The Feast of the Holy Family, which was instituted by Pope Leo XIII in 1893 and extended to the universal calendar by Pope Benedict XV in 1921, is celebrated today, Sunday, January 10, 2016. This is a day of true celebration for every Catholic as it is from Nazareth we come and in Nazareth we must live.
That is, each of us comes into the world as a member of a family.
Yes, I know.
The situation in which we find ourselves today is so disordered that far too many children (even one is too many, of course) come into the world by means of having been artificially conceived and then "raised" by one parent or two people of the same gender. The tragedy of divorce has robbed many children of the presence of their fathers or mothers early in life. Disasters of one sort or another can also deprive children of the natural family unit of a father and a mother and siblings. Contraception has robbed many families of the spiritual riches that are provided by the presence of large numbers of children.
All of that having been admitted, however, it is important to point out, especially on this great Feast of the Holy Family, that there is but one family that is the model for all families, that is, the Holy Family of Nazareth. The virtues that must be practiced by each family were exemplified to a perfect degree in the Holy Family of Nazareth, headed by Saint Joseph, who is the Patron of the Universal Church and the Protector of the Faithful, and given its motherly heart by his Ever-Virginal spouse, Mary Immaculate. Saint Joseph and Our Lady provided a home to the God Who become Incarnate in her Virginal and Immaculate Womb by the power of God the Holy Ghost at the Annunciation, teaching us that we are to provide a home to that same God-Man in our own families, whose very life must be centered upon First and Last Things at all times. Although every serious Catholic knows that this is true, a brief review of what this means certainly is appropriate on this great feast day within the Octave of the Epiphany during Christmastide.
Pope Leo XIII made this clear in the Apostolic Letter, Breve Neminem Fugit, June 14, 1892, in which he instituted this feast, which was first celebrated in 1893:
When God in his mercy determined to accomplish the work of man's renewal, which same had so many long ages awaited, he appointed and ordained this work on such wise that its very beginning might shew to the world the august spectacle of a Family which was known to be divinely constituted; that therein all men might behold a perfect model, as well of domestic life as of every virtue and pattern of holiness: for such indeed was the Holy Family of Nazareth. There in secret dwelt the Sun of Righteousness, until the time when he should shine out in full splendour in the sight of all nations. There Christ, our God and Saviour, lived with his Virgin Mother, and with that most holy man Joseph, who held to him the place of father. No one can doubt that in this Holy Family was displayed every virtue which can be called forth by an ordinary home life, with its mutual services of charity, its holy intercourse, and its practices of godly piety, since the Holy Family was destined to be a pattern to all others. For that very reason was it established by the merciful designs of Providence, namely, that every Christian, in every walk of life and in every place, might easily, if he would but give heed to it, have before him a motive and a pattern for the good life.
To all fathers of families, Joseph is verily the best model of paternal vigilance and care. In the most holy Virgin Mother of God, mothers may find an excellent example of love, modesty, resignation of spirit, and the perfecting of faith. And in Jesus, who was subject to his parents, the children of the family have a divine pattern 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 moral worth is to be more highly esteemed than wealth. Artisans, and all such as are bitterly grieved by the narrow and slender means of their families, if they would but consider the sublime holiness of the members of this domestic fellowship, cannot fail to find some cause for rejoicing in their lot, rather than for being merely 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 riches, and to embrace a life of poverty with Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. (Pope Leo XIII, Breve Neminem Fugit, June 14, 1892.)
The Divine Office for Matins today elaborates on Pope Leo XIII's words of Catholic truth:
From the foregoing it is evident how natural and fitting it was that devotion to the Holy Family should in due time have grown up amongst Catholics; and once begun, that it should spread far and wide. Proof of this lieth first in the sodalities instituted under the ínvocation of the Holy Family; then in the unique honours bestowed upon it; and above all, by the privileges and favours granted to this devotion by our predecessors to stimulate fervour and piety in its regard. This devotion was already held in great esteem in the seventeenth century. Widely propagated in Italy, France, and Belgium, it spread over almost the whole of Europe; thence, crossing the wide ocean, through Canada it made is way in the Americas, and finding favour there, became very flourishing. Indeed, among Christian families, nothing more salutary nor efficacious can be imagined than the example of the Holy Family, where are to be found all domestic virtues in perfection and completeness. When Jesus, Mary, and Joseph are invoked in the home, charity is likely to be maintained in the family through their example and heavenly entreaty; a good influence is thus exerted over conduct; the practice of virtue is thus incited; and thus the hardships which are everywhere wont to harass mankind, are both mitigated and made easier to bear. To increase devotion to the Holy Family, Pope Leo XIII prescribed that Christian families should be consecrated thereto. Benedict XV extended the Mass and Office to the whole Church. (The Divine Office, Feast of the Holy Family.)
