I once worked in a Salvation Army hostel for homeless families. I remember one 17 year year old pregnant girl whom I will call Alison. Alison had no family and grew up in care; the father of her child was the same age and homeless. Like most young parents, they wanted something better for their child.
As the birth drew closer, their anxiety increased. They had no money and Alison’s maternity grant didn’t go very far, even buying second hand, and they had no family to help. They felt very ashamed and embarrassed; they felt like failures. As time drew close, this struggling embarrassed girl finally plucked up the courage to ask for help, because she simply had no money even for the stuff she needed to go into hospital. The reality was that she couldn’t afford items such as breast pads, maternity pads and nipple cream, all essential items.
In addition to financial challenges, there is the stigma. Alison’s child would now be around 29 years old, and there is now an even greater stigma to giving birth in poverty. With the advancements of social media, everyone has an opinion that can be spread across the internet. ‘If you can’t feed ‘em, don’t breed ‘em’ seems to be the populist view; only those with money should have children has become the narrative. Children become reduced to a mere commodity: a luxury item. Judgement rains down on complicated families living in poverty from wider society. In my work as a priest, I’ve seen such love and care in families who have nothing and yet there are those who would deprive those people of the joy of children.
Jesus was one such child, born to a poor and complicated family; Mary was young and unmarried, Joseph was not his birth father. However, his parents were obedient to God’s word and raised a child that has changed the world and saved us from the horrors of death. As family forced into homelessness, forced to flee and live as refugees, they would be called ‘illegals’ and ‘scroungers’ by some elements of the media, and yet the world needs this family more than ever.
Thank you to Mtr Kate for this reflection for our St Joseph Prayer Novena.
Prayer: Bring to mind families with babies you know. Pray for them, and pray for parents, like Mary and Joseph, who bring children up in difficult circumstances.
God our Father and Mother, we pray for women giving birth in poverty and for those who support them. Help us to seek justice and be compassionate towards families in need, recognising in them the image of the Holy Family, and giving thanks for their place in this world. Amen
Pause to remember your own particular concerns today, and you may like to pray the Novena prayer.
Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer,
Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To you God entrusted his only Son;
in you Mary placed her trust;
with you Christ became man.
Blessed Joseph, to us too,
show yourself a father
and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage,
and defend us from every evil.
St Joseph, pray for us