Today at church our pastor reminded us that it was the Feast of the Holy Family, and he preached beautifully on the importance of families to the church and the world. It got me thinking about a funny thing that happened on this same feast day a few years ago. I've wanted to share this story on my blog for a long time, and this finally seems like the right opportunity.
Several years ago, when I was in college, the Feast of the Holy Family fell on a weekday instead of a Sunday like it usually does. It's not a holy day of obligation so we didn't have to go to Mass, which sounded just fine to all us kids who were in major holiday relaxation mode. But my mom really wanted for the whole family to go to Mass together in honor of the feast day.
None of us wanted to go, but my mom insisted. We all made excuses (some of us tried to go back to sleep, while others tried to escape to the mall), but she was firm that we all had to be there to go to the 5 pm Mass with her and my dad.
When 5 pm rolled around, mom forced us all into the 12-passenger van and off to church. I will never forget that car ride. Half of us were in yoga pants and I'm pretty sure one of the little kids was still in pajamas. We were all in a terrible mood. Everyone was grumpy and picking fights with each other. Most of all, every single one of us was complaining at the top of our lungs about our mom making us go to Mass.
We slunk into the pew, five minutes late, and settled into the mode of just getting through the next half hour. We were not exactly in a prayerful mood and were ready to pick up our bad behavior again as soon as Mass was over.
But during the homily, the most unusual thing happened. The priest was a sweet elderly gentleman who knew our family fairly well, and he recognized us all the way in the back of the church. He decided to go off-script with his homily in honor of the feast day and my family's arrival.
I was sitting there, completely zoned out and not paying attention, when suddenly I heard my family's last name.
"And here we have the ____ family," the priest was saying. "On this Feast of the Holy Family, what a gift to see a Catholic family all here at church together."
Oh, God. I turned red with embarrassment, thinking about how none of us except my mom had wanted to come.
But Father wasn't done. "Just look at the twins, there," he said, pointing happily, "and the little ones are so cute. And mom and dad are doing a great job!" He named each member of our family, one by one, praising us and pointing out how wonderful it was to see us all at church together.
"What a beautiful example of a great Catholic family," he finished up, "A wonderful witness for today's feast day."
At that point, all us kids were bright red with embarrassment. It wasn't that we minded being called out in front of everyone in church (the only people there besides our family were little old ladies), but rather that we knew how little we deserved his kind praise.
After Mass was over and we were back in the van, I turned to the others with wide eyes. "Can you believe Father said all that about us? I feel so guilty!"
My mom piped up from the front seat, "What are you talking about?!"
That was the kicker - my mom had somehow zoned out during the homily herself, and completely missed all of Father's nice compliments about us! We all burst out laughing and couldn't stop the whole way home. You can bet we were much happier and better behaved after Mass then we had been before it.
Every year since then, I've remembered that incident and reflected on it. I think there are a few lessons to be drawn from that story, but I'm having a hard time articulating them right now (and I need to go put Frankie down for a nap) so I'll just leave it here and let you guys draw whatever lessons you want from it. It's a pretty hilarious story that always makes us laugh when we remember it, so at the very least, I hope you enjoy it too!