I'm about 1/4 of the way through St. Faustina Kowalska's diary, "Divine Mercy In My Soul". I noticed she was writing "+JMJ+" at the end of some of her entries. Then I started seeing it in other places too... mostly in older, Pre-Vatican II material. I finally typed it into a search engine & discovered it stands for Jesus, Mary & Joseph, who, collectively, are known as the Holy Family. Things like this, along with devotions to the "infant" or "child" Jesus & his many wounds during His passion decades later, have always intrigued me. I mean, what's the point? Joseph was only a foster father (who was barely mentioned in the scriptures), Mary eventually got her own cult following & Jesus didn't stay an infant or a child... He grew up, died an adult & rose again as an adult... & though he still bears the scars of His torture to this day, his wounds were only temporary... why venerate a shoulder wound or the 27th random lash of the whip?
These kinds of devotions make me think of tiny, hook nosed grandmothers sitting in candlelit chapels, donned in their multi-coloured floral babushkas & heavy jackets, crossing themselves every 5 seconds & reciting their novenas with rosaries in hand. Clearly, some traditions are simply naive & archaic & there's a reason much of it has passed away. Pre-Vatican II Catholics were just a different breed. They didn't question anything. If the Church said it, end of story (And yes, I'm aware that's a blanket statement). Its easy to think that way because these days, we acknowledge that tradition & devotion can be useful, but only if they make sense. Otherwise, they're destined for the wayside in order to make room for a more relevant, tangible, perhaps even scientifically proven truth that we interchangeably define as faith.
Still, I just couldn't shake the "why" of these devotions, so I began to pray. Why acknowledge the Holy Family? Why have a devotion to the infancy or childhood of Christ? Why hone in on a specific wound of Christ aside from the nail scars, crown of thorns or the gash in His side? Why? Because focus helps us see beyond the bigger picture... We get to see more of the scaffolding that girds up the main attraction, Who is ultimately, Jesus.
The Holy Family in particular gives us a model for our own families- mother, father & child- and is especially pertinent as society scrambles to redefine the meaning of marriage & family in light of homosexual "rights". The Holy Family also gives us a model of the Trinity: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. It is a unit, a cord of 3 strands that is not easily broken. Yet how often do we think of Joseph these days when we think of Mary or Jesus? He was more than a carpenter-turned-foster dad. He is the model of responsibility for every man. I find it interesting that the mention of Joseph has since languished & faded, just like the presence of our husbands, fathers & honorable men in society today. That said, I can't help but think that God specifically chose Joseph & Mary as guardians over Jesus for a reason. Should we not acknowledge & seek to imitate the Holy Family in their commitment to & love for one another & in both their corporate & individual obedience to God? Moreover, let us remember that by virtue of the communion of saints, Joseph is also our foster father, just as Jesus is our brother & Mary, our mother. We have been born into this minute Holy Family (as well as this family at large, the Church) for a reason... +JMJ+
As for the devotions to the infant or child Jesus & the various random wounds of Christ, I'll address those in another post.