that of our founder, Dominic de Guzman, is to preach the Word of God for the salvation of souls. We do this relying upon the four pillars of our Dominican life—study, prayer, ministry, and community. Our vowed religious life obliges members of the Dominican family to be committed to the traditions and teachings of our Catholic faith and like Jesus who remained obedient to the religious traditions and teachings of his Jewish faith to take on unjust practices.
My parish family has changed during thirty years of ordained ministry. Some were located in the Western states of Colorado and New Mexico. Others were located in the Mid-western states of Missouri, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. While the families at each parish are unique, all families encounter and share the same struggles, disappointments, successes, and joys of human life. I believe that parish families are like the many and various family members in the gospel stories. Simeon, Anna, John the Baptist, Elizabeth, Zachariah, Mary Magdalene, and the poor widow to name but a few. While I was moved again and again, a parish family remains. I believe they are entrusted with the responsibility of keeping the story of our salvation alive like Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, the Holy Family.
Fr. Bob Kelly, OP
“Families” painting by Richard Schletty. Read about the West Side Paintings.