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Holy Family 09

Each year, on the first Sunday after Christmas, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family. We are invited to ponder and imitate the love of the Holy Family in our homes and families. Mary and Joseph are models of holy, faithful, obedient, and fruitful love. By their example, may we too put Christ at the center of our families.

Today also marks a milestone for the Calling Couples to Christ Apostolate. This is our 200th blog post. We launched this apostolate because we have a passion for the permanence and sanctity of marriage, as well as a desire to help others experience the joy that comes from living a Christ-centered marriage. If you are touched by what we write here, please share it with others. Our culture is so in need of examples of holy families living out the Gospel in everyday life. Let your light shine in the darkness.

On this the Feast of the Holy Family, we want to share with you some reflections by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on the Holy Family. We pray that you will be blessed by the great wisdom of this dear man.

In the poor grotto of Bethlehem — the Fathers of the Church wrote — shines a very bright light, a reflection of the profound mystery which envelopes that Child, which Mary and Joseph cherish in their hearts and which can be seen in their expression, in their actions, and especially in their silence. Indeed, they preserve in their inmost depths the words of the Angel’s Annunciation to Mary: “the Child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Lk 1:35).

Yet every child’s birth brings something of this mystery with it! Parents who receive a child as a gift know this well and often speak of it in this way. We have all heard people say to a father and a mother: “this child is a gift, a miracle!”. Indeed, human beings do not experience procreation merely as a reproductive act but perceive its richness and intuit that every human creature who is born on earth is the “sign” par excellence of the Creator and Father who is in Heaven.

How important it is, therefore, that every child coming into the world be welcomed by the warmth of a family! External comforts do not matter: Jesus was born in a stable and had a manger as his first cradle, but the love of Mary and of Joseph made him feel the tenderness and beauty of being loved. Children need this: the love of their father and mother. It is this that gives them security and, as they grow, enables them to discover the meaning of life. The Holy Family of Nazareth went through many trials, such as the “massacre of the innocents” — as recounted in the Gospel according to Matthew — which obliged Joseph and Mary to flee to Egypt (cf. 2:13-23). Yet, trusting in divine Providence, they found their stability and guaranteed Jesus a serene childhood and a sound upbringing.

Dear friends, the Holy Family is of course unique and unrepeatable, but at the same time it is a “model of life” for every family because Jesus, true man, chose to be born into a human family and thereby blessed and consecrated it. Let us therefore entrust all families to Our Lady and to St Joseph, so that they do not lose heart in the face of trials and difficulties but always cultivate conjugal love and devote themselves with trust to the service of life and education.[1]

God had chosen to reveal himself by being born into a human family and the human family thus became an icon of God! God is the Trinity, he is a communion of love; so is the family despite all the differences that exist between the Mystery of God and his human creature, an expression that reflects the unfathomable Mystery of God as Love. In marriage the man and the woman, created in God’s image, become “one flesh” (Gen 2: 24), that is a communion of love that generates new life. The human family, in a certain sense, is an icon of the Trinity because of its interpersonal love and the fruitfulness of this love.[2]

It is through prayer itself that we become capable of drawing close to God with intimacy and depth…I would therefore like to invite you to reflect today on the way that prayer was part of the life of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Indeed, the house of Nazareth is a school of prayer where one learns to listen, meditate on and penetrate the profound meaning of the manifestation of the Son of God, following the example of Mary, Joseph and Jesus.

Mary was a peerless model of contemplation of Christ. The face of the Son belonged to her in a special way because he had been knit together in her womb and had taken a human likeness from her. No one has contemplated Jesus as diligently as Mary. The gaze of her heart was already focused on him at the moment of the Annunciation, when she conceived him through the action of the Holy Spirit; in the following months she gradually became aware of his presence, until, on the day of his birth, her eyes could look with motherly tenderness upon the face of her son as she wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in the manger.

Memories of Jesus, imprinted on her mind and on her heart, marked every instant of Mary’s existence. She lived with her eyes fixed on Christ and cherished his every word. St Luke says: “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (2:19) and thus describes Mary’s approach to the Mystery of the Incarnation which was to extend throughout her life: keeping these things, pondering on them in her heart.

Mary’s ability to live by God’s gaze, is so to speak, contagious. The first to experience this was St Joseph. His humble and sincere love for his betrothed and his decision to join his life to Mary’s attracted and introduced him, “a just man”, (Mt 1:19), to a special intimacy with God…As we know, the Gospel has not recorded any of Joseph’s words: his is a silent and faithful, patient and hard-working presence. We may imagine that he too, like his wife and in close harmony with her, lived the years of Jesus’ childhood and adolescence savouring, as it were, his presence in their family.

…the Holy Family is the icon of the domestic Church, called to pray together. The family is the domestic Church and must be the first school of prayer. It is in the family that children, from the tenderest age, can learn to perceive the meaning of God, also thanks to the teaching and example of their parents: to live in an atmosphere marked by God’s presence. An authentically Christian education cannot dispense with the experience of prayer. If one does not learn how to pray in the family it will later be difficult to bridge this gap. And so I would like to address to you the invitation to pray together as a family at the school of the Holy Family of Nazareth and thereby really to become of one heart and soul, a true family.[3]

As a model for all families, the Holy Family shows us how to love each other, sacrifice for each other, bear each other’s burdens, and always forgive each other. Family life rooted in prayer, along with participation in the Sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation, will provide the graces needed to live out the example of the Holy Family.

Consecration to the Holy Family

O Lord Jesus, you lived in the home of Mary and Joseph in Nazareth. There you grew in age, wisdom and grace as you prepared to fulfill your mission as our Redeemer. We entrust our family to you.

O Blessed Mary, you are the Mother of our Savior. At Nazareth you cared for Jesus and nurtured him in the peace and joy of your home. We entrust our family to you.

O Saint Joseph, you provided a secure and loving home for Jesus and Mary, and gave us a model of fatherhood while showing us the dignity of work. We entrust our family to you.

Holy Family, we consecrate ourselves and our family to you. May we be completely united in a love that is lasting, faithful and open to the gift of new life. Help us to grow in virtue, to forgive one another from our hearts, and to live in peace all our days. Keep us strong in faith, persevering in prayer, diligent in our work, and generous toward those in need. May our home, O Holy Family, truly become a domestic church where we reflect your example in our daily life. Amen.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, pray for us![4]

Prayer composed by Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus.

[1] Benedict XVI, Angelus on the Feast of the Holy Family, St Peter’s Square, Feast of St Stephen, Protomartyr, Sunday, 26 December 2010; internet: http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/angelus/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_ang_20101226_santa-famiglia.html (accessed December 28, 2018).

[2] Benedict XVI, Angelus on the Feast of the Holy Family, St Peter’s Square Sunday, 27 December 2009; internet: http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/angelus/2009/documents/hf_ben-xvi_ang_20091227.html (accessed December 28, 2018).

 [3] Benedict XVI, General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall Wednesday, 28 December 2011; internet: http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/audiences/2011/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20111228.html (accessed December 28, 2018).

[4] Knights of Columbus, Consecration to the Holy Family, internet: https://www.kofc.org/un/en/resources/domestic-church/consecration-to-the-holy-family10371.pdf (accessed December 28, 2018).