Yes, each of our families must reflect the heroic virutes and sanctity of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
Prayer and Charity Obedience and Humility and Chastity and Holy Poverty
Each member of the Holy Family was obedient to the will of God the Father, the First Person of the Blessed Trinity. We must be obedient to God's Holy Will at all times, being particularly attentive to pray for the wisdom and discernment to know what He wants of us at particular times in our lives and to be humbly submissive to the teaching authority of His Holy Church.
Our Lady was the first to do the will of God, obeying His Holy Will for her when she consented to be His own Mother as she spoke the following words to Saint Gabriel the Archangel:
Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word. (Luke 1: 38.)
Our Lady always did the will of God. Always. She prays for us to do the will of God so that we might have the same spirit of resignation and perfect abandonment to God's Holy Will that she had throughout the course of her life on earth and now in Heaven, from which she has descended to men to teach them to be obedient to God and to use the instruments of Mercy He has provided them, especially by means of devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of her Divine Son, Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and her own Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart and by her own Most Holy Rosary. Our Lady wants us to be able to make our very own these words of hers:
Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye. (John 2: 5)
Those words of Our Blessed Mother, spoken at the wedding feast in Cana, must be kept close to our own hearts, consecrated as they must be to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus through her own Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart. Her Divine Son, Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, speaks to us through His Holy Church.
Our Lord told us that we must honor His Most Blessed Mother not merely because she had given Him birth and had nursed Him, but because she had done the Will of His Co-Equal Father in Heaven:
For whosoever shall do the will of my Father, that is in heaven, he is my brother, and sister, and mother. (John 2: 5)
Our Lady was perfectly and humbly submissive to God's Will at all times, never seeking to be recognized as the equal in authority to her Most Chaste Spouse, Saint Joseph, who was the head of the Holy Family although he was the least of its members in the Order of Grace. Our Lady was content to be the ever-Virginal wife of Saint Joseph, to whom she was so tenderly devoted and obeyed so perfectly and without complaint, and the All-Holy Mother of the very God Who had been enfleshed by the power of the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, God the Holy Ghost, in the tabernacle of her Virginal and Immaculate Womb.
Saint Joseph was also wholly obedient to God's Will, forsaking his claim to biological fatherhood in order to be the foster-father of the Child Jesus. Saint Joseph shows all fathers, therefore, how they must deny themselves in big things and small things, working without complaint as they provide for the needs, both spiritual and temporal, of their families, seeking to foster the very life of the Holy Family of Nazareth in their own homes with joy and with much tenderness and love.
Indeed, children must be taught that Saint Joseph is a model for priests and consecrated male religious just as Our Lady is the model par excellence for consecrated female religious. Young boys and young men should see in Saint Joseph's manly example of self-denial and perfect obedience to the will of God a model and a guide for their own pursuit of the religious life. The fostering of vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated religious life is one of the most important duties of parents. Saint Joseph will help young boys to be shielded from the world and worldly desires in order to seek to aspire to the higher calling, that is, the priesthood or the consecrated religious life, being ever ready, of course, to help them become the best husbands and fathers after his own saintly example of silence and justice and moderation if they choose to enter into the married state.
There is not a word of Saint Joseph's recorded anywhere in the New Testament. Our beloved Saint Joseph simply did God's will at once:
Whereupon Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing publicly to expose her, was minded to put her away privately. But while he thought on these things, behold the angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying: Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost.
And she shall bring forth a son: and thou shalt call his name JESUS. For he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet, saying:Behold a virgin shall be with child, and bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. And Joseph rising up from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him, and took unto him his wife. (Mt. 1: 20-24.)
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem: because he was of the house and family of David, To be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child. (Luke 2: 4-5)
And after they were departed, behold an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph, saying: Arise, and take the child and his mother, and fly into Egypt: and be there until I shall tell thee. For it will come to pass that Herod will seek the child to destroy him. Who arose, and took the child and his mother by night, and retired into Egypt: and he was there until the death of Herod: That it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet, saying: Out of Egypt have I called my son.
Then Herod perceiving that he was deluded by the wise men, was exceeding angry; and sending killed all the men children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremias the prophet, saying: A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning; Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. But when Herod was dead, behold an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph in Egypt, Saying: Arise, and take the child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel. For they are dead that sought the life of the child.
Who arose, and took the child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. But hearing that Archelaus reigned in Judea in the room of Herod his father, he was afraid to go thither: and being warned in sleep retired into the quarters of Galilee. And coming he dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was said by prophets: That he shall be called a Nazarene. (Mt. 2: 13-23.)
Saint Joseph, our friend and protector, the patron of the dying, shows us how to accept God's Holy Will promptly and quietly, never once questioning Our Creator and Redeemer and Sanctifier. Never once.
