Gazing through the lens of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we can try to seek out teachings that are either explicit in the Bible or, sometimes, not so evident.

Our challenge is embracing and integrating as best we can what God is trying to show and speak to us in the context of our own families. By consecrating activities of our ordinary lives to Jesus through Joseph and Mary, there is a sanctifying value we can gain from the model of this Holy Family.

Entering time and space as the Christ child — fully human, fully divine — God became one of us to save us. Jesus listened to his mother and father as an obedient son who “grew in wisdom and strength.” Many of those years were hidden and probably quite ordinary. It was all part of God’s plan to teach us how to grow in heart, body, mind and strength. We also grow in works, in simplicity, with love and humility — guided through a life of prayer with Jesus as the center of our souls.

Through the lens of St. Joseph we learn that, with Mary, he accepted Jesus as his own. Via a series of significant angelic dreams, he is to follow the mysterious path of God’s mysterious ways. There was lot of moving around initially: in haste, in suspense, in joy, in sorrow, in unfamiliar territory. Eventually he settled his family down in the Nazarene community, making a living as a carpenter, as a father teaching his son his trade. A devout, righteous man leading his Jewish family — the original domestic church. Certainly, a unique responsibility of blending a family — with natural and supernatural characteristics — into ordinary living on this mysterious path.

A mystery — not because it is unbelievable, but due to its transcendence: the goodness, beauty and truth that plays in the story of the salvation for mankind.

Joseph — albeit silent in the Scriptures — provides an active, fatherly example for us to follow today. As a material provider, physical protector and spiritual leader of the family, he shows us that both body and spirit must integrate and embrace the will of God. He teaches us this along with the Blessed Mother. Mary’s fiat at the Annunciation demonstrated in her response of human intellect, obedience and humility, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word” (Lk 1:38). In raising God’s only begotten Son, Jesus’ mother and foster father epitomized God’s design of complementarity.

During the greater part of his earthly life, Jesus shared the same conditions and lack of wide recognition of most human beings. He lived many years in a common life of laboring, eating, resting and worshipping within the context of a Jewish family.

St. Josemaria Escriva, a Spanish Catholic priest who founded Opus Dei, speaks to the sanctifying value of ordinary life. Inviting us to meditate on Jesus’ hidden years in Nazareth with the Holy Family, he comments: “Of Jesus’ thirty-three years, thirty were spent in silence, obscurity, submission and work.” A premise which teaches that everyone is called to holiness by God and that “ordinary life can result in sanctity.”

God made flesh as Jesus Christ chose to go through all the stages of human growth — physical, spiritual and intellectual — to save us. Through the same stages of growth that the rest of us are passing through, he taught and demonstrated how to be fully human. That all started with his Holy Family, which we are to emulate today with our own commonalities in the natural world, guided by the supernatural virtues of faith, hope and charity.

“Heavenly Father, you have given us the model of life in the Holy Family of Nazareth. Help us, O loving Father, to make our family another Nazareth, where love, peace and joy reign. May it be deeply contemplative, intensely eucharistic, revived with joy” (St. Teresa of Kolkata).

Deacon Bird ministers at St. Joseph in Rosemount and All Saints in Lakeville, and assists the Catholic Watchmen movement of the archdiocese’s Office of Evangelization. Reach him at [email protected]. Learn about the archdiocese’s Catholic Watchmen initiative at