Late July is the heart of the summer, when we spend time with family and rest in the heat of the season. This last week of the month, we celebrate the feasts of several saints, all of them laypeople, who became holy through life in the family. On Tuesday (7/26) we celebrate the feast day of St. Joachim and St. Anne, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. These saints are not mentioned in Sacred Scripture, but are known to us through the tradition of the Church and non-scriptural writings from the second century. As the parents of Our Lady, they were the ones who participated in the Immaculate Conception, by which she was uniquely preserved from the stain of Original Sin from the moment of her conception, as a way of preparing her to be the mother of Our Lord. As the parents of Our Lady, they would have been absolutely devoted to her, recognizing her (and their grandson’s) presence in their lives as a great blessing from God.
On Friday (7/29) the Church celebrates the feast of St. Martha, St. Mary, and St. Lazarus, three siblings who lived together in the town of Bethany, not far from Jerusalem. In the gospels we learn that this family often welcomed Our Lord into their home, along with His disciples. It seems they enjoyed a special friendship with Christ, who must have, for some reason, felt particularly comfortable with them. This doesn’t mean that their relationships were without the normal disagreements and squabbles that exist in all families. Famously, Martha publicly expressed great displeasure with her sister for not helping her to provide hospitality to their guests during Our Lord’s first visit to their home. The sisters also experienced the tragedy of Lazarus’ untimely death. Even in their grief, the sisters confessed their belief in Jesus, who raised their brother from the tomb in anticipation of his own resurrection on Easter Sunday.
These feast days remind us that God loves families, and that the family is the place where love for Jesus and Mary must be cultivated and fostered. May the example and the intercession of these saintly families help us to make our homes and hearts places of welcome to Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary, and remind us that family life lived well is a privileged path to sainthood.