Scriptures tell us very little about the life of the Holy Family. They speak of the early years of the Family, including the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, the flight into Egypt, and the incidents that occurred when the twelve-year-old Jesus accompanied his parents to Jerusalem (“The Finding of Jesus in the Temple”).
Devotion to the Holy Family was born in Bethlehem. The shepherds went to adore the Child and, at the same time, they gave honour to his family. Later, in a similar way, the wise men came to adore and give honour to the newborn King with gifts. The Holy Family devotion has now grown in popularity since the 17th century and several religious congregations have been founded under this title.
On October 26, 1921 The Congregation of Rites (under Pope Benedict XV) inserted the Feast of the Holy Family into the Latin Rite general calendar. Until then it had been celebrated regionally. In 1675, Bishop de Laval established the Feast and had a Mass and Divine Office drawn up which are proper to the Diocese of Quebec.
The general breakdown of the family at the end of the past century and at the beginning of our own, prompted the popes, especially Leo XIII to promote the observance of this feast with the hope that it might instil into Christian families something of the faithful love and the devoted attachment that characterise the family of Nazareth.
Today the Church celebrates the feast on the Sunday after Christmas. If Christmas is a Sunday, then the Feast is celebrated on December 30. Up until 1969, the Feast of the Holy Family was kept on the first Sunday after the Epiphany. It was transferred to its current date in 1969.
The Feast of the Holy Family is about our own families too. The principal purpose is to present the Holy Family as the model for all Christian families and for domestic life in general. Our family life becomes sanctified when we live the life of the Church within our homes. We call this the “domestic Church” or the church in miniature. St John Chrysostom urged all Christians to make each home a “family” church, and in doing so, we sanctify the family unit. We should cultivate positive actions and avoid actions and behaviours that are contrary to God’s Divine plan for the family.
Questions to ponder:
•What are some positive actions that we should cultivate?
•What are some actions and behaviours that are contrary to God’s plan for the family?
The Holy Family Feast is a good time to remember the family unit and pray for our human and spiritual families.
We can also reflect on the value and sanctity of the family unit and also evaluate our own family life.
In what ways might my family life be improved? What would Jesus, Mary and Joseph do?
As leaders, catechists and teachers let us use this feast of the Holy Family to ask and evaluate ourselves what we are doing to promote the family within our own cultures, neighbourhood and communities. (Reference: About.comCatholicism.) – Julie Jennings-Chan, Archdiocesan Catechetical Office