Holy Family: Chaos Unexpected. Nothing calm, contemplative, peaceful. NO!

Holy Family not

I’m a bit rough on Saint Paul VI, who gave an address in Nazareth on 5 January 1964 in which he spoke wonderfully about the Holy Family. Perhaps I’m jaded, but I thought it was too sweet about the Holy Family, too nice, too peaceful, too calm, too silent, so contemplative, so prayerful. I’m sure he meant all that in an innocuous manner. But whatever his good and holy intentions, well, I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all. I make that really quite clear.

Also, when I get on a rant like this, all worked up, I might make brave in attributing things to those to whom they don’t belong. I don’t know if it was in this particular recorded homily or another the same day in which I attributed the phrase “field hospital” not only to Pope Francis but also perhaps to Saint John Paul II, et al. Sorry about that. Don’t get stuck on that kind of thing. I’m getting older. Forgive me. The point is about holiness embracing chaos for holiness’ sake, you know, like Jesus stretching out His arms to embrace us… on the cross… And this chaos started at His birth and never stopped…

Paul VI did, of course, make plenty of great points about the spiritual life and the correct priorities in life we should all have. I agree with all those. But still, it set me into rant mode. Here’s that address of Paul VI. You might want to read over it before listening to the homily. Perhaps I go into rant mode because Paul VI, a saint, flies right over my head and I just don’t get what he’s on about.

From an address by Saint Paul VI, pope
(Nazareth, January 5, 1964) Nazareth, a model

Nazareth is a kind of school where we may begin to discover what Christ’s life was like and even to understand his Gospel. Here we can observe and ponder the simple appeal of the way God’s Son came to be known, profound yet full of hidden meaning. And gradually we may even learn to imitate him.

Here we can learn to realize who Christ really is. And here we can sense and take account of the conditions and circumstances that surrounded and affected his life on earth: the places, the tenor of the times, the culture, the language, religious customs, in brief, everything which Jesus used to make himself known to the world. Here everything speaks to us, everything has meaning. Here we can learn the importance of spiritual discipline for all who wish to follow Christ and to live by the teachings of his Gospel.

How I would like to return to my childhood and attend the simple yet profound school that is Nazareth! How wonderful to be close to Mary, learning again the lesson of the true meaning of life, learning again God’s truths. But here we are only on pilgrimage. Time presses and I must set aside my desire to stay and carry on my education in the Gospel, for that education is never finished. But I cannot leave without recalling, briefly and in passing; some thoughts I take with me from Nazareth.

First, we learn from its silence. If only we could once again appreciate its great value. We need this wonderful state of mind, beset as we are by the cacophony of strident protests and conflicting claims so characteristic of these turbulent times. The silence of Nazareth should teach us how to meditate in peace and quiet, to reflect on the deeply spiritual, and to be open to the voice of God’s inner wisdom and the counsel of his true teachers. Nazareth can teach us the value of study and preparation, of meditation, of a well-ordered personal spiritual life, and of silent prayer that is known only to God.

Second, we learn about family life. May Nazareth serve as a model of what the family should be. May it show us the family’s holy and enduring character and exemplify its basic function in society: a community of love and sharing, beautiful for the problems it poses and the rewards it brings, in sum, the perfect setting for rearing children—and for this there is no substitute.

Finally, in Nazareth, the home of a craftsman’s son, we learn about work and the discipline it entails. I would especially like to recognize its value—demanding yet redeeming—and to give it proper respect. I would remind everyone that work has its own dignity. On the other hand, it is not an end in itself. Its value and free character, however, derive not only from its place in the economic system, as they say, but rather from the purpose it serves.

In closing, may I express my deep regard for people everywhere who work for a living. To them I would point out their great model, Christ their brother, our Lord and God, who is their prophet in every cause that promotes their well-being.


Filed under Christmas

11 responses to “Holy Family: Chaos Unexpected. Nothing calm, contemplative, peaceful. NO!

  1. Catherine

    The last paragraph of Saint Paul VI’s address, “I express my deep regard for people everywhere who work for a living”, in my opinion, is so loaded with prejudice and injustice. There are so many people who do not “work for a living” because of circumstances beyond their control and so many that wish they could work but can’t.
    Also, I have noticed over the past decade, that I come home to “decompress” in silence and prayer after being exposed to the “hustle, bustle, and chaos” outside the home. It gets so overwhelming a lot of the time. It seems that the anger and rudeness in people have increased the past few years. So many people undergoing trials and difficulties. Saint Paul VI’s description of the Holy Family’s home environment sounds unrealistic but perhaps his message is that we should try make our home a sanctuary of holiness and peace in a world gone crazy.
    God bless you Father George!

