This time of year often stirs up a variety of feelings about family depending on your family situation. We live in a broken world and sometimes the most broken people are the ones closest to us. Even the most seemingly happy families may be dealing with difficulties.
This season, whether you are feeling lonely, emotionally drained, or anxious about tense family dynamics, I hope that we can dig deeper and really begin to unpack where those wounds take root in the hopes that we can find forgiveness, healing, and peace.
A Family Torn Apart
I will never forget the night when my mom left our family. Unbeknownst to me, my parents’ marriage experienced problems from the very beginning. Up until this night, I was not aware that there had been any serious issues. My mother left a toxic and abusive marriage, but also left her children confused and devastated. I’ll never forget how my sister and I cried and begged her not to go. I’ll never forget how her perfume lingered in the air as she slammed the front door behind her.
It was this night that began a whole breakdown of my sense of family, belonging, and safety. It became the source of a huge mother wound—feelings of abandonment and unworthiness—that still affect me to this day.
This experience left me battling with some unhealthy habits. I thought that I needed to resort to extreme behavior to make a point, that I should leave and call it quits when things get hard, and that I needed to have total control to prevent heartbreak.
Getting to Know Another Mother
I remember when I said my very first prayer to Our Blessed Mother. Growing up, she was never an important part of my life or the faith I was raised in. In fact, I was taught that it was sinful to pray to her, so this first prayer during my conversion to Catholicism was very scary. I felt like I was doing something wrong. At this time, I was struggling so much with feeling disconnected from my mother and working through a lot of the wounds that affected my relationship with her.
As I prayed to our Blessed Mother for the first time in my life, I felt immense peace, love, and comfort. I felt her saying to me, “I am your mother. I have always been your mother. And I’ve been praying for you and loving you before you even knew me.”
I felt seen. I felt known and cared for. Starting my relationship with her began the work of finally forgiving my own mother.
Saint Quotes On Family
Ever since learning about the Saints, I’ve been so inspired by their incredible examples of holiness, but more so by the unique lives that led to their canonizations. Many of them came from beautiful families and many came from broken families. Regardless of their histories, they knew that they were so much more than their failures, their parents’ failures, or whatever hardships happened to them. They dedicated themselves to God, entrusting Him with their lives.
We also have the Holy Family to whom we can look as an example of purity, sacrifice, and trust as the Lord carries us through difficult and challenging moments within our own families.
Whatever your family situation may be, we should not forget that we all belong to a family. We have the love of the Father—the perfect Father. We have our beautiful Blessed Mother interceding for us with her maternal love.
As Christians, we are adopted children of God. Let’s not forget that our sense of belonging can reach beyond our immediate family. Whether it’s a church community, close friendships, or a spiritual mother or father, let us remember that we belong to each other as brothers and sisters of Christ.
“The family is the most ancient institution which God founded in Paradise, when He called the first pair of human begins into existence. The first blessing which God gave was for the wellbeing of the family.” // Saint John Vianney
“God did not create a human family made up of segregated, dissociated, mutually independent members. No, He would have them all united by the bond of total love of Him and consequent self-dedication to assisting each other to maintain that bond intact.” // Venerable Pope Pius XII
Marriage is to help married people sanctify themselves and others. For this reason they receive a special grace in the sacrament which Jesus Christ instituted. Those who are called to the married state will, with the grace of God, find within their state everything they need to be holy.” // Saint Jose Maria Escriva
“Love and sacrifice are closely linked, like the sun and the light. We cannot love without suffering and we cannot suffer without love.” // Saint Gianna Beretta Molla
“When husband and wife are united in marriage they no longer seem like something earthly, but rather like the image of God Himself.” // Saint John Chrysostom
“Marriage is an act of will that signifies and involves a mutual gift, which unites the spouses and binds them to their eventual souls, with whom they make up a sole family—a domestic church.” // Saint John Paul II
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Be the Change Your Family Needs
No family is perfect. In every family, happy or not, there are issues to be addressed, forgiveness to be granted, and the work of healing to be done. And that’s hard, isn’t it? It’s hard to look past the hurts and truly see our family members the way Jesus sees them.
