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  • Sonia-Maria Szymanski

Following the Holy Family while carrying the cross of infertility

Let’s just say it: holidays and infertility are not a good mix. For whatever reason, they are a magnet for pregnancy announcements. I used to love the Christmas season, but when we learned of our infertility, it became a season of dread and despair instead of one of joy and peace. I felt as though everyone was announcing a pregnancy, except us. Sure, I was happy for them, I was not about to rain on someone else’s parade, but once all was said and done and I was alone with my husband, the grief, anger and tremendous sadness would settle in. I hoped to find solace and comfort during Christmas Mass but it was to no avail. The only thing I could focus on was the Holy Family, and something so perfect caused me so much pain.

Each Christmas for five consecutive years, I knelt in front of the Nativity scene and begged and prayed until I could beg and pray no more to conceive our own baby. As the subsequent months went by, all that begging and praying felt worthless as each month brought a negative pregnancy test and another menstrual cycle. One year, I decided I was done. My prayers remained unanswered, there was no point in praying and begging. After that Christmas Mass ended, I walked up to the Holy Family and stared at them with envy and anger. As those feelings stirred inside me, silent tears rolled down my cheeks.

My dear sister in Christ, I know this is a difficult season. I know your heart will be filled with sadness, sometimes a sadness you will keep hidden from others. Don’t be upset at the Holy Family, like I was, because you feel less fruitful or even unworthy of having your own family. We are called to live the way they did by emulating the virtues they lived. They are the ones we are to imitate when it comes to choosing joy, especially when facing hardships.

Society wants us to believe that a marriage is only fruitful when children come from it. If that were the case, what would be the purpose of those holy couples in the Bible that remained childless for so many years? Think of Abraham and Sarah or Zechariah and Elizabeth: were they less of a marriage because they did not have children? Were they less fruitful or holy? Are my husband and I less fruitful and holy? And the simple answer is: NO! The moment you and your spouse say “I do,” you are both entrusted with the mission of living out the virtues the Holy Family lived out in their daily lives. You are, from that moment on, in charge of each other’s journey towards heaven and you must hold each other accountable to following God’s will, no matter how challenging His plan may be. So, what did I come to learn from the Holy Family? I learned to follow God’s will, to live out my virtues within my daily actions and words, and look to them as an example of love, mercy and humility.

  1. Follow God’s will, especially when it is not easy  

Ugh! This is always a hard one for me! We think we know what is best for us. We constantly fail to accept the better path and plan God has in store for us. We fight it and refuse to submit to it because we close our hearts to Him and His graces. Let us not forget how Joseph wanted to flee in order to avoid shame and embarrassment on Mary. But he obeyed. When Mary saw her only child being tortured on the Cross, did she wonder why she chose this path at all? She obeyed. Jesus was obedient to His Mission, but when He was faced with His cup, He suffered agony in the garden. Despite His fear of what was to come, He obeyed the will of His Father. Just as the Holy Family followed the path, although not always easy, we are to do the same. We are human like they were. It is only normal and human to doubt and worry. His plan may not be the plan I wanted, but it was the best plan He had crafted for you. 

  1. Be virtuous

Families have the responsibility to teach the faith to our children. Jesus learned about generosity, forgiveness and love by watching how Joseph and Mary interacted with others and each other. As an infertile woman, I failed to see how I could be that teacher and you may be experiencing this same feeling right now. But don’t forget that not only mothers teach. Friends, aunts, siblings, cousins and godmothers share the responsibility when it comes to teaching the faith. Your actions and words can shape more than you know. Don’t take your role as teacher for granted. I encourage you, if you are in a season of infertility, to seek out opportunities to teach what the Church teaches. Live virtuously.  

  1. Seek the Holy Family

This one was as challenging as having to accept God’s will. We are all called to imitate the Holy Family. Through them, we are able to see how true love, generosity and care are to be lived out in our daily activities. It’s not about being a family of three, four, five, or whatever you had dreams for. It’s about being a family. These were three people that were simply trying to serve God and had their share of challenges. What about Mary? She lost Jesus for three days. I mean, hey, she only proved that we are still human and have our less than stellar moments, even if you happen to be immaculate (and I am certainly not). It took me years to realize that the Holy Family is a great model of adoption. I bet some of you never noticed it either! You see, Joseph is Jesus’ father, his adoptive father. He must have been so scared and confused at how he was chosen to parent the Savior of the world. 

It may be tempting to look at the Holy Family as the perfect family. But they experienced sadness and grief. Joseph had some big shoes to fill, being a father to the Son of God. Unworthy doesn’t begin to describe how he must have felt. As for Mary, she knew she would lose her only son. All she could do was sit and watch as the world mocked, tortured and crucified her son for us, lowly sinners. All this to say, the Holy Family is an example to follow, not one of perfection according to our definition of perfection, but a perfection inclined towards love, virtue and obedience to God. Their faith allowed them to continue despite remembering the prophecy of how Mary’s heart would be pierced, which would certainly mean the death of Jesus.

On the feast of the Holy Family, I challenge you to look at this family differently. Look to Joseph and seek his courage in doing what was right and difficult. Emulate Mary in her humility and kindness. And seek Jesus to show you that despite the pain and humiliation, the end reward is His kingdom and eternal life. I leave you with this prayer inspired by that Christmas where I no longer prayed or begged for a child. I pray it gives you the strength you may need to help you face the coming year.

Holy Family,

I come to you with sadness, anger and despair.

Guide me closer to each of you and let me be enveloped by your loving and warm embrace.

Fill my heart with love and peace, for it is filled with anger and turmoil. 

Show me the purpose of suffering and teach me how to choose joy as you did when things got challenging.

Joseph, open my heart to God’s will.

Mary, teach me how to pray and grow closer to God.

Jesus, I entrust my pain to Yours on the cross.

Guide me and comfort me through this painful journey.


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