Nativity of St. John the Baptist: A Family Feast
As the day of the Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist comes to a close, our domestic church hasn’t seen too much of physical feast day celebration, as we are saving up the treats for after dinner. Following the inspiration of how St. John ate grasshoppers and honey, mint chocolate ice cream (as in Grasshopper Ice Cream) is in my near future.
Celebrating a feast day means finding ways to bring the feast to the forefront of the mind. I try to implement ideas to help my family dwell on aspects of the liturgy, including the Mass readings and prayers, and different themes of the feast and/or saint throughout the day.
I’ve mentioned before how today’s feast and the feast of the Visitation and several other feasts highlight Christ’s personal family, and in emphasizing his family relationship helps us celebrate our own families.
Growing up, my mother nurtured our family’s relationship with our cousins. When we lived in the same area, our families did many things together. When separated by miles, we still wrote letters and kept up to date. Summer vacations and holidays were always fun because we came together again and had our cousins as friends.
Having enjoyed such a blessing of cousins, I remember thinking about the Blessed Virgin Mary and her cousin St. Elizabeth and their close relationship. I thought about the love Mary had for her cousin to immediately travel by foot to help, even though Mary had become the Ark of the Covenant. That special love for her cousin spoke volumes to me. I was sure Jesus and John the Baptist must have visited each other and played together as children, because Mary and Elizabeth had a close friendship and love and would have tried to visit each other. And when the mothers visit, of course the children have to tag along.
Now it is my children’s turn to relish the relationship with cousins. I am blessed to be the oldest of seven children. All my siblings are now married and have many children. Only two families live out-of-state, which means we have a total of 20 cousins who live nearby. As my siblings are local and my best friends, that means my children get to see their cousins often, and get to nourish friendships with them.
I now consider the Nativity of St. John the Baptist as cousins’ day. For our younger children, this means spending time and enjoying their company. Yesterday, the eve of the solemnity, the cousins put on a play of Cinderella for the parents and younger cousins. It was wonderful to see them all work together, enjoy the gifts and talents of their cousins and, of course, to have loads of fun. Today saw baseball camp for my sons, with one cousin also participating, and then another cousin joining us for pool time later in the afternoon. For others, this is a day to remember our cousins, to pray for them, to maybe reach out to them in some way.
In this modern era where the family is under attack and breaking apart in so many ways, the Church’s Liturgy provides examples of true, loving family relationships, not just of husband and wife and children, but the extended family of aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. Nurturing family relationships, especially with cousins, is one way to celebrate the Liturgical Year, especially the Birth of John the Baptist.
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