Today the Church commemorates the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. In his letter to the Church at Philippi, St. Paul wrote of the supremacy of the name of Jesus Christ: “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name” (Phil 2:9) and “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:10-11).
A formal devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus began among Cistercian monks and nuns in the 12th-century. This devotion gained popularity in 15th-century through the preaching of a Franciscan priest, Saint Bernardine of Siena.
Bernardine used devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus as a way of overcoming bitter and often bloody class struggles and family rivalries in Italy during his time. The devotion grew, partly because of Franciscan and Dominican preachers. It spread even more widely after the Jesuits began promoting it in the 16th century. In 1530, Pope Clement V approved an Office of the Holy Name of Jesus for the Franciscans. In 1721, Pope Innocent XIII extended this feast to the entire Church.
Many marriages are in crisis today, struggling with bitterness and resentment between husbands and wives, children and parents. While living under the same roof, these same husbands and wives hunger for emotional attachment to their spouses. Children desire stronger bonds with their parents. Social media and smartphones have stripped families and our society of interpersonal interaction. Husbands, wives, and children hide behind a screen, engaging in a never-ending quest to find significance in Facebook and Instagram likes, and Twitter retweets. Families are famished and starving for love. What can we do to combat this onslaught on the family? Marriages and families work when Jesus Christ is the center.
Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit issued a pastoral letter on Pentecost 2017 entitled, Unleash the Gospel. In the letter, he offered the following vision for families:
Families who, having embraced their role as the domestic church and in connection with other families and single persons, actively seek the spiritual and social renewal of their neighborhoods, schools and places of work. Such families and individuals would display a strikingly counter-cultural way of living: grounded in prayer, Sacraments and attention to Scripture; unusually gracious hospitality; a capacity to include those on the margins of society; and joyful confidence in the providence of God even in difficult and stressful times. Unleash the Gospel, p. 32
Archbishop Vigneron charged families to reclaim their identity with God through the following action plan (Action Step 1.3 Christian Family Identity, p. 33):
- Attending Sunday Mass as a family
- Daily scripture reading
- Regular family meal times without distractions
- Regular family prayer time
- Frequent participation is the Sacrament of Reconciliation to heal wounds and brokenness through sacrifice, forgiveness, mercy, and love
- Modeling Christ’s love by helping neighbors in need
- Parents are the primary witnesses of the faith to their family
We ask that you implement just one of the above recommendations in your family over the next few months. Put Christ at the center of your daily family life. Be a model of the love of Christ in your family, where “the family home is rightly called ‘the domestic church,’ a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1666). Let Christ rule in your hearts and your home and witness the transforming power of the Holy Name of Jesus in bringing more happiness and joy into your home.