  2. Aussie Mum

    Father, I went to Mark chapter 2 as you cited but couldn’t find there what you said. Is this because of poor bible translations?

  3. Aussie Mum

    Yes, I see now, thank you Father.

  4. sanfelipe007

    Disclaimer: I have not heard Father’s Homily, and I have read no other works of St. Pope Paul VI, so I have no particular context in which to understand this Address. I feel I am critiquing a subject with only bare-bones understanding. Here goes…
    I find the repeated use of “Nazareth,” instead of “The Holy Family,” to be too vague, and “Nazareth” opens itself to reinterpretation, to fit the novel. “It takes a village,” and not “a family?” But I am sure I must be projecting. Wait. Are there any Catholic Churches named “Nazareth?”

  5. Aussie Mum

    Catherine, I understand, I think, why you find Paul VI’s statement “loaded with prejudice and injustice” but I don’t believe that was his attitude. He was born in 1897, like my grandparents, and the world they grew up in was much different than ours today. The working class was the lowest rung in the social ladder then. Paid workers were mostly men and the norm was a 60 hour week. Workers’ wives generally had large families, cooked for them on fuel stoves and did all their washing by hand. The life of working class families was tough and Paul VI was expressing his solidarity with them. He was not ignoring the welfare class as there was none in those days. I am not rubbishing the welfare class – I am a member of it, receiving a pension from the government in order to survive.

    In my grandparents’ day and even when I was a young child, society was more Christian in outlook than today. Men and women did not often desert their families nor neglect their children. When a parent died or was disabled relatives would usually step in to help and neighbours too, and when a man was out of work it was quite common for his work-mates to pass around a hat at the pub (where working men socialised, here in Australia anyway) for donations to keep his family afloat until he found work. Work was usually found quickly because jobs were less regulated then, women hadn’t entered the workforce en masse and modern technology had yet to make sectors of the workforce redundant. You are right, there are many today who wish they could work but can’t. The jobs are not there and social chaos is increasing.

    • Catherine

      Thank you for your explanation Aussie Mum. I was wondering why a saint would make such a statement. I didn’t think to take it into consideration the historical time period.
      I pray for God’s blessings and graces for you, Father George and all on this site in the upcoming year and new decade.

  6. sanfelipe007

    Here I go again…

    I am unsure through what lens this Address of St. Paul VI views Nazareth; his thoughts would make more sense if I did. But why chose Nazareth? Does the town’s name have a deep meaning, like Bethlehem?

    St. Pope Paul mentioned moving ahead in one’s education. Is this why he chose Nazareth instead of Bethlehem? Let me quote:
    “How I would like to return to my childhood and attend the simple yet profound school that is Nazareth! How wonderful to be close to Mary, learning again the lesson of the true meaning of life, learning again God’s truths. But here we are only on pilgrimage. Time presses and I must set aside my desire to stay and carry on my education in the Gospel, for that education is never finished. But I cannot leave without recalling, briefly and in passing; some thoughts I take with me from Nazareth.”

    This bothers me. The idea that childhood** holds one back from carrying on an education flies in the face of Scripture and history. Being child-like is not being childish. “Putting away the things of a child” is ending childishness. “Unless you become like one of these” is returning to the child-like spiritual state of Trust.

    Is Nazareth the lens through which he views The Holy Family? If so, then what’s wrong with viewing our own family through the lens of our own town* (circumstances?)? Is that self-referential? Am I over-thinking this? Is “Nazareth” a stumbling block of my own making?

    * or the lens of Nazareth?
    **he speaks not of childish things but of child-like Trust.

  7. Joisy Goil

    I thought that Paul VI referred to Nazareth because it was (believed to be) the period of relative calm for the Holy Family after their terrifying experiences after the birth of Jesus – (fleeing for their lives, living as aliens in Egypt, poor, homeless, etc.). Then in Nazareth, experiencing relative normalcy, they would live in the familiar patterns we associate with family life.

    I agree that the picture Paul VI presents is a bit too ‘nice and easy’ because no doubt things were a struggle and perhaps there was still the burden of the ‘gossips’ who never cease from finger counting and nosey questions and cruel assumptions.

Leave a Reply to Father George David Byers Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.