Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, the Holy Family-11 January AD 2009
"He went down with them and came to Nazareth,
and was subject to them."

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in Latin and English
Holy Family - Jesus, Mary, and Joseph
Dominica infra Octavam Epiphaniæ - Sanctæ Familiæ
Apostolic Letter of Pope Leo XIII, Néminem fugit.

    Today's feast of the Holy Family is observed every year on the Sunday following the Epiphany. This devotion to the family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph is relatively new; having been established in the Church only since the 17th century. The feast day itself is even newer, receiving its own proper Mass and Office from Pope Leo XIII only in 1892.

    This devotion to the Holy Family developed only as Western Civilization became more urbanized and more industrialized; bringing about conditions that are hostile to the stability of families. In agricultural societies, as existed most everywhere before the 17th century, extended families tended to stay together. Their members were dependent on each other to accomplish the various tasks necessary for survival; farming itself, preserving foodstuffs, making clothing, nursing the sick, raising the children, and so on.

    As people moved into cities in industrial societies they were cut off from such extended families. Quarters were cramped. Wages were earned and used to pay for necessary services, so that family industry was replaced by impersonal commerce. Employees, thus dependent on wages were forced to work longer hours at tedious jobs, and could no longer expect to take off on Holy days and Saints' feast days, and maybe not even on Sunday. I am reminded of a poster printed by the Garment Workers' Union in the 1960s that depicted an early clothing factory with a sign that said: "If you don't come in Sunday, don't come in Monday." Food and clothing had to be bought with cash money, making additional children to feed and clothe seem like a liability, rather than the asset they had been in rural life.

    Given these pressures, Christian people turned to the best model for family life they knew; to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. As Leo XIII put it:

Fathers of families have in Joseph a shining norm for fatherly care and foresight. Mothers have an outstanding example of love and modesty, or the spirit of submission and perfect trust in the most holy Virgin Mother of God. And children have in Jesus, who was subject to His parents, a divinely given model of obedience, which they should admire, study, and imitate.

The wealthy may learn from this family how virtue should take precedence over riches. On the other hand ... those of a low standard of living ... will find a motive to rejoice ... for they have in common with the Holy Family the labors and cares of daily live.

    Now, if things made family life difficult in the 18th or 19th century, they are clearly worse in our own time. The world is even more urbanized, modern advertising has raised everyone's expectations of wealth and self gratification; and has paid for an onslaught of Television programs to encourage a selfish, all-consuming lifestyle, governed by no moral constraints. Those with no morals are promoted to positions of authority in society, forcing their distorted ideas on those who try to remain Christians-persecuting Christian belief, and sometimes Christians themselves. And, perhaps at the time when their strong leadership is most necessary, both Catholic and Protestant churches seem to have collapsed in their own moral values-in various degrees permitting and even endorsing the immoral conduct they condemned 50 or 75 years ago-divorce, contraception, abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia-the list gets longer each year.

    So if family life is to survive and prosper, the burden lies on the individual and the individual family. The government, the media, and for the most part, even the Church can no longer be counted upon. We must do the job ourselves.

    And the job is actually simple in principle; although it can be very difficult in practice. In either event, it is absolutely necessary. The principles are based on the relationships of the Holy Family

    The first principle is chastity. If we are married, or single; widowed or divorced; a child or an adult; we must practice chastity according to our state in life. Not only is it foolish to think that families can survive marital infidelities, but it is also foolish to expect the world around us to mend its ways if we who call ourselves Christians behave like the cattle of the field (and sometimes worse).

    The second principle, probably even more important, is humility. No Christian should see himself as being more important than the next person. Particularly within the family! Fathers are not superior; children are not inferior; wives are not somewhere in between. Even though there must be relations of leadership and obedience, there should never be domination and fear. Men and women, adults and children, are not identical-but in the family environment above all others-each must be not only respected, but also cherished, and loved.

    And that is the third principle: charity, or as we usually say, love. The kind of love that makes a family flee the country to protect their children, or enables a mother to stand at the foot of her Son's cross. The kind of love that God must have had for His earthly parents; and they for each other.

    The last principle is prayer. Can there be any better authorities on prayer than Mary and Joseph who taught the Son of God to pray His first prayers and who held daily conversations with Him; any better authority than the Son who constantly spoke with His Father in heaven? We may not have the young boy Jesus to speak with, but we do have the Blessed Sacrament in our churches, ready to visit at any time. And when our Lord spoke of being with us "when two or more are gathered in My name," didn't He just have to be talking about families praying together?

    Again, these things may be difficult in practice, requiring patience, effort, and even mortification. But we do have the perfect model to imitate, and to show to us that it is possible. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph are examples for all of us-men and women-to imitate; Joseph's care and foresight, Mary's chastity, submission and trust; and above all, our Lord's humility.

    For He who was God, the Creator of the Universe, "went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them."



Dei via est íntegra
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