The Word Among Us

Personal Spirituality Resources

Stress and the Holy Family

Follow the example of the Holy Family in supporting one another, building each other up, and praying for wisdom and the grace to obey God.

Stress and the Holy Family: Follow the example of the Holy Family in supporting one another, building each other up, and praying for wisdom and the grace to obey God.

As we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family, we read in the Gospel that Joseph had just been told in a dream to go to Egypt with his family because the life of the baby Jesus was in danger.

Think of the stress this unexpected turn of events must have produced! With little time to recover from childbirth, Mary had to quickly flee from Bethlehem with Joseph and a newborn baby. Joseph was faced with having to find work in a new town in a foreign country. They had little or no money and only a few possessions—all of which could fit on the back of a donkey.

Can’t you see a courageous Joseph saying, “I want to be faithful and follow what God has instructed me to do, but I know nothing about Egypt. I have no job—no way of earning any income—and I have two other human beings to care for.” We can easily visualize him weighed down by all of these problems and the stress it would cause.

Reducing Family Stress. For a variety of reasons, many families today are also feeling anxious and overwhelmed. If your family is experiencing stress, here are some suggestions that might help.

St. Paul tells us to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. We are to bear with one another and forgive one another as the Lord has forgiven us. As we clothe ourselves with love, we will bind our families “together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:12-14).

This is not just theory; it is exactly what Joseph and Mary did as they moved to Egypt. It is essential for us to wake up each day and tell Jesus that we want to consecrate our lives to him and follow his example as best we can.

As we put on Christ, we come to realize that our family is a little body of Christ, a miniature church. When we celebrate family as a miniature body of Christ, we know that, above all, the unity of the whole family and the welfare of each individual are the highest priorities. It is critical to hold each other in high esteem and to build each other up in love.

Supporting One Another. Equally important is preventing all the negative and divisive comments that tear our families apart. Sometimes that means silencing our selfish desires for the good of the whole. Isn’t that just what Mary did for Jesus and Joseph? Rather than moan and complain about moving to Egypt and leaving her relatives and friends behind, Mary simply obeyed the Lord. We can imagine her saying something supportive like, “Joseph, we can do it. We have God’s blessing. He will never abandon us. I’m ready, and Jesus is ready. Let’s see how our new life unfolds. Everything will be fine.”

Finally, the Holy Family must have prayed together—even as they traveled to Egypt. Why not follow their lead and have a time of prayer in your family? Prayer will show you God’s way, and it will help to reduce the stress in your family. May God bless your own holy family.