During a recent homily, the priest told a story that I feel is extremely profound and important for today, perhaps even more so than he intended.
This priest had gone to the post office shortly before Christmas to purchase “Christmas” stamps for his cards. He had heard in the news that some post office advertisements had left “Christmas stamps” out of their advertising blitz for the year. So, he was not surprised when in the post office he saw a sign advertising “Holiday” stamps, and showing pictures of stamps emblazoned with Jewish menorahs, poinsettias, Kwanzaa lights and gingerbread houses; not a sign of the Blessed Mother, Jesus, or the true meaning of “Christmas” to be found on any of the hanging posters.
When the priest arrived at the customer service desk, he asked if they had any stamps with the Madonna and Child. He was told that they were out of that stamp, although some post offices might still have some in stock. The clerk did inform him that he did have one stamp for “Christmas” for 2013 still available. When the priest glanced quickly at the offered book of stamps, he sighed to see what he thought was an image of the 3 Wise Men on camels. Although representing “Epiphany” and not “Christmas”, he bought the stamps. It was only when he got home that he studied the stamps more closely. What he had initially thought to be the wise men on camels was in error. Pictured in silhouette on the stamps was a man with a staff leading a donkey on which sat a woman cradling a baby to her chest. No—this stamp certainly wasn\’t a Christmas stamp, or not even an “Epiphany” stamp—this stamp entitled “The Holy Family” in actuality represents the “Flight into Egypt” and is part of the United States Postal Service “Holiday” stamp collection from 2013.
Now, there was media coverage before Christmas about the way the Post Office explicitly removed “Christmas” stamps from their “Holiday” stamp advertising this year, and this is important to note. However, I believe that unbeknownst to them, the Post Office may have actually acted in a semi “prophetic” manner in choosing this image for their “Christmas” stamp this year. Of course, the Flight into Egypt is not a “Christmas” stamp at all. Instead, this image represents the Holy Family fleeing into Egypt at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and after Joseph’s dream and instructions from an angel, to rescue Jesus from the forthcoming “Slaughter of the Innocents.\”
Most of us in the Catholic Christian world are well aware of the assault on the family that of late has greatly intensified. Catholic parents trying to raise their children with a grounding in the Faith know it well, because we feel quite “battle weary” in attempts to keep our families “in the boat” during the storm in which we find ourselves.
So, what lies ahead in 2014? Well, I believe that this stamp symbolizes what we know in our hearts is forthcoming—increasing persecution and assaults against the family and human life. However, instead of this being a message to promote fear and anxiety, the resounding message I have for you today is “Be Not Afraid!” We know that the Family is the structural “Cell” of our society. As Blessed Pope John Paul II said, “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” Our world is falling apart, because our families are falling apart. It is well past time for each of our families to anchor down in our beautiful Catholic faith, and reach for the “weapons” God has bequeathed to us for this epic “battle”. One must not forget how closely to His heart God holds the family, so closely that when He decided to send His Only Begotten Son to the world in the fullness of time, He chose to send Him through the means of a humble and loving family. Additionally, two major Church approved apparitions also testify to the importance of the Family.
- When Our Lady appeared in Fatima, Portugal, in her October 13 appearance to the little shepherds, one of their three visions they saw (during the “miracle of the sun”) was of the Holy Family with St. Joseph blessing the world.
- Additionally, in the 1970’s, ophthalmologists, studying the image of the Tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe, discovered in both of the eyes of the Blessed Mother an image of a family. From EWTNews:
A Peruvian expert who has been studying the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico for 34 years, says the microscopic figures that appear in her eyes hold a powerful pro-life and pro-family message. (Dr.) Jose Aste Tonsmann said the tiny images in the eyes include an entire Aztec family and are a sign from the Mother of God about the importance of life and the family at a time when both are under attack worldwide. Tonsmann said the other seven figures that appear right in the center of Mary\’s gaze appear to be \”an Indian family.\” The young woman in center of the group looking down is the mother. At her side is the father who is wearing a hat and between them are their three children. The other two figures appear to be an elderly couple and may be the grandparents. They are standing behind the others, and the elderly man is the only figure that appears just in the right eye. … It is not a coincidence, he added, that only today\’s technology has allowed the tiny images to be detected and their hidden message \”decoded.\” \”The development of technology has coincided with an age in which the family is denigrated all over the world. For this reason, we can say that the Our Lady wanted the family to be front and center in our times.\”
Finally, it is important to note that it was announced in October 2013 that the Holy Father, Pope Francis, has convened the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to be held in the Vatican from 5 to 19 October 2014. The theme for this Synod will be “The pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.” Yes, the Catholic family is, has been, and will always be at the focal point of Catholic teaching.
In the follow up article to this, I intend to review for you some of the incredibly powerful “weapons” Holy Mother Church has put into place for us to use during times when the storm seems so intense that it may overturn our boat. I can promise you that by utilizing these “weapons” you will find your family, like little David, aiding in overturning and defeating the giant that the forces of darkness are now planning to present to us.
© 2014 Karol Henseler Orsborn. All rights reserved.