As emerging young adults, many college students struggle with their relationship with their parents. For some, college is the first time they have true autonomy. For others, heading off to college is an opportunity to leave a disfunctional or painful family life. Whatever the circumstances of one's family life, the Feast of the Holy Family reminds us we are all called to sanctify our family life. Moreover, when our families are places of love, sacrifice, and challenge -- in spite of all the imperfections -- this holiness, love, and sacrifice will reverberate throughout the whole world.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we are taught, "'The Christian family constitutes a specific revelation and realization of ecclesial communion, and for this reason it can and should be called a domestic church.' It is a community of faith, hope, and charity; it assumes singular importance in the Church, as is evident in the New Testament ." (2204) Consequently, for all of us, the first church we experience is the domestic church. If we desire to have a better world, to live in a more loving community, to build up the Church, we must first build up the primary church in our homes and families.
To be clear, this does not mean we must like everything our family members do or say. We are, however, still called to love them courageously, faithfully, and perseveringly. If I can't love and desire the good of my mother, father, brother, or sister in spite of their (sometimes many) shortcomings, how will I be able to love the person in class who I completely disagree with, the angry roommate, the friend going down the wrong path?
No matter what, our family is always our family. It is, therefore, the school of virtues, the training ground of faith, hope, and love. As St. Paul tells us in the second reading for today's Mass from the Letter to the Colossians, "Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection."
When every family is a holy family, the world will echo with the love and mercy of God.
Fr. Patrick is a Dominican priest and the Campus Minister.