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  • Writer's pictureEllen Romer Niemiec

Holy Family

I was late to my son’s baptism. Not ‘arrive-during-the-Gloria’ late but ‘arrive-during-the-homily-and-almost-miss-the-actual-baptismal-rite’ late. And there is no subtle way to schlep up to the front pews along with his godparents and their toddler. As we stood in the front, I couldn’t help notice the other family. One baby. Much quiet and calm. On our side we had a quiet baby but two toddlers who were very interested in going for a swim in the baptismal font. Two very different kinds of holy families.

Paul’s words take hold of me: Bear with one another. Love one another. He invites us to be holy to one another by accompanying one another in the joys and struggles of life. As I have started my own little family, what it means to be holy, and to bear with and love one another, has grown. While I rely on and am deeply grateful for my parents and siblings, I remain deeply in awe of bearing the joys and struggles with my friends as we grow our families together.

Holding one another as we cried through the frustration and pain of learning to nurse our babies.

Holding one another and crying together at news of her miscarriage, shared when she came to watch my own baby.

Weeping over the phone at the news that she lost her baby far into her pregnancy. Weeping at not being able to hold one another in this grief as we’d like to.

Living together for two weeks - 4 adults 3 kids under 3 and a dog - in a 3 bed/1bath apartment while the other apartment was cleared of lead.

Holding each others’ newborns in the hospital. Watching our children meet.

Our toddlers calling each other over FaceTime.

All four families gathering over Zoom by firelight to sing the Litany of the Saints on Easter Vigil, our first apart in 5 years.

The beauty of a holy family is that we are not limited by love. There is always more room for God to grow love in us. And that what we mean by ‘family’ is not contained to just parents and children. Family doesn’t always look like we think it ought to. I doubt Mary expected to raise the Son of God and I doubt Joseph expected to raise a child that was not his own. I doubt they expected the deep joy of Simeon and Anna when they brought Jesus to the temple. Our deep joy in our children and our sorrow and struggles in raising our families are never merely our own. Celebrating the Holy Family gives us an opportunity to stretch our hearts wider and see how much our family can grow and that we need not be limited to spouses and children. The more we bear with and love one another, the holier and more like family we become.

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