But if the way we treat our family members, good or bad, is a reflection of the way we treat Jesus, I know we can all do better. We can recognize the faults and failures of those closest to us but it is an act of true love that involves selflessness, forgiveness, and sacrifice.
Instead of focusing on how our family members need to change, we must ask ourselves, “What can I do? How do I need to change? How can I show kindness and charity in order to bring peace and harmony into this family?”
If you have plans coming up to visit with family and you’re kind of dreading it, I encourage you to pray. Truly surrender your pain, anxieties, and hurt to the Lord and let Him take it from you so you don’t have to deal with it alone anymore. Pray for your family members. Pray for peaceful family gatherings.
I suggest you start a novena to Saint Joseph, the head of the Holy Family, and the patron Saint of families. If you want to take more practical steps, here are some wonderful suggestions that you can put into practice in the days leading up to seeing your family.
“Whatever you do for your family, for your children, for your husband, for your wife, you do for God. All we do, our prayers, our work, our suffering, is for Jesus.” // Saint Teresa of Calcutta
“See to it that you refrain from harsh words. But if you do speak them, do not be ashamed to apply the remedy from the same lips that inflicted the wounds.” // Saint Francis of Paola
“No one heals himself by wounding another.” // Saint Ambrose
“To maintain a joyful family requires much from both the parents and the children. Each member of the family has to become, in a special way, the servant of others.” // Saint John Paul II
“You will never be happy if your happiness depends on getting solely what you want. Change the focus, get a new center, will what God wills, and your joy no man shall take from you.” // Venerable Fulton Sheen
Jesus Always Restores
While I now understand my mother’s reasons for leaving our family, it left a huge scar on my heart. Over the years, and thanks be to God, I have been able to process a lot of what has happened and forgive my mother. Now we have a wonderful relationship. It’s not perfect, but it’s not meant to be.
I was eventually able to reconstruct my idea of what family is. It’s not what I expected as a little girl. I thought that family was always happy and cheerful, that people didn’t hurt each other, that there would never be any arguments. I know now that family is quite the opposite. It’s about being in your lowest of lows, showing the worst sides of yourself, but working together through the issues and coming out on the other side of it loving each other and understanding each other more than before.
The devil specifically attacks families. The beauty, the joy, and the grace that flows from holy families are things that the enemy despises and so he makes it his mission to tear families apart. But we won’t let him win. We won’t let him have the last say. Whatever has happened in your family, you have the power to change it. You have the power to forgive, to heal, and to repair—and it has to start in your own heart. It is through this special kind of sacrifice that you can change your family, and when the unity of family is restored, the whole world can be restored. Whether you plan to spend these holidays with family or not, I pray that your days will be filled with joy, peace, and gratitude.
“I think peace will be a long time coming. But our faith teaches us that we must always keep on hoping, we shall enjoy it one day.” // Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
“He who knows how to forgive prepares for himself many graces from God. As often as I look upon the cross so often will I forgive with all my heart.” // Saint Faustina
“The family is the basis in the Lord’s plan, and all the forces of evil aim to demolish it. Uphold your families and guard them against the grudges of the evil one by the presence of God.” // Saint Charbel
“The final battle between the Lord and the reign of satan will be about marriage and the family. Don’t be afraid, because anyone who works for the sanctity of marriage and the family will always be fought and opposed in every way, because this it the decisive issue. However, Our Lady has already crushed its head.” // Servant of God Lucia of Fatima
“Let us love, since that is what our hearts were made for.” // Saint Therese of Lisieux
“Now, we must help each other to get to Heaven.” // Blessed Charles of Austria (to his wife, Empress Zita, the day after their wedding)
“If you want to bring happiness to the whole world, go home and love your family.” // Saint Teresa of Calcutta
“As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” // Saint John Paul II
What are some ways you have felt hurt, abandoned, or unloved by your family? What kind of changes can you make within your own heart to love yourself and love your family? What are three things you are grateful for?
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