Our basic understanding of family in the modern world typically includes a tight nucleus — mother, father and children. But the concept of family wasn’t always known as such. Centuries ago, the notion of family was thought of as the household, which in those days included extended relatives and servants.
If we look at the four Gospels, there isn’t a ton of information about the Holy Family — the Blessed Mother Mary, child Jesus and foster-father Joseph — with the exception of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, their flight into Egypt and finding Jesus in the temple.
With those aspects in mind, it should be no surprise that the devotion to the Holy Family began to grow in popularity only by the 17th century. In the New World, the devotion came to be known throughout Canada, thanks to the efforts of Barbe d’Ailleboust — who came to Canada with her husband Louis to instruct Indians — and Jesuit Father Chaumonot, who founded the Confraternity of the Holy Family. Then-Msgr. Francois de Laval, first bishop of New France, invited them to Quebec, where the confraternity was managed and devotion was spread throughout Canada. The purpose was to preserve good morals.
In 1921, the Congregation of Rites (under Pope Benedict XV) inserted the Feast of the Holy Family into the Latin Rite general calendar. The feast of the Holy Family is celebrated on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s Day. This year, the feast will be celebrated on Dec. 30.
The Holy Family serves as a model of holiness for families because of their virtuous lives. We also can learn much about how they exude love in the face of sacrifice. The devotion serves as a counterpoint to the breakdown of the family.
Several religious communities have been founded under the patronage and charism of the Holy Family. The Missionaries of the Holy Family is a congregation of priests and brothers who emphasize the Holy Family as a model of holiness for all families. Their charism in part is dedicated to caring for the needs of the Christian family.
Holy Family Prayer
Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary, bless our family. Graciously inspire in us the unity, peace and mutual love that you found in your own family in the little town of Nazareth.
Mary, Mother of Jesus and Our Mother, nourish our family with your faith and your love. Keep us close to your Son, Jesus, in all our sorrows and joys.
Joseph, Foster-father to Jesus, guardian and spouse of Mary, keep our family safe from harm. Help us in all times of discouragement or anxiety.
Holy Family of Nazareth, make our family one with you. Help us to be instruments of peace. Grant that love, strengthened by grace, may prove mightier than all the weaknesses and trials through which our families sometimes pass. May we always have God at the center of our hearts and homes until we are all one family, happy and at peace in our true home with you.
Missionaries of the Holy Family
The Missionaries of the Holy Family website offers resources for Christian families, prayers and a place for requesting prayers and Mass intentions. To learn more, visit msf-america.org
The Holy Family Prayer Book offers traditional and original prayers dedicated to helping families today: bit.ly/2ww6C0l
The Friends of the Missionaries of the Holy Family is an organization for families who wish to share in the work and spiritual benefits of the Missionaries of the Holy Family. Members receive a free prayer book and medal, and enrollment in the Perpetual Mass Association. bit.ly/2LJKwvZ
“The Family Fully Alive: Building the Domestic Church,” published by The Knights of Columbus Supreme Council, is a booklet of prayers, meditations and activities to enrich family life. The Knights also have resources available online at www.kofc.org/domesticchurch. Booklets also may be purchased online at the Catholic Information Service at www.kofc.org/cis.