The calendar says New Year’s Eve; for the church, it is the Feast of the Holy Family. Both represent the entanglement of endings and beginnings, link the past and the future, open gaps between what is known and understood and what is unknown and seemingly incomprehensible. Family, no matter how it is defined, is central to life and to Catholicism. And like all things in life, family is much more than the portrayal of an infant in the arms of doting parents. “Family” summons a host of images, emotions, memories and celebrations. It embodies both a sense of belonging and an identity. It courts the inherent tension between stability and change, growth and interdependence, possibility and loss. Family is foundational to humanity; it is the reality shared across centuries and continents, generations and decades.
It seems simple, but “Family” is complexity itself. It proffers security and comfort as well as challenges and tensions. The Feast of the Holy Family reminds that every family has relationship issues and challenging problems, and these extend to every generation, those past and those to come. Because after all, “family” embodies every paradox: birth and loss, joy and sorrow, clarity and confusion, hope and despair. And yet, family somehow defines humanity.
There is a simplicity to the tradition of the Feast. It is a reminder of who we are, who we want to be, who we can be. It is a reminder that life is difficult, and love is profound. It is an invitation to be loved, to love, and to believe that choosing love is possible. There is a richness to the Feast: it is a reminder of the treasure of each human life, of the sacredness of bonds and the beauty of being. There is an irony to the Feast: in a world of individualism and consumerism, the Feast proclaims togetherness and purpose.
There is an intriguing juxtaposition to New Year’s Eve and the Feast of the Holy Family. Each is about endings and beginnings; each is about change and reflection. Each is an expression of hope. And somehow, each is a reminder to take that extra moment and press “reset” to begin again. Happy New Year!