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Murillo_Holy Family

The Holy Family, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, c. 1650

Each year, on the first Sunday after Christmas, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. 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 in the rearing of the Christ Child.

St. John Paul II in his Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World), articulated God’s plan for the family as an “intimate community of life and love.”[1] The Holy Trinity is a divine community of life and love, the intimate community of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Family – Jesus, Mary and Joseph – is an earthly model of this intimate community of life and love, lived in respect, obedience and humility to God the Father and to each other.

At the closing of Familiaris Consortio, St. John Paul II offered this prayer for families…

St. John Paul II’s Prayer for the Family

And now, at the end of my pastoral message, which is intended to draw everyone’s attention to the demanding yet fascinating roles of the Christian family, I wish to invoke the protection of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

Through God’s mysterious design, it was in that family that the Son of God spent long years of a hidden life. It is therefore the prototype and example for all Christian families. It was unique in the world. Its life was passed in anonymity and silence in a little town in Palestine. It underwent trials of poverty, persecution and exile. It glorified God in an incomparably exalted and pure way. And it will not fail to help Christian families-indeed, all the families in the world-to be faithful to their day-to-day duties, to bear the cares and tribulations of life, to be open and generous to the needs of others, and to fulfill with joy the plan of God in their regard.

St. Joseph was “a just man,” a tireless worker, the upright guardian of those entrusted to his care. May he always guard, protect and enlighten families.

May the Virgin Mary, who is the Mother of the Church, also be the Mother of “the Church of the home.” Thanks to her motherly aid, may each Christian family really become a “little Church” in which the mystery of the Church of Christ is mirrored and given new life. May she, the Handmaid of the Lord, be an example of humble and generous acceptance of the will of God. May she, the Sorrowful Mother at the foot of the Cross, comfort the sufferings and dry the tears of those in distress because of the difficulties of their families.

May Christ the Lord, the Universal King, the King of Families, be present in every Christian home as He was at Cana, bestowing light, joy, serenity and strength. On the solemn day dedicated to His Kingship I beg of Him that every family may generously make its own contribution to the coming of His Kingdom in the world-“a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love, and peace” (The Roman Missal, Preface of Christ the King), towards which history is journeying.

I entrust each family to Him, to Mary, and to Joseph. To their hands and their hearts, I offer this Exhortation: may it be they who present it to you, venerable Brothers and beloved sons and daughters, and may it be they who open your hearts to the light that the Gospel sheds on every family.[2]

Mary and Joseph modeled God’s plan for the family as an “intimate community of life and love.”[3] In their unassuming home in Nazareth. By their example, may we too put Christ at the center of our families.

If you have not read St. John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio, we highly recommend that you do so. It is an epic work on marriage and family.

[1] John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World) (November 22, 1981), §11, internet: http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_19811122_familiaris-consortio.html (accessed December 27, 2019).

[2] Ibid., §86.

[3] Ibid., §11.