More than PreCana – Part I, Building a Holy Family

By Ellen Romer and Brian Niemiec


Ever since the Feast of the Holy Family we have been struggling with the question of what it means to be a holy family.  Talk about big shoes to fill, can you imagine what an argument at the dinner table looked like between Mary, Joseph, and Jesus?

“Mom can I go out and play with my friends?”

“Now Jesus, you haven’t eaten your pomegranate yet.”

“But Mom, I’m full!”

“Alright well go ask your Father.”

“Mom, he never answers the way I want him to.”

“I answer you all the time son.”

“Not you Joseph, whenever I talk to my Dad all I get is Doves from Heaven. Like that’s a real help!”

Ok, maybe it didn’t happen exactly like that, but when the Son of God and the human born without Original Sin are both in the same family, it can get intimidating. What can we learn from that family as we move ever closer to the day when we (Brian and Ellen) become a family of our own? (Disclaimer – Brian wrote the cheesy story. Not Ellen)

Well, let’s start with the two of us. We are incredibly lucky that we are coming from some pretty holy families to begin with. We have examples of great love and sacrifice, wonderful marriages and just very different families to remind us that families aren’t all the same and ours will be like no one else’s. from our own experiences we have picked up some useful tips from our families that will help us form our own.

For example, we learned from Brian’s mom that holy families mean that different people in the family take priority at different times.  Ellen’s dad taught us the real value of listening and conversation, and the need for intentional time together, whether planned or unplanned.  Both families have shown us that holy families require humility, honesty, patience, humor, and of course, love.

We have also seen that holy families are not perfect. Ellen’s parents had to find the right balance between two fulltime jobs, four kids, and their own marital relationship. Brian’s mom and dad ended up finding their true love and happiness in Bob and Nancy, Brian’s stepfather and stepmother.  These struggles taught us that the most important words we need to say (and mean) within our new family are “I’m sorry” and “I love you.”

These words bring us back to the Holy Family (note the caps).   In celebrating Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as a family, the Church recognizes and points to the messiness of family life as an encounter with Christ.  We talk a lot about Jesus as head of the bigger family called the Church, but local parishes and communities can seem much less personal than our family lives. Jesus, though, does not want to know us and enter our lives on a limited or superficial basis.  Jesus wants to be with us in our messiness, our faults, our joys, our failures, our love. It is our experience that family members are the ones in our lives that know us most fully – the good and the bad – and love us most deeply.  The Holy Family shows us that this intimacy, this knowing, is what reveals and realizes God, and we are called to encounter Christ in the intimacy of our new family.

In the coming weeks and months as our marriage gets closer we hope to delve more deeply into the mystery of what we will profess and invoke on July 25th. In calling the posts ‘More than PreCana,’ we want to explore the many aspects of preparing for the sacrament of marriage. We would love to hear your thoughts on what makes a holy family. Send us some comments below.  We’ll be back with another post soon, but in the meantime, please pray for us and for all engaged couples, so that we may enter more fully into the mystery and beauty of the Holy Family.