Updated: Feb 14
"May the Holy Family, icon and model of every human family, help each individual to walk in the spirit of Nazareth." - St. John Paul II
February conjures images of snowflakes, hot cocoa, and Valentines crafted by little hands with colorful hearts bound up in love for family and friends.
It is also the Month of the Holy Family. While the Feast of the Holy Family is celebrated every year on December 30th, the Church designates an entire month each year to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
This is a good time to reflect on the Holy Family as a model for all Christian families. By meditating on their virtues, and with the help of God’s grace, we can grow in virtue within in our homes.
St. John Paul II challenged every family to become a holy family. He famously proclaimed “Family, become what you are.” (FC,17) We can accomplish this by taking the inspiration and example of the Holy Family. There are several ways that we can help our families to grow in holiness. Drawing from the wisdom of John Paul here are few thoughts to consider.
Intimate Community of Life and Love
“At the school of Nazareth every family learns to be a workshop of love, unity and openness to life.” (Angelus, December 28, 2003)
Every family should be a sanctuary of life, where God's gift is “properly welcomed and protected.” (EV, 92) Imagine where we would be if Mary and Joseph had not welcomed and protected the precious gift of Jesus?
The family should also be a school of love where children first experience and learn to love. By example parents show children that love is self-giving and requires placing the needs of others before our own. While learning to make a gift of oneself children discover the joy of authentic love and the key to lasting happiness.
“The Fathers of the Church, in the Christian tradition, have spoken of the family as a ‘domestic church’, a ‘little church’.” (LTF, 15)
Like the Church, the goal of the family is to get its members to heaven. Therefore, “It is important, that the ‘communion of persons’ in the family should become a preparation for the ‘communion of saints’.” (LTF 14)
School of Christian Values
“By word and example, in the daily round of relations and choices, and through concrete actions and signs, parents lead their children to authentic freedom, actualized in the...values which help people to live life as a gift.” (EV, 92)
More than two decades ago John Paul declared the values and teachings presented to us in the Holy Family are “more indispensable than ever”. (December 29, 2002) I am confident that he would reiterate those same words again today if he were still here with us, perhaps with even greater urgency.
“Only in Christ do we find real love, and the fullness of life.” (October, 1979)
The Word Incarnate was the center of the Holy Family. Just as Jesus brought holiness to the family of Joseph and Mary, he brings holiness to those homes who welcome and love him. Families can live this out in many ways. First by participating in the sacraments, attending Mass together and going to Confession to receive God’s healing grace to love as he loves. Giving special recognition to feast days and seasons throughout the liturgical year with festive décor and meals is a fun way to honor and celebrate our faith. Sacramentals and sacred images throughout the home help keep minds and hearts focused on things above. For instance, an image of the Holy Family prominently displayed in your home can serve as a daily reminder to follow the example of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and to ask for their help.
Place of Prayer
“Prayer increases the strength and spiritual unity of the family, helping the family to partake of God’s own ‘strength’.” (LTF, 4)
Finally, the family should be a place of prayer. We can assume from scripture that Mary and Joseph had a deep prayer life as their hearts were open to receive God’s guidance through the messages of his angels. The Gospel shows Jesus praying as a child in the temple and throughout his ministry as an adult. Jesus prayed spontaneously, alone and with friends. He probably learned these habits from his parents.
The family rosary is of particular importance and has been highly recommended by popes and saints throughout the ages. As St. John Paul II proclaimed, the rosary is “simple yet profound…a prayer of great significance, destined to bring forth a harvest of holiness.” (RVM, 1)
Conclusion: an Invitation to Consecrate Your Family to the Holy Family
What is Consecration?
Consecration means “to make holy.” When a person makes an act of consecration, they are dedicating themselves to the service and worship of God. Marian Consecration is a popular Catholic devotion through which a person willingly gives themselves to Jesus through Mary. The Holy Family Consecration is similar. In the Act of Consecration to the Holy Family, a person willingly gives themselves and their families to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph to serve God through them.
In my next post I will share more information on Consecration to the Holy Family including prayers and practical tips for implementing it within your own family.
The Holy Family Hearts
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FC – Familiaris Consortio
EV – Evangelium Vitae
LTF – Letter to Families
RVM – Rosarium Virginis Mariae
Holy Family Icon: Traditions Monastiques
Sacred Heart of Jesus: Print based on a centuries old masterpiece. Author unknown.
Family Praying: Getty Images