This edition of Catholic Journal Prompts features reflections on the Holy Family and how their example can serve as a guide for all families. As always, each edition of Catholic Journal Prompts features journal starters based on the Scriptures, the writings and lives of the Saints, as well as other personal reflections and a list of resources for further study and meditation.
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Journal Prompts From the Scriptures
Chapter 1 of Matthew's Gospel begins with the genealogy of Jesus - starting all the way back from Abraham and tracing Jesus' lineage down to Joseph, his foster-father. A careful reflection Jesus' family tree reveals some rather unseemly characters. Like the Lord, our family tree may be filled with the good and the bad. Reflect on your own family lineage. List the good traits and qualities that have been passed down to you from your ancestors and thank the Lord for them. Likewise, list the bad habits and sinful tendencies which you may have received from your family and repent of them.
Jesus' birth story, recounted in Luke 2 was a mixture of great joy experienced under extreme duress. Reflect on your own birth story or that of your children. Thank and praise God for the joy of new life, given to us through Him. If there were moments of stress, struggle, or heartache during these births, journal the pain you felt and invite the Holy Family into these moments. They understand, like no other, the pain of bringing a child into the world in less than ideal circumstances. Ask the infant Jesus to heal your heart of any pain or guilt that you still carry.
Luke Chapter 2 tells us of the time when Jesus was lost in the temple and the anxiety Mary and Joseph felt in their frantic search for him. Journal the moments when, as a parent, you have felt anxiety over a child who has been lost, either physically, spiritually or emotionally. Ask the Holy Family for their intercession and guidance in helping you to "find" this lost child.
"His mother kept all these things in her heart." (Luke 2:51) All parents hold their deepest hopes and dreams for their child's life inside their hearts. Use your journal as a private place to share these dreams for your children with the Lord Jesus. Ask him to reveal to you His will for your child's life. Journal what you sense the Lord is saying and then pray that His will unfolds in their lives.
The flight to Egypt is one of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Mother. (Mt 2:13-15) Think back to a time where your family had to move to a new location, take a new job, or experience financial uncertainty. Ask the Lord to show you how he was present in your life during these difficult moments. If you are in the midst of troubling times, ask for the Holy Family to give you the gift of trust in the providence and goodness of God.
Mary immediately followed Joseph's lead, leaving the stability of the only home she had known and following him to the new land of Egypt. Journal about the times when you have found it difficult to be on the "same page" as your spouse, especially with regards to matters of faith. Ask the Lord for the grace to see eye to eye with your spouse.
Luke 2:51 tells us that Jesus was "obedient" to Mary and Joseph. Journal about any challenges you have in being obedient to the Lord or the teachings of the Church. Pray for the grace of humble obedience for yourself and your family, even when that obedience involves sacrifice.
Journal Prompts From the Lives of the Saints
Even the saints were not immune from family difficulties. St. Francis of Assisi, for one, was disowned by his family for his radical following of the Lord. Journal about the times where following the Lord's will in your life has caused you grief within your own family. Ask for the intercession of the Holy Family to guide you and comfort you during these times.
St. Josemarie Escriva, in a reflection on family life, says "We should all learn to keep quiet, to wait and say things in a positive, optimistic way. When her husband loses his temper, the moment has arrived for the wife to be especially patient until he calms down, and vice versa." (Conversations #108) Reflect on the times when we have lost our tempers and ask the Lord for the grace of biting our tongues in future situations!
Saint John Paul II once said in a famous quote: "The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish." Journal about any temptations you may be experiencing towards putting pleasure, comfort and independence ahead of authentic family life. Work on overcoming just one of these temptations, with the help of the Holy Family.
The relationship between St Monica and her son, St. Augustine, is legendary. St. Monica prayed for 30 years for the conversion of both her husband and her son, and in both cases, her prayers were answered. Use your journal to pour out your heart in intercession for family members who have wandered from the faith, knowing with confidence, that the Lord hears and answers your prayers.
Begin a journal entry for each member of your family. Write down all their good qualities, gifts and talents and thank the Lord for the them. Ask the Lord's blessings and protection on their life. In some cases, especially where there is discord between yourself and a family member, this can prove to be a difficult exercise. Be persistent in prayer in those moments and ask the Lord to reveal to you his great love for that person.
At the start of each month, journal specific goals for your family - both temporal and spiritual. Share these goals with your family and help keep each other on track to achieve them.
If you are holding on to areas of unforgiveness towards a family member, use your journal to write a letter to that person (you don't have to actually send it), expressing the hurt that they have inflicted upon you and asking for their forgiveness for those hearts. Sometimes it is not possible to ask for forgiveness in person, and writing this letter that you will never send is a helpful step in healing your own heart.
Reflect on the qualities of each member of the Holy Family. Ask the Lord for the grace to grow in imitation of these qualities.
Resources for Further Meditation and Study
The following resources provide a wealth of additional food for meditation and journaling on both the Holy Family and Catholic family life:
Dr. Scott Hahn's book Joy to the World: How Christ's Coming Changed Everything (and Still Does) is far more than a Christmas book. In it, he stresses the importance of the family, saying "The Christmas story has an unconventional hero - not a warrior, not a worldly conqueror, not an individual at all, but rather a family."
Meet Your Mother: A Brief Introduction to Mary and Meet Your Spiritual Father by Dr. Mark Miravalle are two of the most comprehensive resources available for information on the Church's teachings about the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph. Both readable, informative and informational these would make wonderful gifts for any married couple.
I am a huge fan of Father Lawrence Lovasik's writings. Filled with practical suggestions based on timeless wisdom, the Catholic Family Handbook: Time-tested Techniques to Help You Strengthen Your Marriage and Raise Good Kids is an invaluable asset to any Catholic family desiring to grow in love for each other and the Lord.
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