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Take a Road-trip with the Holy Family

Have you ever sat down and hung out with the Holy Family? Seriously, they are an absolute blast!

Driving solo across the country, my spiritual director introduced me to Jesus, Mary and Joseph personally when he bluntly asked, “So Matt, have you invited the Holy Family to join you on your trip?”

“Quite the imagination folks,” I thought to myself. “Is this guy serious?”

St. Joseph shows us how to spend time with the Holy Family.

St. Joseph shows us how to spend time with the Holy Family.

He continued, “You see, whenever I travel, Mary always sits in the front seat, and Jesus is leaning up from the back. St. Joseph pops in and out from time to time, but mostly he is up the road ahead, making sure that there aren’t any dangers along the way. We can really get laughing, the four of us. We share a great sense of humor. We talk about all kinds of things. I never travel alone anymore.”

Indeed, the Lord can pour abundant joy into childlike hearts. This has since become my favorite way to pray.

Reflecting on the life of St. Joseph in light of his recent feast day, it occurred to me how much grace was poured into this great saint just by constantly living in the presence of Jesus and Mary, the source of grace and its mediatrix. Out of an ever-increasing love for Mary and Jesus, St. Joseph poured himself into his vocation as husband and father. This outpouring had two reinforcing byproducts.

1) His increasing love and fidelity to the Holy Family engendered a desire to further free himself from earthly attachments in order to more freely and totally give of himself to his immaculate spouse and divine foster-child.

2) In his desire to give only what was good to the Holy Family, he had to constantly humble himself to the direction of the Father, who alone holds the knowledge of good and evil, and devote himself to continued prayer and unity of his person to that of the Father.

These are the fruits of seeing Christ and the Blessed Mother in your spouse, coworkers, family, and enemies: humility, detachment, prayer, generosity, and union with the Father.  These are also the objectives of our Lenten Season.

St. Joseph's Model of Saintly Perfection

Freedom from attachments requires prayer and almsgiving.

In my previous blog, I addressed the issue of attachments and our need to be free of them by grace. Here, looking upon the model of St. Joseph, we see that the purpose of that freedom is so that we can pour ourselves more totally into our God-given vocation in life. Prayer and humility are a natural byproduct of this outpouring, as we must seek the voice of the Father in everything so as to know what gifts are truly good for our spouse, be it in a married, consecrated celibate, or celibate singlehood vocation. The prayer and external focus on our vocation (a form of alms-giving) is essential to grow in freedom from attachment, for unless we use our newfound freedom to give outwardly in prayerful discernment, we will simply fall back inwards and slide into a new attachment.

Baby steps first. This is no easy feat. Fr. Robert Barron in his daily Lenten reflection a few days ago challenged his readers to practice almsgiving by responding to each credible charity that sends an appeal letter. As I type this, the envelopes are still sitting in a pile next to me, waiting for a response, stamp, and send-off. Lord Jesus, I trust in you! Free me from my attachments!

St. Joseph pray for us this Lent, as we seek to follow your perfect example of prayer, detachment, and almsgiving. Show us clearly the areas in our lives where we need deeper healing and freedom, and draw us back to the Sacraments more heartily in this season of Lent. Let us see Jesus and Mary more clearly in the people you put in our life, so that, like you, we may experience the fruits of residing in the presence of both the source and mediatrix of grace.

Light up the darkness!

Matt Ingold