Consider this beautiful description, written by Pope Leo XIII, of the virtues of Saint Joseph:
The special motives for which St. Joseph has been proclaimed Patron of the Church, and from which the Church looks for singular benefit from his patronage and protection, are that Joseph was the spouse of Mary and that he was reputed the Father of Jesus Christ. From these sources have sprung his dignity, his holiness, his glory. In truth, the dignity of the Mother of God is so lofty that naught created can rank above it. But as Joseph has been united to the Blessed Virgin by the ties of marriage, it may not be doubted that he approached nearer than any to the eminent dignity by which the Mother of God surpasses so nobly all created natures. For marriage is the most intimate of all unions which from its essence imparts a community of gifts between those that by it are joined together. Thus in giving Joseph the Blessed Virgin as spouse, God appointed him to be not only her life's companion, the witness of her maidenhood, the protector of her honor, but also, by virtue of the conjugal tie, a participator in her sublime dignity. And Joseph shines among all mankind by the most august dignity, since by divine will, he was the guardian of the Son of God and reputed as His father among men. Hence it came about that the Word of God was humbly subject to Joseph, that He obeyed him, and that He rendered to him all those offices that children are bound to render to their parents. From this two-fold dignity flowed the obligation which nature lays upon the head of families, so that Joseph became the guardian, the administrator, and the legal defender of the divine house whose chief he was. And during the whole course of his life he fulfilled those charges and those duties. He set himself to protect with a mighty love and a daily solicitude his spouse and the Divine Infant; regularly by his work he earned what was necessary for the one and the other for nourishment and clothing; he guarded from death the Child threatened by a monarch's jealousy, and found for Him a refuge; in the miseries of the journey and in the bitternesses of exile he was ever the companion, the assistance, and the upholder of the Virgin and of Jesus. Now the divine house which Joseph ruled with the authority of a father, contained within its limits the scarce-born Church. From the same fact that the most holy Virgin is the mother of Jesus Christ is she the mother of all Christians whom she bore on Mount Calvary amid the supreme throes of the Redemption; Jesus Christ is, in a manner, the firstborn of Christians, who by the adoption and Redemption are his brothers. And for such reasons the Blessed Patriarch looks upon the multitude of Christians who make up the Church as confided specially to his trust -- this limitless family spread over the earth, over which, because he is the spouse of Mary and the Father of Jesus Christ he holds, as it were, a paternal authority. It is, then, natural and worthy that as the Blessed Joseph ministered to all the needs of the family at Nazareth and girt it about with his protection, he should now cover with the cloak of his heavenly patronage and defend the Church of Jesus Christ.
You well understand, Venerable Brethren that these considerations are confirmed by the opinion held by a large number of the Fathers, to which the sacred liturgy gives its sanction, that the Joseph of ancient times, son of the patriarch Jacob, was the type of St. Joseph, and the former by his glory prefigured the greatness of the future guardian of the Holy Family. And in truth, beyond the fact that the same name -- a point the significance of which has never been denied -- was given to each, you well know the points of likeness that exist between them; namely, that the first Joseph won the favor and especial goodwill of his master, and that through Joseph's administration his household came to prosperity and wealth; that (still more important) he presided over the kingdom with great power, and, in a time when the harvests failed, he provided for all the needs of the Egyptians with so much wisdom that the King decreed to him the title "Savior of the world." Thus it is that We may prefigure the new in the old patriarch. And as the first caused the prosperity of his master's domestic interests and at the same time rendered great services to the whole kingdom, so the second, destined to be the guardian of the Christian religion, should be regarded as the protector and defender of the Church, which is truly the house of the Lord and the kingdom of God on earth. These are the reasons why men of every rank and country should fly to the trust and guard of the blessed Joseph. Fathers of families find in Joseph the best personification of paternal solicitude and vigilance; spouses a perfect example of love, of peace, and of conjugal fidelity; virgins at the same time find in him the model and protector of virginal integrity. The noble of birth will earn of Joseph how to guard their dignity even in misfortune; the rich will understand, by his lessons, what are the goods most to be desired and won at the price of their labor. As to workmen, artisans, and persons of lesser degree, their recourse to Joseph is a special right, and his example is for their particular imitation. For Joseph, of royal blood, united by marriage to the greatest and holiest of women, reputed the father of the Son of God, passed his life in labor, and won by the toil of the artisan the needful support of his family. It is, then, true that the condition of the lowly has nothing shameful in it, and the work of the laborer is not only not dishonoring, but can, if virtue be joined to it, be singularly ennobled. Joseph, content with his slight possessions, bore the trials consequent on a fortune so slender, with greatness of soul, in imitation of his Son, who having put on the form of a slave, being the Lord of life, subjected himself of his own free-will to the spoliation and loss of everything.
Through these considerations, the poor and those who live by the labor of their hands should be of good heart and learn to be just. If they win the right of emerging from poverty and obtaining a better rank by lawful means, reason and justice uphold them in changing the order established, in the first instance, for them by the Providence of God. But recourse to force and struggles by seditious paths to obtain such ends are madnesses which only aggravate the evil which they aim to suppress. Let the poor, then, if they would be wise, trust not to the promises of seditious men, but rather to the example and patronage of the Blessed Joseph, and to the maternal charity of the Church, which each day takes an increasing compassion on their lot. (Pope Leo XIII, Quamquam Pluries, August 15, 1889.
Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity made Man in His Most Blessed Mother's Virginal and Immaculate Womb, was always humbly obedient and submissive to the will of His Co-Equal Father, teaching us that we like Him, must be obedient to the Father even unto death, death on the Cross:
Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above all names: That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2: 6-11.)
I cannot of myself do any thing. As I hear, so I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not my own will, but the will of him that sent me. (John 5: 30)
But I said unto you, that you also have seen me, and you believe not. All that the Father giveth to me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me, I will not cast out. Because I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me. Now this is the will of the Father who sent me: that of all that he hath given me, I should lose nothing; but should raise it up again in the last day. And this is the will of my Father that sent me: that every one who seeth the Son, and believeth in him, may have life everlasting, and I will raise him up in the last day. (John 6: 36-40.)
And he was withdrawn away from them a stone's cast; and kneeling down, he prayed, Saying: Father, if thou wilt, remove this chalice from me: but yet not my will, but thine be done. (Luke 22: 41-42.)
Our Lord, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity through Whom all things were made, submitted Himself to the parental authority of His own creatures, teaching us that we must be humbly submissive to all lawful and duly constituted authority in all things that do not pertain to sinful commands. Our Lord could have become Man in any manner of His choosing. He chose to become Incarnate in the Virginal and Immaculate Womb of His Most Blessed Mother and to subject Himself to her authority and to that of the head of the Holy Family, Saint Joseph. Our Lord was teaching us that all human institutions have a visible head and a hierarchy. This little fact has been distorted by the Orthodox and lost on Protestants, most of whom, save for some "Anglo-Catholics" who have a view of hierarchy similar to that of the Orthodox, who contend that the "church" is amorphous mass of believers, an invisible reality, if you will, and that she has no visible head on earth. Au contraire. Our Lord was teaching us right in the Holy Family that every human institution is meant to have a hierarchy and a visible head.
Our Lord also taught us humility. Although the very trees of the earth were made through Him, He had learn in His Sacred Humanity to do work with the wood of those trees with His own holy hands, which themselves would be placed onto wood and nailed into place thereupon by means of our sins. Our Lord had to learn from Saint Joseph to do those things as Man that He had ordained as God to be done. This should serve as a salutary example to children: Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, God in the Flesh, had to learn how to do things as Man, submitting Himself to the human expertise of His own foster-father to work with His own hands on the very material that was created through Him, through whom all things were made, visible and invisible.
The Holy Family teaches us about the centrality of prayer to the domestic cell of the Church. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph prayed. So must we. They observed silence in the home, not engaging in frivolous talk or activities. Oh, they enjoyed each other's company, showing us that a family is not meant to be a source of misery, as the wretched Albigenses and the Jansenists (and their contemporary descendants today) believe. The family is meant to be a source of joy. Yes, joy lived in the spirit of Holy Poverty, wherein family members are detached from the acquisition and accumulation and retention of the things of this world for the sake of living luxuriously and/or to "prove" to others how "successful" they are in material terms. The Holy Family lived in Holy Poverty, having enough of the things of this world to provide for their necessities, each member placing their treasures in the things of Heaven, keeping First and Last Things first and foremost.
So must it be in each of our families.
Indeed, the perfect bond of love that united the Holy Family on earth and unites them for all eternity in Heaven is summarized in the following excerpt from Chapter Three of Saint Paul's Epistle to the Colossians, part of which is read as the Lesson for today's Holy Mass:
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 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. All whatsoever you do in word or in work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as it behoveth in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter towards them. Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing to the Lord.
Fathers, provoke not your children to indignation, lest they be discouraged. Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not serving to the eye, as pleasing men, but in simplicity of heart, fearing God. Whatsoever you do, do it from the heart, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that you shall receive of the Lord the reward of inheritance. Serve ye the Lord Christ. For he that doth wrong, shall receive for that which he hath done wrongfully: and there is no respect of persons with God. (Col. 3: 12-25.)
Can we do any less in our own families?
Implementing the Lessons of Nazareth
Knowing all of this is one thing. Doing it in our families is quite another.
We must begin by recognizing that each of us has come from a family. As the families we came from were not constituted by the Virginal and Immaculate Most Holy Mother of God and her Most Divine Son and the just and quiet man of the House of David, Saint Joseph, there were bound to be problems in our own families as we were growing up. That is, the vagaries of fallen human nature produce impatience, misunderstanding, pettiness, jealousies, quarrels, and many other problems. The pull of the popular culture and the influences exercised by those we permit in our lives who do not love God as He has revealed Himself exclusively through His true Church can produce homes wherein there are family members who will go to Holy Mass on Sundays and might even pray the Rosary together occasionally but who are otherwise completely uninterested in pursuing a life of sanctify.
