There’s a Catholic radio program in Texas called “Mary’s Touch,” and it allows listeners to share stories of how their devotion the Blessed Virgin Mary has been a source of blessing and help in their lives. On one of their programs, a woman named Barbara gave her testimony; she said: “I have always suffered from anxiety for as long as I can remember, and I try to keep it under control, but sometimes it does come back, and I go into major panic attacks. I used to always pray at those times, but what I was praying was just vague prayers for relief. [Then] I started thinking about our Blessed Mother Mary and the anxiety she must have suffered having lost Jesus at the age of twelve. A lot of us have lost a child, even if it is just to lose sight of them for a minute in the grocery store, and we start worrying about them. I thought, ‘Can you imagine three days with a child missing? Her stomach must have been in a knot, the adrenalin must have been pumping, and she must have been in a panic.’
“Now, when I feel like that, I remind Mary that I know what she felt, and I ask her to intercede for me because we are sharing something in common that we both experienced. [By doing this,] my mind is somewhere else, I am not just focusing on myself and my panic, and I try to get rid of it by focusing on Mary and what she must have gone through” (Stories from Mary’s Touch, p. 40). Barbara’s testimony, though it doesn’t involve anything earth-shaking or miraculous, nevertheless makes an important point: because Mary had some of the same struggles we do, her example and intercession can help us grow in faith.
On the Feast of the Holy Family, we rejoice in the fact that God is our Father, Jesus is our Brother, and Mary is our Mother; moreover, St. Joseph, the third member of the Holy Family, represents all the saints in Heaven who seek to be our eternal friends and who desire to see us successfully complete our spiritual journey through life. Earthly life has many difficulties and worries, and as the Gospel shows, not even history’s holiest married couple was exempt from them. As Our Lady stated to the child Jesus once He had been found in the Temple, “Your father and I have been looking for You with great anxiety.” Moreover, the Gospel tells us that when Jesus answered, “Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?,” Mary and Joseph did not understand what He meant. Furthermore, once the Holy Family returned to Nazareth, many other challenges awaited them. Joseph and Mary knew that Jesus would one day die on the Cross, and even as they delighted in His presence, thinking about His eventual death filled them with grief. According to legend, Joseph grew old and weak, and even though he had a happy death in the presence of Jesus and Mary, his last years were marked by great physical pain and by the sacrifice of not being able to care for his family as he would have liked. Mary then bore the cross of widowhood, and a few years later it was time for Jesus toleave her and begin His public ministry, which—as Our Lady knew—would culminate in His crucifixion. Over the next three years, Mary often accompanied Jesus—which meant going out into a sinful world and witnessing the many times He was scorned and rejected, and ultimately put to death. Yet in all these things, Our Lady—like her husband Joseph before her—continued to trust in God’s power and love, despite all her sufferings and anxieties. Mary lost first her husband, and then her Son—but her consciousness of her membership in the family of God helped her persevere in her struggles and remain fully open to divine grace.
So it must be with us; recalling that we too are members of God’s family should inspire and encourage us to remain faithful to our calling in life, and our devotion to the Holy Family should help us continue growing in God’s grace. We can look to St. Joseph and be reminded of the dignity of work, and realize that our labors—no matter how simple or routine—can play an important part in preparing us for life in the Kingdom of God. We can look to Mary and be reminded that all the events of life can help us grow in wisdom and grace—for the Gospel tells us that she kept all these things in her heart, and by continually reflecting on them she surely grew in understanding and peace. Above all, we can look to Jesus as our Savior and be reminded that because of His own experience of human life, He is very kind and merciful toward us in our weakness.
Whether we struggle with old age, poor health, chronic pain, poverty, loneliness, unpopularity, anxiety, or anything else, St. Joseph, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Jesus Himself, all understand and sympathize with us out of their own experience, and they promise us the grace to succeed, if we but persevere. As we come to the end of one year, and prepare to begin another, let us remind ourselves that they are with us and eager to help us. Moreover, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph invite us to share in their family life by asking them to be present in our own families—and if we do this, we’ll discover a peace and a freedom that this world cannot give.