Welcome to Saint Mary’s Church, Harborne, Birmingham, UK.

Order of St. Augustine.

Archdiocese of Birmingham

“Before all else, live together in harmony, being of one mind and one heart on the way to God.”  St. Augustine.

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                                       Fr. Bernard O’Connor’s Homily

                                                  for Sunday 8th July

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Mark 6: 1-6


This Gospel passage always intrigues me.  The people of Jesus’ hometown were astonished when they heard Jesus preach in the synagogue, when they saw the wonderful things he did, his healings, his casting out of evil spirits.

What particularly amazed them was that they had always seen this young man as one of themselves.  They had seen him grow up.  His father was the carpenter, Joseph who had to work hard to make a living for his family. 

His mother was Mary who managed the home, and, like all women of her time, had to work hard to collect firewood, to draw water and to do all the many household chores, long before the age of press-button machines.

The boy as he grew up would have been expected to take his share of what needed to be done – assisting Joseph, running errands and so on.


When Jesus was lost in Jerusalem, his family was with a whole group from the hometown, the adults together, the young people, as always together, enjoying their own company.  Jesus, the twelve-year old was presumed to be with his own age-group – and one can only imagine the shock and horror of his parents when they discovered that he was missing.

There is something very typical of family in Mary’s rebuke to the boy when they eventually found him in the temple.  ‘My child, why have you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been looking for you.’  There is no record of what Joseph said.


All of which points to the fact that the Holy Family was very different from the traditional pictures of the three with haloes around their heads, their feet scarcely touching the ground.


No, they were an ordinary family, and those who knew them over the years could see no real difference between them and any other family of the town.


All of which points to the conclusion that the ordinary family was regarded as good enough for the Son of God, as he grew from infancy to adulthood.


What is all that saying to us now?


One could summarise it as saying ‘In praise of the imperfect family.’


The theory of the family can present a romantic picture of a perfect mini-society, the Church in miniature.

This is true in that both are made up of imperfect human beings, striving to live by high ideals, which often must seem remote from the realities of day-ro-day family life.


Many must feel that ‘our family is not like that’ – mother gets cross, father worries about money, children quarrel’.

But it is the fact that the family can soak up these realities that is its virtue.

The home is the one place where we can be our grumpy, eccentric selves, and know that, in spite of everything we are still loved.

Friends may come into our lives and then move on, but brothers and sisters, father and  mother are always brothers and sisters, father and mother.


The word that best describes what we might call the ordinary home is SECURITY. 

To have this cushion of security is what best enables children grow from infancy to childhood, through adolescence and young adulthood, and even beyond, and is now being recognised more and more as an essential element enabling them become mature adults, willing and able to raise their own families.

Grandparents in their time can become the heart of the extended family..


Our society needs to acknowledge that raising a family is an achievement that ranks alongside the greatest that people can achieve using their talents and training.

It may be argued that raising a family is just ordinary, in that it happens all the time.

So it is.  But we need to recognise the wonder of the ordinary.

Secure families contribute more to the health of the whole society than education, social services and any other human institution, however well intentioned and motivated.


When the family breaks down, it is a tragedy, and these human institutions can supply where necessary, they can enhance and they do, but they cannot substitute..


When his contemporaries wondered ‘What is this wisdom that has been granted him’, they could have been told, ‘from God eventually’ but made possible by the stability and goodness that he experienced in his own family.

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