The example of the Holy Family must inspire us to pursue lives of sanctity, of living penitentially, of striving for Heaven with every beat of their hearts as those hearts are consecrated to Jesus through Mary, exclaiming frequently during the day: "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, we love you! Save souls!" "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, pray for us now and in death's agony." We must pray at least one set of the mysteries of Our Lady's Most Holy Rosary with our family members as we kneel before an image of Our Lady--or of the Holy Family. The Holy Family lived in the world, but they were not of the world. The same must hold true for us.
We must be earnest about forming our children to love the Holy Faith, immersing them first and foremost in a love of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which is the unbloody re-presentation of the Son's one Sacrifice of Himself to the Father in Spirit and in Truth in atonement for our sins. Daily Mass, offered, of course, by true bishops and true priests in the catacombs where no concessions are made to conciliarism or to the nonexistent legitimacy of its false shepherds, must be the essence of the lives of the family. And while it may not be possible in many parts of the world at present to get to a true offering of the Immemorial Mass of Tradition, those who are in such an isolated area can make it a priority for them to pray to move to a place where they can get to Mass on a daily basis.
Sure, it may not be possible for a father to accompany his family to daily Mass at all times. The mother and the children, however, should use the opportunity God is providing to them if they live near enough to get to Holy Mass in the catacombs to do so. Going to the daily offering of the Immemorial Mass of Tradition in those areas where it is available without any concessions made to conciliarism should be as second nature to a child as the rest of his daily routine.
I remember back on September 27, 2004, when we were passing through Phoenix, Arizona, en route from California to New Jersey (during our "resist and recognize" days) and missed Holy Mass at Our Lady of Sorrows Church there, not realizing that a 10:00 a.m. Mass that Monday had been changed to a 7:30 a.m. Mass because of a retreat for deacons. Lucy cried and cried and cried. Despite the external "irregularities" of our own situation as a family that lives in a motor home, our daughter has had the stability of assisting at daily Mass (or what we thought was a true offering of daily Mass) almost every day of her life. And while there are a handful of times during the course of a year when we will miss daily Mass because of some problem with the motor home or my own fatigue while driving long distances, Lucy, who only cries now when she doesn't get her way immediately (a trait that must have skipped several generations), is very disappointed. So are we. Why would anyone want to miss Calvary when Its unbloody re-presentation is made available in his area at a time when there are so few true offerings of the Mass.
Similarly, the Holy Family's example of family prayer (and the Mass, after all, is the perfect prayer) must impel us to spend time as a family before the Real Presence of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament. There's an old Irish limerick that goes something like this:
"Every time you pass by a Catholic Church make sure you go into visit. That way when you die, God won't say, "Who is it?"
Even if it is arriving a half hour early before Mass or staying a half hour or so after Mass, even if this is done once or twice a week, we accustom ourselves to being in God's very Real Presence. There are infused graces that are given to souls who spend time in Eucharistic adoration, whether in front of a tabernacle or in front of Our Lord solemnly exposed in a monstrance. All of the angels and saints are there with us mystically, including Our Lady and Saint Joseph. Why would we not want to make the time to teach our children about the simple fact that to gain the possession of Heaven for all eternity we must want to spend time here on earth where Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is present sacramentally and where His Most Blessed Mother and His foster-father and all of the angels and saints are present mystically?
Images of the Holy Family and of the saints should be in every room of our homes. Every room should feature a Crucifix. Our homes, enthroned as they should be to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, should have the "enthronement picture" displayed prominently for all to to be reminded that those two Hearts beat as one, and ours are meant to beat as one with Theirs. What a true joy it is to live the Faith, to shut out the noise and the agitation of the world, not to have one's senses bombarded the pollution of television and radio and the horror of the rot of what passes for popular culture invading one's living space, to be enthralled with the things of Heaven, our one and only true home. What a true joy it is to carry the Cross of the Divine Redeemer. What a joy it is to know that we have a Most Blessed Mother who wants to pray for us "now and the hour our death," who is pleading for us to pray Rosaries to be ever-faithful to her Fatima Message.
Our children do not need to be "entertained" by the popular culture. They need to fall in love with the Faith, to be inspired by having stories about the lives of the saints read to them before then can read, preparing them to read more about the lives of the saints as they grow older. They need to learn to live without being immersed in material acquisitiveness, without wanting to be "successful" or "popular" as the world counts success or fame. They need to learn to love the Franciscan spirit of Holy Poverty, being detached from the things, people and places of this world, while at the same time being taught the Dominican spirit of order and discipline in their daily lives, starting with the orderliness of their prayer lives (their Morning Offering, the Angelus, Night Prayers--all in addition to the Rosary). We are here on a pilgrimage. It is no so that the one with the most "toys" wins. Hardly.
