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Catholic Activity: Meditation for February, the Month of the Holy Family



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The month of February is traditionally dedicated to the Holy Family. Between the events which marked Christmas and the beginning of Christ's public life the Church has seen fit to recall the example of the Holy Family for emulation by the Christian family.

The Solemnity of the Holy Family is celebrated on the Sunday in the Octave of Christmas, or December 30 when Christmas falls on a Sunday.

Outside of the feast, the faithful have frequent recourse to the Holy Family of Nazareth in many of life's circumstances: joining the Association of the Holy Family so as to model their own families on the Holy Family of Nazareth; frequent prayers to entrust themselves to the patronage of the Holy Family and to obtain assistance at the hour of death. -- Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy

The feast of the Holy Family, granted to certain dioceses by Leo XIII in 1893, was inserted in the general Calendar of the Roman rite by Benedict XV in 1921.

The liturgy of the Feast takes us back to Nazareth, that we may catch a glimpse of the life of the Holy Family. We are begotten in the bosom of our family; in the midst of our family we grow to maturity. We are all called to live a family life, whether it be the life of a human family in this world, or the life of the supernatural family, which is the Church (through baptism), or the life of a religious family (through religious profession). Thus we may all go to Nazareth and with profit observe the model that is offered to us, so that we may shape our lives after that example.

The life of the Holy Family at Nazareth is sketched for us in the Gospel of the feast. The entire family goes up to Jerusalem to offer the prescribed sacrifice. There Joseph and Mary lose the child and return to Jerusalem in deep sorrow searching for Him. Eventually they find Him in the Temple, and Jesus becomes subject to them. The life of the Holy Family is characterized by zeal for religion and prayer, and by the love that binds it together. Moreover, Jesus, the Son of God, shows a respectful obedience to Joseph and Mary. "And He was subject to them." Come and observe, and learn to imitate this divine model.

The spirit of the Holy Family and its characteristic virtues are pictured for us in St. Paul's words to the Colossians (3:12-17), "Brethren, put ye on, therefore, as the elect of God [through holy baptism], holy and beloved, the bowels of mercy, benignity, humility, modesty, patience; bearing with one another and forgiving one another if any have a complaint against another; even 'as the Lord hath forgiven you, so do you also. But above all these things, have charity, which is the bond of perfection; and let the peace of Christ rejoice in your hearts, wherein also you are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you abundantly, in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles, singing in grace in your hearts to God".

An inspiring model, a precious instruction! The sacred liturgy, however, is not satisfied with this. She opens to us the sources of strength which are needed for a good, Christian family life. She opens these to us through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Holy Communion, and prayer.

A devoted family spirit and these family virtues are a precious possession both for the human family and for the supernatural family. Among these virtues we may call attention especially to:

  • the will and effort to be of one heart and one soul in chaste love;

  • to the disposition of devotion to one another, bearing each other's faults and forgiving each other's mistakes;

  • to the disposition to serve one another and to subject one's own interests to the common good of the family;

  • to the disposition to do whatever is necessary for mutual understanding and mutual appreciation.
To live a good, Christian family life requires sacrifice, the renunciation of one's own wishes, and a reasonable mortification of self. If it is to be perfect, it requires complete victory over self-love. It requires a high degree of virtue, deep piety and living faith, much prayer, and a close union with God.

In our day the very foundations of family life have been shaken by the failure of so many marriages. For this reason the devotion to the Holy Family of Nazareth takes on a new meaning and a new importance. The modern family must again be rejuvenated and filled with the spirit of the Holy Family of Nazareth. It must recapture the spirit of faith, the spirit of subjection to the will of God. It is for this intention that we should offer our prayers and sacrifices during the month. — The Light of the World by Benedict Baur, O.S.B.