|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,”
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
“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.”
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
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,”
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.
family reflects this order they are obedient to God’s truth,”
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
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.
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
“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.”
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
“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.”