All of this having been noted, it is also important to point out that our little Nazareths are not ends in and of themselves. Each member of a family must work hard to make sure that they have a happy reunion in Heaven. A family cannot become an "idol" in which those who stray from the Faith and/or engage in unrepentant sinful practices are indemnified, if not defended, against all temporal and eternal consequences for their actions. True love is an act of the will, the ultimate expression of which is the salvation of the souls of others. We love no one authentically if we do or say anything, whether by omission or commission, which interferes in any way with the salvation of his immortal soul. People can extol nations and national mythologies over God and His true Church. They also extol families and family members over God and His true Church. We must put God above all creatures, loving others as He loves us, which is to say willing their eternal good and doing nothing that puts into jeopardy the salvation of the immortal souls.
Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ Himself put it this way:
And as a man's enemies shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not up his cross, and followeth me, is not worthy of me. 39 He that findeth his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for me, shall find it. He that receiveth you, receiveth me: and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me. (Matthew 10: 36-40)
This means, among many other things, that parents have to say "no" to their children, especially as it pertains to various "games" or "toys" and to bad company or other bad influences that could have a most deleterious influence on the salvation of their immortal souls. Pope Pius XI pointed this out in Divini Illius Magistri, December 31, 1929:
It is no less necessary to direct and watch the education of the adolescent, "soft as wax to be moulded into vice," in whatever other environment he may happen to be, removing occasions of evil and providing occasions for good in his recreations and social intercourse; for "evil communications corrupt good manners."
More than ever nowadays an extended and careful vigilance is necessary, inasmuch as the dangers of moral and religious shipwreck are greater for inexperienced youth. Especially is this true of impious and immoral books, often diabolically circulated at low prices; of the cinema, which multiplies every kind of exhibition; and now also of the radio, which facilitates every kind of communications. These most powerful means of publicity, which can be of great utility for instruction and education when directed by sound principles, are only too often used as an incentive to evil passions and greed for gain. St. Augustine deplored the passion for the shows of the circus which possessed even some Christians of his time, and he dramatically narrates the infatuation for them, fortunately only temporary, of his disciple and friend Alipius. How often today must parents and educators bewail the corruption of youth brought about by the modern theater and the vile book! (Pope Pius XI, Divini Illius Magistri, December 31, 1929.)
Children who are raised in a family that attempts to image the Holy Family of Nazareth will, despite the vagaries of fallen human nature, come to be Catholics who seek out the Mercy of the Divine Redeemer readily in the Sacred Tribunal of Penance and who will give forgiveness to all others without counting the cost. Children who are raised in a family that attempts to image the Holy Family of Nazareth will not seek their salvation in naturalism and naturalist "saviours" of the false opposites of the naturalist "right" and the naturalist "left." Children who are raised in a family that attempts to image the Holy Family of Nazareth will come to view the world always and usually pretty clearly through the eyes of the true Faith, recognizing that this might be the very night upon which they own lives will be demanded of them:
And he spoke a similitude to them, saying: The land of a certain rich man brought forth plenty of fruits. And he thought within himself, saying: What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said: This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and will build greater; and into them will I gather all things that are grown to me, and my goods. And I will say to my soul: Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years take thy rest; eat, drink, make good cheer. But God said to him: Thou fool, this night do they require thy soul of thee: and whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?
If then ye be not able to do so much as the least thing, why are you solicitous for the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they labour not, neither do they spin. But I say to you, not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these. Now if God clothe in this manner the grass that is today in the field, and tomorrow is cast into the oven; how much more you, O ye of little faith? And seek not you what you shall eat, or what you shall drink: and be not lifted up on high. For all these things do the nations of the world seek. But your Father knoweth that you have need of these things.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock, for it hath pleased your Father to give you a kingdom. Sell what you possess and give alms. Make to yourselves bags which grow not old, a treasure in heaven which faileth not: where no thief approacheth, nor moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Let your loins be girt, and lamps burning in your hands. (Luke 12: 16-35.)
Children who grow up in a family that has attempted to image the Holy Family of Nazareth will honor their fathers and their mothers throughout as long as they, the children, are alive, seeking always to pass on to others, whether in the priesthood or religious life or in their own families, the life-giving and truly liberating truths of the Holy Faith, as I noted so some years ago now:
Children honor their fathers and mothers by being ready and docile students, learning about the Faith and temporal matters from their first and principal educators, that is, their parents.
Children honor their fathers and mothers by performing the household chores that are assigned to them, offering all of their daily penances to the Blessed Trinity as the consecrated slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Children honor their fathers and mothers by being attentive and well-behaved at Mass, remembering that they are in God's house and that they represent their parents to others, desiring to demonstrate how much the honor their parents by respecting their authority outside of the home, especially during Holy Mass.
Children honor their fathers and mothers by coming to understand that their parents have an obligation to shield them from bad company and from those aspects of popular culture that are deleterious to their immortal souls.
Children honor their fathers and mothers by listening to their advice as they grow into their teenaged years, understanding that their parents care about the welfare of their souls unto eternity and want them to choose a state-in-life that will help them get home to Heaven.
