I, for one, am glad that the Feast of the Holy Family is behind us, for another year. It is the feast I like least in the liturgical calendar. In fact, it may be the only feast that sees me drag my feet to church, all the while muttering non-pleasantries about the emergence of ideological feasts and the absurdities of sermons on “traditional family values” on this day. I was spared such a sermon yesterday, yet in the space that opened up, it occurred to me to distinguish between devotion to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph on the one hand, and the notion of these three being a family that models family life, on the other. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph seem so far removed from a model (or even simply: a normal) family that dragging them into service for traditional family values has long struck me as ludicrous. Yet when contemplating my (non-)devotion to this peculiar holy family, it struck me that if I devoted myself to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as a communion of persons, this strange human trinity did indeed have something to model: namely, how to live in communion in all the ambiguity and messiness of life; how to think of family beyond all traditional constructions (Mary’s pregnancy was quite hard to explain after all; Jesus was born out of wedlock; Joseph wasn’t his biological father, etc.); and how to encounter God’s presence in human communities and commitments that look nothing like traditional families.
And with that, I may not have to drag my feet to church at all next year, on the Feast of the Holy Family.