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Bishop Ronald Gainer talks about the Holy Family

bishop talks at conference
Bishop Ronald Gainer, of the Lexington diocese.

LEXINGTON, KY - The Holy Family at Nazareth – St. Joseph, The Blessed Virgin May and the Christ Child – is a prototype for all human families, according to Bishop Ronald Gainer of the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky.  Their life shows how to live God’s sacred order and achieve a fruitful and harmonious family life.

Bishop Gainer spoke at the National Marriage Conference sponsored by his diocese and the Familia lay apostolate on August 7, 2009. 

“The Holy Family will not fail to help all families in fulfilling their day-to-day duties,” he said. 
 Bishop Gainer pointed out that today, in our media age, examples of family life are often seen as those on television situation comedies, and though they are good for a laugh, they are rarely good role models for families. 

“Parents are often depicted as clueless, and rarely involved in what is really going on in their children’s lives,” he said.

To find a better example, he suggests looking at Sacred Scripture, particularly the infancy narratives in St. Luke’s and St. Matthew’s Gospels.

“People often romanticize the life of the Holy Family, but such a view is not accurate,” he said.
“These stories tell us what it takes to create a harmonious family life under the order of what God desires for marriage and family life.  We don’t get much info, but we get enough.  We see parents who are selfless and giving, who set aside their own plans and comfort for each other and their child.  This model is essential for marriage and family life.”

The Bishop said the fact that Jesus was born into a human family “sanctified the family….Mary and Joseph are living out in their daily life the mystery of the Word Made Flesh.”

The infancy narratives show a definite order of roles in the lives of the Holy Family, he explained.
“We must order our lives according to God’s divine order and hierarchy,” he said. “The Holy Family is an Icon of God’s mystery.  When we attempt to abolish his order – there are significant social consequences.”

The Bishop discussed the ideas of the late Pope John Paul II, who saw the structure of the Holy Family, and human families in general, as created to reflect the structure of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  “There are three, bonded and knit together by love,” he said.

The Bishop uses the analogy of a Kingdom to illustrate proper family structure.  Each in his or her own right is a “monarch,” he said, with specific divinely ordained roles.  Like a benevolent king, St. Joseph is the father who protects and cares for his family.  Mary, in the role of queen, is nurturing to her child, her “subject.” This is her divine role.  And the child’s role is to be obedient to and learn from his parents.

“When a family reflects this order they are obedient to God’s truth,” he said.

But today, in modern families, we see the rejection of this order and the results are the disintegration and even collapse of the family life today.

“We have moved from God’s order and hierarchy to a family democracy -The Rule of the Child - loving by allowing,” he said. 

Another error in our modern world, according to the Bishop, is when the Father abdicates his role in the home. 

“The mother doesn’t even marry the father anymore,” he said.  “We basically have a revolution in the Kingdom.  And when there is revolution and abdication in a Kingdom, we have anarchy.”

Another problem is the idea of “false hierarchies,” said the Bishop.  He mused that in the case of abortion, the mother’s hierarchy becomes the hierarchy of power, not of love.  “It becomes the powerful acting against the powerless,” he said. 

He urged families to once again reverence God’s beautiful order.  And he urged a return to the virtue of obedience.

“Joseph and Mary model obedience,” he said. “Jesus modeled obedience to them.  His obedience to his parents in early life helped him to be totally and completely obedient to the will of God his Father at Calvary.  We find he will always choose radical obedience to God.”

Because much of the infancy stories actually prefigure the Pascal mystery, it is important to realize that obedience in family life can help children and parents navigate their life’s struggles and decisions.

In the story of the presentation in the temple, Mary and Joseph are devoted and obedient to the tenants of the faith.  Through the characters of Simeon and Ann, we see the elderly as treasured, respected and cared for, and we also see reverence and respect for new life.

When Joseph and Mary lose Jesus for three days during the celebration of Passover, we also see their obedience to the tenants of their faith.  And we see the common frustration and difficulties of between parents and teenagers.  Every parent is faced with surprises from their teenagers, and they exclaim, “Why have you done this to us?” 

“Teenagers are emerging as adults, forging their own path, and they can be hard to understand,” said the Bishop.  “Jesus’ explanation for his actions was puzzling to his parents.”

 This understanding of the similarity between family situations can help families reflect on Bishop Gainer’s next point.  He exhorted Catholic families to be model for others and “a leaven” to change society.

“The family is the most fundamental unit of society,” he said. “They are a sign of God’s life giving love for all in Jesus Christ.”



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