Children honor their fathers and mothers by listening to their advice as to where to study after their days in a traditional Catholic school or their home-schooling days have been completed.
Children honor their fathers and mothers by keeping close to them, spiritually and temporally, after they have moved out on their own, remembering them in their prayers, especially in the Memento for the Living during the Canon of the Mass and in our daily Rosaries, and having Masses said for them while they are alive.
Children honor their fathers and mothers by having Masses said for their deceased parents until they themselves have been called to the moment of their own Particular Judgments. None of us knows for sure whether we have gained a plenary indulgence for another soul (and those of us who are totally consecrated to Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ through Our Lady's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart give her all of the merits we earn during the course of a day, including those that are assigned to our indulgenced acts) as none of us knows for sure whether we are really completely detached from our past sins. Thus, we keep praying Rosaries and having Masses said for them for as long as we ourselves are alive. My own late parents' immortal souls are uppermost in my prayers every day.
Children who remain in the world after they leave home honor their fathers and mothers by providing them with the physical care and financial support that they might require in their elderly years. This is not an obligation of the civil state or of the Shady Rest Nursing Home. This is an obligation of the Fourth Commandment. Children are required to give back to their parents the same physical care and financial support that their parents gave to them when they were totally dependent upon them as newborns--and throughout the course of their tender years--for food, shelter, clothing, love, and spiritual nourishment.
Pope Leo XIII's encyclical letter, Exeunte Iam Anno, December 25, 1888, explained the Catholic attitude that must permeate every aspect of our lives, starting, of course, in our own families:
We must therefore strive diligently that after beginning well we may also end well, that the counsels of God may be both understood and put in practice. The obedience shown to the Apostolic See will then be full and perfected, if it be joined with Christian virtue, and thus lead to the salvation of souls -- the only end to be sought for, which will also abide forever. In the exercise of Our high Apostolic office, bestowed upon Us by the goodness of God, We have many times, as in duty bound, undertaken the defense of truth, and have striven to expound particularly those doctrines which seemed to be most useful to all, in order watchfully and carefully to avoid the dangers of error. But now, as a loving parent, We wish to address all Christians, and in homely words to exhort all to lead a holy life. For beyond the mere name of Christian, beyond the mere profession of faith, Christian virtues are necessary for the Christian, and upon this depends, not only the eternal salvation of their souls, but also the peace and prosperity of the human family and brotherhood.
If We look into the kind of life men lead everywhere, it would be impossible to avoid the conclusion that public and private morals differ much from the precepts of the Gospel. Too sadly, alas, do the words of the Apostle St. John apply to our age, "all that is in the world, is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes and the pride of life." For in truth, most men, with little care whence they come or whither they go, place all their thoughts and care upon the weak and fleeting goods of this life; contrary to nature and right reason they willingly give themselves up to those ways of which their reason tells them they should be the masters. It is a short step from the desire of luxury to the striving after the means to obtain it. Hence arises an unbridled greed for money, which blinds those whom it has led captive, and in the fulfillment of its passion hurries them madly along, often without regard for justice or injustice, and not seldom accompanied by a disgraceful contempt for the poverty of their neighbor. Thus many who live in the lap of luxury call themselves brethren of the multitude whom in their heart of hearts they despise; and in the same way with minds puffed up by pride, they take no thought to obey any law, or fear any power. They call selflove liberty, and think themselves "born free like a wild ass's colt. Snares and temptation to sin abound; We know that impious or immoral dramas are exhibited on the stage; that books and journals are written to jeer at virtue and ennoble crime; that the very arts, which were intended to give pleasure and proper recreation, have been made to minister to impurity. Nor can We look to the future without fear, for new seeds of evil are sown, and as it were poured into the heart of the rising generation. As for the public schools, there is no ecclesiastical authority left in them, and in the years when it is most fitting for tender minds to be trained carefully in Christian virtue, the precepts of religion are for the most part unheard. Men more advanced in age encounter a yet graver peril from evil teaching, which is of such a kind as to blind the young by misleading words, instead of filling them with the knowledge of the truth. Many now-adays seek to learn by the aid of reason alone, laying divine faith entirely aside; and, through the removal of its bright light, they stumble and fail to discern the truth, teaching for instance, that matter alone exists in the world; that men and beasts have the same origin and a like nature; there are some, indeed, who go so far as to doubt the existence of God, the Ruler and Maker of the World, or who err most grievously, like the heathens, as to the nature of God. Hence the very nature and form of virtue, justice, and duty are of necessity destroyed. Thus it is that while they hold up to admiration the high authority of reason, and unduly elevate the subtlety of the human intellect, they fall into the just punishment of pride through ignorance of what is of more importance.
When the mind has thus been poisoned, at the same time the moral character becomes deeply and essentially corrupted; and such a state can only be cured with the utmost difficulty in this class of men, because on the one hand wrong opinions vitiate their judgment of what is right, and on the other the light of Christian faith, which is the principle and basis of all justice, is extinguished.
