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Holy Family Stained Glass_02

The family is indeed—more than any other human reality— the place where an individual can exist “for himself” through the sincere gift of self. St. John Paul II[1]

The Church dedicates the month of February to the Holy Family. The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph is the model of virtue for all Christian households. In these troubling times, when families are no longer valued and are disintegrating, it is of paramount importance that we emulate this virtuous family.

The Holy Family lived out what the Church calls the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance and the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. Cardinal is the Latin word for “hinge.” All of the other virtues hinge around these four virtues. The higher theological virtues of faith, hope, and love are the fruit of the cardinal virtues.

Mary, Joseph, and Jesus intentionally and repeatedly chose the good (prudence), treated each other with respect (justice), endured trials and difficulties (fortitude) and sacrificed their own desires for the good the other (temperance).

Mary and Joseph had faith in the promises of God to deliver His people, they had hope that all God had promised would be fulfilled, and through their love of God, they obediently submitted to what God was asking of them.

The Holy Family is our model for the virtuous life in our marriages and families. We need to be striving to develop these same virtues. The cardinal virtues are the foundation for all of the other virtues. We must build a solid foundation on these virtues in order to grow in all the others. Husbands and wives must daily strive, and with mutual support, grow in virtue to build a strong, holy, and healthy family.

Virtues are absolutely essential for marriages to thrive. A virtue is the habitual and firm disposition to do the good. The Latin root of the word is virtus, which means “strength” or “power.” Growing in virtue is a lifelong task to strengthen our willpower to choose what is best and right even in the most difficult of circumstances.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) our efforts will be fortified by grace:

Human virtues acquired by education, by deliberate acts and by a perseverance ever-renewed in repeated efforts are purified and elevated by divine grace. With God’s help, they forge character and give facility in the practice of the good. The virtuous man is happy to practice them. It is not easy for man, wounded by sin, to maintain moral balance. Christ’s gift of salvation offers us the grace necessary to persevere in the pursuit of the virtues. Everyone should always ask for this grace of light and strength, frequent the sacraments, cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and follow his calls to love what is good and shun evil. CCC, 1810-1811 (emphasis added)

The Catechism further says…

The theological virtues are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character. They inform and give life to all the moral virtues. They are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being. CCC, 1813

The work of developing virtue continues as our relationship grows and children are born. Change and struggles require new virtues. We must continue to ask for the grace and strength to pursue virtue. The family is a school of love and virtue. St. John Paul II called the family “the first community of life and love, the first environment where man can learn to love and feel loved, not only by other people, but also and above all by God.”[2]

On the Feast of the Holy Family, St. John Paul II exhorted all families:

Dear brothers and sisters, let us look to the Holy Family of Nazareth as an example for all Christian and human families. It radiates genuine love and charity, not only creating an eloquent example for all families, but also offering the guarantee that such love can be achieved in every family unit. May those who are engaged to be married be inspired by the Holy Family in their preparation for matrimony; may spouses look to it as they build their domestic community. May faith grow and may love, harmony, solidarity, mutual respect and openness to life reign in every home.

May Mary, Queen of the family, a title by which we can henceforth call upon her in the Litany of Loreto, help the families of believers to respond ever faithfully to their vocation so as to be true “domestic churches”.[3]

To learn more on the cardinal and theological virtues, click on our previous blog posts here and here.

Prayer to the Holy Family

Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary, bless our family. Graciously inspire in us the unity, peace, and mutual love exhibited in your own family in Nazareth.

Mary, Mother of Jesus and Our Mother, nourish our family with the virtues of faith, hope, and love. Keep us close to your Son, Jesus, in all our sorrows and joys.

Joseph, foster-father to Jesus, guardian and spouse of Mary, instill in us the virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. Keep our family safe from all harm and attacks from the evil one. Help us in all times of discouragement or anxiety.

Holy Family of Nazareth, through your surpassing virtues and the example of family life, make us one with you. Help us to be instruments of peace, mercy, and forgiveness in our home. Grant that love, strengthened by grace, may prove mightier than all the weaknesses and trials we sometimes experience. May we always have Jesus at the center of our hearts and home. Amen.

[1] John Paul II, Gratissimam Sane (Letter to Families), 2 February 1994, § 11:6; internet: http://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/letters/1994/documents/hf_jp-ii_let_02021994_families.html (accessed February 4, 2021).

[2] John Paul II, Homily, Chihuahua, Mexico, May 10, 1990; internet: https://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/it/homilies/1990/documents/hf_jp-ii_hom_19900510_chihuahua.html (original in Italian, Google translated into English, accessed February 25, 2020).

[3] John Paul II, Reflection on the Feast of the Holy Family – Before the Angelus, 31 December 1995, §3; internet: https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=5610 (accessed February 4, 2021).