Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!


Ave Maria!
Holy Family—8 January A.D. 2017

Ordinary of the Mass
Today's Mass text - Latin
Today's Mass text - English

“O Lord Jesus Christ, Thou wast subject to Mary and Joseph and didst sanctify home life with ineffable virtues:  grant that by their assistance, we may be instructed  by the example of Thine Holy Family and become partakers of their eternal happiness.”[1]


    Back before the turn of the nineteenth century (to the twentieth), Pope Leo XIII recognized the need for strengthening Christian families.  During his life time the industrial revolution and the mass movement of people into crowded homes in the cities placed a terrible stress on family life.  Not only were people cramped in their space, but these were the days when people had to work long hours at sometimes dangerous jobs just to survive.  Often, women and children were put to work with no regard for their safety or their health.  To say the least, there was great potential for family strife, and great economic inducement to limit the size of families and to abandon the practices of religion.  (The Garment Workers Union used to have an advertisement that featured a reproduction of a sign posted by one employer of that period, which said: “If you don't come in Sunday, don't come in Monday.”[2])

    It was for this reason that the Popes tried to place the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph before the minds of Christian families as something to emulate.  In the brief by which he established today's feast, Pope Leo spoke of fathers emulating Saint Joseph, “a shining norm of fatherly care and foresight”;  of mothers having in Mary “an outstanding example of love and modesty, of the spirit of submission and perfect trust”;  and of children having in Jesus “a divinely-given model of obedience.”  Leo went on to say that both the rich and the poor could look to the Holy Family to learn that “virtue should take precedence over riches,” and to unite with Them in ‘the labors and cares of daily life.”   Pope Leo mentioned that there were organizations dedicated to Family life under the patronage of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph going back at least into the 17th century.[3]

    Pope Leo XIII gave us this Mass well over a hundred years ago.    Sorry to say, conditions have not improved much during those years.  We can probably point to increases in the standard of living of the working class, and to better living conditions in the already crowded cites, but I am not sure that we are really better off.  Most of us can remember a time when life ran a little slower, when there was less fear of becoming the victim of a violent crime, and when just about everybody knew something about God and religion and went to church on Sundays at least some of the time.

    And we can remember a time when the institutions of Church and state worked to protect the Family as the basic building block of society, both Christian and secular.  In Pope Leo's time it was unthinkable that a civil government would advocate birth control , abortion, or sex change—let alone pay for it.  It was unthinkable that a government would subsidize works of “art” that mock religion or our holy Redeemer Himself, or that a government would penalize those who are critical of sinners who sin against the values and well-being of family life.

    Leo might not have believed that in a hundred very short years the churches themselves—both Catholic and Protestant—would be advocating a tolerance of sin and anti-family behavior.  Adultery, divorce, birth control, abortion, perversion, and other similar evils went from subjects that people didn't even discuss in mixed company, to being accepted and even urged by people calling themselves Christians and Catholics.  He certainly wouldn't have believed that Liberalism would grip the Catholic Church to the degree that its highest authorities would try to redefine marriage, and dissolve tens of thousands of marriages each year through dubious processes of annulment.

    Pope Leo might well be surprised if he were to return today.  The problems of family life have gotten somewhat less economic, and have become more driven by faulty institutions.  But I don't think Leo would change his approach to dealing with the problem.  It is sometimes said that “Christianity has not been tried and found to have failed; but, rather, that Christianity has not been tried at all.”  In much the same way, Leo XIII's proposal that families model themselves after Jesus, Mary, and Joseph has not failed—as much as it has not been tried.

    Modern family life doesn't suffer at all from excessive obedience, or humility, or chastity, or modesty, or any of the characteristics so beautifully modeled in the Holy Family.  It surely does not suffer from too much of the “fatherly care” demonstrated by St. Joseph, or from too much of the “spirit of submission and perfect trust [seen] in the Blessed Virgin Mary.”  Certainly, none of our fellow citizens suffer from being too Christ-like!

    So let me urge that we all join Pope Leo in making the Holy Family our own standard of family life.  When you have to deal with your own family and your own neighbors, ask yourself how Jesus or Mary or Joseph would have dealt with them.  When laws are proposed to be voted upon or politicians are to be elected, ask yourself how Jesus, Mary, and Joseph would have cast their ballots.  And, perhaps, above all, pray that God will give us priests and bishops and popes who will re-shape the Church along the model of Nazareth, and get back to “doing the Father's business.”

“O Lord Jesus Christ, Thou wast subject to Mary and Joseph and didst sanctify home life with ineffable virtues:  grant that by their assistance, we may be instructed  by the example of Thine Holy Family and become partakers of their eternal happiness.”

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