"On him shall hang all the glory of his family." — Isaiah 22:24
The Church celebrates the feast of the Holy Family on the first Sunday following Christmas. The feast of the Holy Family was extended to the universal Church in 1921, to serve as a reminder to us that Jesus lived a real human life. The Gospels have just a few references to Christ's "hidden" life at Nazareth with Mary and Joseph. We are told that he "was obedient to them" and that Jesus, for His part, progressed steadily "in wisdom and age and grace before God and men" (Luke 2:52).
How appropriate that Jesus should begin His earthly life in a family. The word "family" comes from the Latin word "famulus" which means "servant." To be in a family is to serve faithfully — as Jesus did. Pope John Paul II has said, "The Church considers serving the family to be one of her essential duties. In this sense both man and the family constitute ‘the way of the Church'" ("Letter to Families," 2).
The Holy Family models for us what family life should exemplify. It is a school of virtue for both parents and children. There we find God, and learn how to connect with God and with others. The family is where love is freely given without self-interest. It is where we learn to love, to pray and to practice the gift of charity. Pope John Paul II has said, "The family, more than any other human reality, is the place in which the person is loved for himself and in which he learns to live the sincere gift of self" (November 27, 2002).
We should ask ourselves if our own families model that of the Holy Family. We need to be open to God's grace to value the positive and to accept our mistakes — and to be willing to rectify them. Parenting is a very challenging responsibility and at times errors are made despite the best intentions. Recognizing this, children should trust their parents and never forget that parents want only what is best for them.
Which leads us to what may be the most important family virtue — forgiveness. Living so intimately within the family nucleus naturally gives rise to unpleasant situations where someone is apt to be offended. St. Paul knew this when he told us to "bear with and forgive one another." The health of our family may depend on how quickly we learn to forgive without harboring feelings of resentment.
No family can thrive and grow without constant work. Even the material details that take time and effort are essential to keeping the family strong. Everyone has to pull together for the good of the family — even to the point of putting ahead of our own needs and ambitions the happiness of other family members, setting aside our own selfish desires.
It is also important to pray as a family, especially the holy rosary. Prayer will help us to intensify our closeness with each other and to learn to forgive.
During this Year of the Eucharist it is essential to discover the relationship between the Eucharist and family life. Pope John Paul II wrote, "In the eucharistic gift of charity the Christian family finds the foundation and soul of its communion and its mission" ("Letter on the Family," No. 57).
Let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary, mother and queen of every Christian family, and St. Joseph, just and faithful guardian, to sanctify our families with their intercession and to help us to live like the Holy Family — united in respect, forgiveness and love for each other.
May Jesus, through the intercession of our Blessed Mother, grant you all a blessed and joyful Christmas!