The month of February has long been dedicated to the Holy Family. The devotion dates back to 1663, when two orders were created roughly at the same time in Canada and France: the Association of the Holy Family was founded in Montreal in 1663,and by the Daughters of the Holy Family in Paris in 1674. Then in 1893 Leo XIII expressed his approval and even composed part of the Office(prayers) for the feast day. The Church felt that devotion to the Holy Family served as a means of helping Christian families on their path to holiness, and offered the Holy Family as a model of achieving sanctification. What more perfect a family for us to try and emulate in our day to day struggles. They are an ideal family that was full of virtue and Christian love. From them we can learn how to love God and just as importantly, learn how to love one another with a heart made pure by the Holy Spirit of God.
I know some of us might think, what can I learn from them? My family is real…flesh and blood…a brood of angry sinners...How in the world are we gonna be like them??? “Their son…He was Jesus Christ for goodness sake!” I know…I know…I’ve been there too…but honestly, this is when a devotion to the Holy Family is most vital. They are a beacon of light to those of us who have spent hours in the trenches…just trying to make it through the day without committing a mortal sin! As mothers we should always ask for the Blessed Mother’s guidance and Her intercession, especially when our homes are full of chaos. We need to remember that even though it is difficult, we must never stop looking to the Holy Family as a role model for our own family, because if we do, we fall into the trappings of the world. And it has nothing to offer, except more discourse and brokenness.
A recent study found that the traditional family has been on the decline since the 1970’s. Less than half of American households now contain a traditional nuclear family—father, mother, and children. More than 40 percent of children are now born into households in which no father is present, the rate of non-married cohabitation is up seven times over what it was in 1970, and half of all marriages end up in divorce. Not a pretty picture. But its the kind of picture we end up with when families start taking their eyes off the Lord…taking their hearts and devotions away from the Holy Family. The world, in fact, encourages this downward spiral. Woman who have babies without a husband actually receive more money from the government handouts than if they were in a traditional two parent household where one parent is earning an income.
Hilaire Belloc and G.K. Chesterton foresaw what was happening to the traditional nuclear family unit in western societies and warned against its demise. They waved a red flag with statements such as this; “measures such as unemployment insurance, a minimum wage, and a national health insurance constituted a dangerous new form of servitude” that would allow government to take over the family as the key social unit in society. Unfortunately these visionary thinkers had accurate foresight. When a government steps in to take over the familial responsibility from the parents, the outcomes are seldom virtuous.
The Holy Family is an excellent antidote for what ails today’s family. They offer a glimpse into a household that shared a love of the Lord. We can even image the Child Jesus sitting with His father learning from him about the importance of hard work. Mary shows us a great example of compassion and love and obedience…each member in the family had a specific role, in addition they helped one another with daily chores. Sure, we might think of it as a simpler time, but they had some of the same struggles we have, but they never let their focus turn away from the Lord. Of course, I am not talking about Jesus here, as He is God made man, but Jesus shows an obedience to His mother and father on earth as an example to us. And even though Joseph was confused about Mary’s pregnancy…he followed the angel’s orders…he followed the will of the Lord and led his family with a pure and just heart.
Mary submitted to the Lord as well, and to His Will completely. Even when faced with the knowledge that Her heart would be pierced as foretold by Simeon; She united her heart with the Lord’s. And though she is the actual Mother of God, she submitted to Joseph her husband on earth.
As we contemplate the Holy Family during this month of February, let us remember that we should be trying to create a’domestic church’ within our homes. We should live in a way that reflects our love for the Lord, thus setting an example for our children. The family home should be a place where love is shared with one another freely.We need to be open to God’s grace and to value the positive, yet we must also be willing to accept our mistakes — and rectify them. One of the most important aspects of family life is that we must be willing to accept the mistakes of others and offer forgiveness on a regular basis. Parenting is a very challenging responsibility and at times errors are made despite our best intentions.Our families should be where we teach our children to pray, teach our children to love and teach our children about true charity. Remember, no family can grow without constant work…without constant prayer. Keep your hearts focused on God, and look to the Holy Family as a shining example as to how we should be raising our own children in holiness, in charity and in love.