Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph – 30 December
The Feast of the Holy Family is dedicated to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, commemorating their life together in Nazareth and calling us to focus on Catholic family life. The feast is celebrated on the first Sunday after Christmas since it was placed on the general calendar in 1921 by Pope Benedict XV.
The Church presents the Holy Family to us as a model for our own family life. Joseph was the head of the Holy Family and provided for Mary and Jesus with the work of his hands. He was obedient to the angel who told him to take Mary as his wife, what to name the new child and again when told to flee with them to Egypt. He taught Jesus the carpentry trade and what it was to be a man in the society in which they lived.
Mary took care of her family in the home. It was she who would have taught Jesus the Scriptures and prayers of their people when he was very young. It was through her example of managing the home, that Jesus would formulate many of the examples he would later use in his teaching. Jesus saw work sanctified through the example of his earthly parents, who did all things well in the ordinary circumstances of daily life.
As far back as St John Chrysostom (347-407), Christians were urged to make of their home a family church in which the family members would find their sanctification. That was to be accomplished by putting Christ at the centre of all individual and family life, by working and praying together, reading the Scriptures and worshipping as a unit.
In his Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris consortio, (60) St Pope John Paul said: “Do you teach your children the Christian prayers? Do you prepare them, in conjunction with the priests, for the sacraments that they receive when they are young – Confession, Communion and Confirmation? Do you encourage them, when they are sick, to think of Christ suffering, to invoke the aid of the Blessed Virgin and the saints? Do you say the family Rosary together…? Do you pray with your children, with the whole domestic community, at least sometimes? Your example of honesty in thought and action, joined to some common prayer, is a lesson for life and an act of worship of singular value. In this way you bring peace to your homes: Pax huic domui. Remember, it is thus that you build up the Church.”
In 2002, St Pope John Paul II stated in his Angelus homily of 29 December “Every Christian family is called to show “convincingly that it is possible to live marriage fully in keeping with God’s plan and with the true good of the human person – of the spouses, and of the children who are more fragile” (Novo Millennio ineunte).
“A united family that follows these principles will more easily overcome the trials and difficulties it encounters on its way. In the faithful love of the parents, a gift ceaselessly to foster and safeguard, children can find the best conditions for their growth, helped by Jesus who “increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favour with God and man” (Lk 2:52).”
Catholics are encouraged to learn what the Church teaches about marriage and family life and to avoid those things which run counter to God’s plan. Catholic family life, then, would exclude such acts as artificial contraception, abortion, pre-marital sex, homosexual activity, reproductive technologies such as in-vitro fertilization and divorce.
It is within the family that human life in all its stages is nurtured and protected, where concern for others is learned and where the virtues are developed for the good of the individual, the family, and the society.
The Holy Family feast is a good time to remember the family unit and pray for our human and spiritual families. We also may take this feast to reflect on the value and sanctity of the family unit and to evaluate our own family life. What ways may it be improved? What would Jesus, Mary, and Joseph do? Finally, we can use this feast to ask ourselves what are we doing to promote the family within our own cultures, neighbourhoods and communities. (In Conversation with God Vol 1).