And you, wives and bread-winners, have you no task within the fold, no little flock to tend and guard? Has not God committed to your care the innocent lambs, the little ones of your household? Within the pasture of your own family are you the good shepherd, or the thief and the hireling? . . . Jesus does not ask from His shepherds now the shedding of their life-blood But He does ask from them a death more hard, more lingering, a life-long death of sacrifice for His flock, . . . the daily crucifying of every evil passion, the stamping out of sloth, of anger, of drunkenness, the constant striving after the holiness of your state of life. . . . Look upon the great Christ, the Good Shepherd, hanging on the Cross. He is our model, our hero. Gaze well upon His bleeding wounds, His mangled limbs, that sad agony-stricken face. Look well, and pray with generous heart that he may make you in word and deed heroes in His service.
COMMENT: Today is the feast of the Holy Family. Normally this feast falls on the first Sunday after Christmas Day, but is transferred this year due to the fact that the first Sunday after Christmas is New Year’s Day (The Feast of Mary, Mother of God).
Fr Doyle has some rather direct words for mothers and fathers in today’s quote. Parents have a flock to guard. Children have immortal souls and they have been entrusted to their parents for a time. Parents have a serious obligation to put their children on the right path in life. Naturally, parents are not responsible if their children abandon their Faith in later life. But if their spiritual life was not nourished in the first place, if they were never provided with formation, if their innocence was never protected to begin with, then the day will come when parents will have to provide an account of their stewardship…
St Benedict gives us exactly this message in his Rule. Referring to the responsibility that an Abbot has towards his monks (which is the exact same responsibility a parent has towards their children), he says:
Let the Abbot always bear in mind
that at the dread Judgment of God
there will be an examination of these two matters: his teaching and the obedience of his disciples.
And let the Abbot be sure that any lack of profit the master of the house may find in the sheep will be laid to the blame of the shepherd.
On the other hand, if the shepherd has bestowed all his pastoral diligence on a restless, unruly flock and tried every remedy for their unhealthy behaviour, then he will be acquitted at the Lord’s Judgment.
So, as parents, do we follow the Good Shepherd in protecting our flock, or, as Fr Doyle says, are we a mere hireling? Are we content to allow the television to constantly babysit children for us? Are we content to leave their religious education to others? Are we too focused on work or our own ease to spend time with our children? Such a life of dedication to raising children is truly a sacrifice, a daily dying to self. But for those of us who are married and are parents, this is what we signed up to and it is through these sacrifices that we will grow in holiness by fulfilling the duties of our state in life.
Let us look then towards the Holy Family of Nazareth, and ask their help in turning our own homes into another Nazareth – an oasis of peace and balance and love in which God is glorified.