Above, the Holy Family with St. Therese.
The cult of the Holy Family was approved in 1665, a fact lauded by Pope Leo XIII in his Apostolic Letter “Neminem fugit” and the fragments of this letter we may read below. The Feast is a spiritual occasion particularly suitable for the moments of prayer and reflection on the Christian family.
Put ye on therefore, as the elect of God, 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 one 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 you 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 (Col:3:12-16)
When God in his mercy determined to accomplish the work of man’s renewal, now through long ages awaited, he so appointed and ordained this work, that its very earliest beginnings might exhibit to the world the august spectacle of a Family Divinely constituted, in which all men might behold a perfect model of a domestic life, and of all virtues and holiness. For such indeed was that Family of Nazareth, where dwelt in secret the Sun of justice, until the time when he should shine out in full splendour in the sight of all nations. Christ, our God and Saviour, lived with his Virgin Mother, and with Joseph, a most holy man, who held to him the place of father. There can be no doubt that every virtue called forth by an ordinary home life, with its mutual services of charity, its holy intercourse, and its practices of piety, was displayed in the highest degree in that Holy Family, since it was destined to be a pattern to all others. For that very reason was it established by the merciful designs of Providence, that every Christian, in every place, might easily, if he would but give heed to it, have before him a motive and a pattern for the practice of every virtue…Truly, to fathers of families, Joseph is a superlative model of paternal vigilance and care. In the most holy Virgin Mother of God, mothers may find an excellent example of love, modesty, submission of spirit, and perfect faith. Whilst in Jesus, who was subject to his parents, the children of the family have a divine model of obedience which they can admire, reverence, and imitate. Those who are of noble birth may learn, from this Family of royal blood, how to live simply in times of prosperity, and how to retain their dignity in times of distress. The rich may learn that virtue is to be more highly esteemed that wealth. Artisans, and all such as are bitterly annoyed by the narrow and slender means of their families, if they would but consider the sublime holiness of the members of this domestic fellowship, could not fail to find cause for rejoicing in their lot, rather than being dissatisfied with it. In common with the Holy Family, they have to work, and to provide for the daily wants of life, Joseph had to engage in trade, in order to live: even the divine hands laboured at an artisan’s calling. It is not to be wondered at, that the wealthiest men, if truly wise, have been willing to cast away their reaches, and to embrace a life of poverty with Jesus, Mary and Joseph (From the Apostolic Letter of Pope Leo XIII, Neminem Fugit, June 1892)
Picture: “Holy Family” by Claudio Coelo. Text selected from the Breviary lessons.