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  • Sarah Raad

Preparation

“To many saying, ‘Deny thyself, take up they cross and follow Me,’ seems hard, but it will be much harder to hear that final word, ‘Depart from Me ye cursed, into everlasting fire.” (Saint Thomas a Kempis).

Christ in the House of His Parents ('The Carpenter's Shop') (John Everett Millais)

Recently, during the latest Sydney COVID-19 lockdown, we celebrated the feast day of Saints Anne and Joaquim, the parents of the Blessed Virgin and the Grandparents of Our Lord.


My children attend a Catholic Primary school, and so, for my younger two children, in their online religion lessons – which are really just a series of power point presentations and You-Tube videos – they were taught about the maternal grandparents of Christ over the course of a week.


Interestingly, after he finished his lessons that week, my second son – who is almost 10 years old – asked me why we only celebrate the feast day of Our Lady’s parents. “Why not Saint Joseph’s parents too?” He asked.


Now of course there are many reasons for this. One reason is that the paternal foster grandparents of Christ are not acknowledged as saints by the Catholic Church – though they may well be saints, meaning that they may well have attained Heaven. Another reason is that they were possibly deceased and never knew Christ or His Holy Mother in this life and so had limited impact on the Saviour. But the third reason that we do not really focus on them is perhaps the most obvious answer of all… Saint Joseph’s parents were not related to Christ by blood.


And so, while there are many reasons to ignore the parents of the Foster Father of the Saviour of the World, when he asked his question the other day, my little boy made me think…


After all, Saint Joseph is recognised as one of the greatest of all Saints – entrusted with the care and protection of Christ and His Holy Mother – he literally LIVED with God – and Saint Joseph was not related to Christ by blood!

For a man to be a good man, surely it stands to reason that he must be raised by parents who have strong faith and who were good people – for it is their formation of faith that directs their Holy child.

Psychologists say that we learn how to behave in a family by imitating the behaviours that we witness in our family of origin. Surely this applies to Saint Joseph too. Surely Saint Joseph’s own father taught him how he should care for his wife and child. Surely, Saint Joseph imitated the example of his father when he was being a father to the Saviour of the world. This means that it must logically follow that the Saviour of the World in imitating the example of his foster father, really also imitated the example of His foster father’s father – His paternal foster grandfather.


I know a family with an adopted child who are also expecting their first biological child. While the mother is in hospital to deliver her first biological child, her own parents baby sat her adopted child. I have been reflecting on this for a few weeks now. For how would this be any different from Christ’s paternal foster grandparents?


For those parents, like the foster grandparents of Our Lord share no blood with their grandchild, and yet – despite significant inconvenience to themselves, they are happy to care for that child as their own grandchild – because they love him as their own blood. In that family – that little boy is as much their beloved grandchild as a child of their own blood.


That means something.


For whether we are related to those who we love through blood or in other ways, “sacrifice is the only way that humans can imitate the interior life of the Trinity. For God is love and the essence of love is life-giving.” (Scott Hahn, “First Comes Love”).


It occurs to me that this love – this ever-giving love is terribly hard. And then I remember the words of Saint Thomas a Kempis, who said, “To many saying, ‘Deny thyself, take up they cross and follow Me,’ seems hard, but it will be much harder to hear that final word, ‘Depart from Me ye cursed, into everlasting fire.”


And so, though I follow the advice of Saint Francis de Sales who said, “Do not desire crosses unless you have borne those already laid upon you.” I remember that whatever my cross will be, I am well prepared for it. For was not the Foster Father of Christ prepared in his turn? And did not the Son of Man die on that Cross for me?


For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.


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