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.