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It’s your domestic Church, Lord, I’m going to bed

night drawing Mary Joseph Jesus nativity

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Kathleen N. Hattrup - published on 05/20/24

Pope John XXIII, St. Joseph, the Holy Spirit ... so many voices are coming together to invite us to surrender, trust, and live in peace.

It is said that Pope St. John XXIII would turn in at night saying, “It’s your Church, Lord, I’m going to bed.”

That was how the Good Pope would deal with the stress of being shouldered with the concerns and worries of the huge, entire world. 

As we celebrate Mary, Mother of the Church, and I’m thinking of how she is the mother also of the domestic Church that my husband and I have formed, this practice from Pope John is especially comforting and appealing.

It’s your domestic Church, Lord, I’m going to bed!

Mary, Mallorca Spain

Because every parent knows that the list of worries is endless, even if they aren’t as many or as diverse as those a pope has to confront. But what we mustn’t forget is that, truly, these children and this family are more God’s than our own. He is more “worried” than I could ever be for them, and infinitely better able to take care of them and resolve the worries.

A chaste love

Pope Francis gave an interesting twist to this attitude of trusting release in his beautiful apostolic letter on St. Joseph.

I’d never thought of chastity in the light he gave it:

Being a father entails introducing children to life and reality. Not holding them back, being overprotective or possessive, but rather making them capable of deciding for themselves, enjoying freedom and exploring new possibilities. Perhaps for this reason, Joseph is traditionally called a “most chaste” father. That title is not simply a sign of affection, but the summation of an attitude that is the opposite of possessiveness. Chastity is freedom from possessiveness in every sphere of one’s life. Only when love is chaste, is it truly love. A possessive love ultimately becomes dangerous: it imprisons, constricts and makes for misery. God himself loved humanity with a chaste love; he left us free even to go astray and set ourselves against him. The logic of love is always the logic of freedom, and Joseph knew how to love with extraordinary freedom.

While this is a demanding attitude to adopt, it’s also freeing. It’s an attitude that learns how to accept, even when things (or children) don’t turn out as we would like. The Pope reflects:

The spiritual path that Joseph traces for us is not one that explains, but accepts. Only as a result of this acceptance, this reconciliation, can we begin to glimpse a broader history, a deeper meaning.

Surest expression of God’s will

Spiritual writer Jacques Philippe presents something of this type of acceptance in the context of fidelity to the Holy Spirit, in his book In the School of the Holy Spirit. He says that growth in attentiveness to the Holy Spirit comes through “what might be called ‘obedience to events.’”

Many things happen that God does not will. But he still permits them, in his wisdom … [T]here is always a whole set of circumstances which we can do nothing about, which are not necessarily willed by God but nevertheless are permitted by him, and which God invites us to consent to trustingly and peacefully … The events of life are, after all, the surest expression of God’s will, because there is no danger of our interpreting them subjectively.”

So in the face of difficult or painful events in our domestic Church, again, the trusting surrender of Pope John is consolation. “You take care of it.”

Cast Your Cares party

The other day, at the end of a long week, I went out to walk off some tension and ended up in one of our neighborhood churches. Something I’d read came to mind, about the release brought by praying Psalm 55: 

Cast your cares on the Lord
    and he will sustain you;
he will never let
    the righteous be shaken.

It’s the same advice the first pope gave in his letter: “Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you.”

My musings at the back of the church turned into a “Cast Your Cares” party. As each new frustration came to mind, I named it and “cast it” on the Lord. The worries of dear friends started to fill my thoughts too, and I added them to the pile I was casting on Jesus. Their anxieties made me think of more of my own worries and I just kept adding them to the pile.

As Henri Nouwen reflects, Jesus wants to dwell within us, making a “new home” where “perfect love drives out fear.” 

This home feels safe, warm, and comforting. In this home, I can cast my burdens on Him because He cares. I don’t have to worry anymore because Jesus is in the house. 

Neither my “Cast Your Cares” party nor Pope John’s surrender prayer make all the worries go away, but they do give me a moment of relief and enough strength to go on.

Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for my domestic Church!

Amen.

Tags:
FamilyPrayerSaint JosephVirgin Mary
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