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Ordinary Devotion

My husband and I just welcomed our fourth baby two months ago, and he has utterly upended our lives. I’m astonished at how many attempts it takes to finish a reading lesson with my oldest child or take a shower. Veteran parents of multiple children may read this and shake their heads, thinking, “What else did you expect?”

The beautiful thing about significant life changes is that they force me to step back and evaluate how my family is faring.

At first glance, I’d say we’re flopping.

I don’t feel like a holy family, and I’m not sure if holiness is even feasible. We haven’t found a workable daily rhythm yet. My temper is center stage. A feast day passes and weeks later I think, “Should I have taught my kids about that? Maybe I could scrounge up a relevant coloring page?”

The opportunity to write about the Holy Family felt like an invitation to consider which aspects of their life I’d like to strive for in ours.

First, the Holy Family was ordinary.

Sure, Mary and Joseph raised the Savior of the world, but as far as we know, neither Mary nor Joseph were prominent figures in their community. During Jesus’s childhood, they didn’t open an orphanage or catalyze any big changes in village politics. They simply remained faithful in the little duties of family life.

For good reason, we laud Mary and Joseph’s willingness to endanger their reputations when, as an unmarried woman, Mary carried the Son of God, and we stand in awe of Mary’s surrender in Jesus’s death. But what of the many years of hidden sacrifice that Mary and Joseph poured into Jesus as a child? Jesus was a boy for many years before He began to teach, heal, and transform Nazareth. I wonder if He constantly brought sticks into the house and begged His mother not to throw them away.

I wonder if He ever refused to eat dinner or went through an exhausting phase of waking His parents in the middle of the night. Is anyone’s domestic life more underplayed than that of Mary and Joseph’s? They were wholly devoted to their family.

The majority of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus’s life together was unremarkable, yet they radically altered the course of the world in Heaven and on earth.

We could say the Holy Family brought Redemption in spite of their unremarkable domesticity, but maybe Redemption wasn’t possible without it. When tempted to compare our families to others’ or declare our work underwhelming, let’s ask the Holy Family for help. Let’s remember that the sporting events we attend; the mornings we rise early to get to work; the meals we serve—it’s holy work. Don’t be ashamed of ordinary devotion.

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Rachel Simpson

Rachel Barga Simpson lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four children. She’s taking a break from work as a speech-language pathologist, keeping her mind awake in the meantime by devouring novels and writing whenever possible.

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