Families are called to be a “domestic church” on mission in the world. The Holy Family is a model of the domestic church, where Jesus is always present and at the center of all that happens. Before this can happen in our families today, it must first happen in our hearts.
Not even ten minutes pass after Mass, and you find yourself sitting in the parish hall breaking up an argument between the kids who are fighting over a donut. So much for that peace we offered one another during Mass, huh?
Peace. Ah, peace. We want peace in our homes; we want to be holy families. But how can we get there if we can’t even get past the parish hall without fighting over donuts?
Enter THE Holy Family, as in Joseph (the saint), Mary (without sin), and Jesus (God incarnate). Are we crazy to think we can emulate them? Pope St. John Paul II thinks we can: “The Holy Family is the beginning of countless other holy families.”
Each year immediately after Christmas, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the peace that permeates the Nativity, but let’s not forget that soon after Jesus’ birth, they had to flee to Egypt to avoid the murderous rage of King Herod. They were refugees, as so many families are today. They, too, were well acquainted with the frequent messiness of earthly life.
The following list is not meant to be all-inclusive; we welcome your ideas on what makes a family holy. Our list might be less obvious than say the virtues of faith, hope, and love. However, we suggest every family who can make these virtues their own, will be strong with the strength of God.
We often equate Mary with fidelity, yet let’s not overlook Saint Joseph. Multiple times he received messages from God, and he obeyed dutifully — whether it was taking his pregnant bride into his home or protecting his family from Herod. It takes great faith and courage to conform our will to God’s, who often calls us to tremendously difficult tasks. The road to holiness requires constant discernment, listening for God’s voice, and a willingness to obey.
We often think of large-heartedness in terms of fertility. Although openness to life is one part, it’s not the whole. Consider the Visitation. Pregnant Mary made a long trek on foot through rugged hill country to visit her cousin Elizabeth, and stayed with her for three months. Presumably she made the trek back, all the more pregnant. Mary poured herself out to another in need. Look to Joseph. Though he presumably knew Jesus was the Son of God, he didn’t expect a miracle to provide for his family. He poured himself out for the one child he had, a foster child no less.
For over 90% of his life, Jesus lived in the nitty-gritty of family life while working as a craftsman alongside Joseph. Mary spent her time in prayer and housework. As Pope Francis said in a recent homily, “The call to holiness is not just for bishops, priests, or religious … Indeed, it is by living with love and offering Christian witness in our daily tasks that we are called to become saints.”
The word seminary means “seedbed.” In this regard, the family is the original seminary, where the seed of faith is first planted, nurtured, and eventually germinates. How did Christ begin? In His own home. The family is the first thing Christ sanctified.
Little by little, our families have the power to lead others toward Christ. Even through simple witness, our families can help other families be reconciled or converted and grow in the life of the Church. Those families then go forth and do more of the same. Collectively, holy families can evangelize and sanctify our culture.
Prayer to the Holy Family
O Jesus, look graciously upon our family here before you. Once more we consecrate ourselves before you—our trials and joys—that our home may ever be the shrine of peace, purity, love, and faith. Protect and bless all of us, both absent and present, and be merciful to those departed.
O Mary, loving mother of Jesus, and our Mother, pray to Jesus for our family, for all the families of the world, to guard the cradle of the newborn, the schools of the young, and their vocations.
O Joseph, holy Guardian of Jesus and Mary, assist us by your prayers in all the necessities of life. Be present at the pillow of the sick and dying so that we may all be united to Jesus and Mary and you for all eternity.