In this way We daily see the numerous ills which afflict all classes of men. These poisonous doctrines have utterly corrupted both public and private life; rationalism, materialism, atheism, have begotten socialism, communism, nihilism-evil principles which it was not only fitting should have sprung from such parentage but were its necessary offspring. In truth, if the Catholic religion is willfully rejected, whose divine origin is made clear by such unmistakable signs, what reason is there why every form of religion should not be rejected, not upheld, by such criteria of truth? If the soul is one with the body, and if therefore no hope of a happy eternity remains when the body dies, what reason is there for men to undertake toil and suffering here in subjecting the appetites to right reason? The highest good of man will then lie in enjoying life's pleasures and life's luxuries. And since there is no one who is drawn to virtue by the impulse of his own nature, every man will naturally lay hands on all he can that he may live happily on the spoils of others. Nor is there any power mighty enough to bridle the passions, for it follows that the power of law is broken, and that all authority is loosened, if the belief in an ever-living God, Who commands what is right and forbids what is wrong is rejected. Hence the bonds of civil society will be utterly shattered when every man is driven by an unappeasable covetousness to a perpetual struggle, some striving to keep their possessions, others to obtain what they desire. This is wellnigh the bent of our age.
There is, nevertheless, some consolation for Us even in looking on these evils, and We may lift up Our heart in hope. For God "created all things that they might be: and He made the nations of the earth for health." But as all this world cannot be upheld but by His providence and divinity, so also men can only be healed by His power, of Whose goodness they were called from death to life. For Jesus Christ redeemed the human race once by the shedding of His blood, but the power of so great a work and gift is for all ages; "neither is there salvation in any other." Hence they who strive by the enforcement of law to extinguish the growing flame of lawless desire, strive indeed for justice; but let them know that they will labor with no result, or next to none, as long as they obstinately reject the power of the gospel and refuse the assistance of the Church. Thus will the evil alone be cured, by changing their ways, and returning back in their public and private life to Jesus Christ and Christianity.
Now the whole essence of a Christian life is to reject the corruption of the world and to oppose constantly any indulgence in it; this is taught in the words and deeds, the laws and institutions, the life and death of Jesus Christ, "the author and finisher of faith." Hence, however strongly We are deterred by the evil disposition of nature and character, it is our duty to run to the "fight proposed to Us," fortified and armed with the same desire and the same arms as He who, "having joy set before him, endured the cross." Wherefore let men understand this specially, that it is most contrary to Christian duty to follow, in worldly fashion, pleasures of every kind, to be afraid of the hardships attending a virtuous life, and to deny nothing to self that soothes and delights the senses. "They that are Christ's, have crucified their flesh, with the vices and concupiscences"-- so that it follows that they who are not accustomed to suffering, and who hold not ease and pleasure in contempt belong not to Christ. By the infinite goodness of God man lived again to the hope of an immortal life, from which he had been cut off, but he cannot attain to it if he strives not to walk in the very footsteps of Christ and conform his mind to Christ's by the meditation of Christ's example. Therefore this is not a counsel but a duty, and it is the duty, not of those only who desire a more perfect life, but clearly of every man "always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus." How otherwise could the natural law, commanding man to live virtuously, be kept? For by holy baptism the sin which we contracted at birth is destroyed, but the evil and tortuous roots of sin, which sin has engrafted, and by no means removed. This part of man which is without reason -- although it cannot beat those who fight manfully by Christ's grace -- nevertheless struggles with reason for supremacy, clouds the whole soul and tyrannically bends the will from virtue with such power that we cannot escape vice or do our duty except by a daily struggle. "This holy synod teaches that in the baptized there remains concupiscence or an inclination to evil, which, being left to be fought against, cannot hurt those who do not consent to it, and manfully fight against it by the grace of Jesus Christ; for he is not crowned who does not strive lawfully." There is in this struggle a degree of strength to which only a very perfect virtue, belonging to those who, by putting to flight evil passions, has gained so high a place as to seem almost to live a heavenly life on earth. Granted; grant that few attain such excellence; even the philosophy of the ancients taught that every man should restrain his evil desires, and still more and with greater care those who from daily contact with the world have the greater temptations -- unless it be foolishly thought that where the danger is greater watchfulness is less needed, or that they who are more grievously ill need fewer medicines.
But the toil which is borne in this conflict is compensated by great blessings, beyond and above heavenly and eternal rewards, particularly in this way, that by calming the passions nature is largely restored to its pristine dignity. For man has been born under this law, that the mind should rule the body, that the appetites should be restrained by sound sense and reason; and hence it follows that putting a curb upon our masterful passions is the noblest and greatest freedom. Moreover, in the present state of society it is difficult to see what man could be expected to do without such a disposition. Will he be inclined to do well who has been accustomed to guide his actions by self-love alone? No man can be high-souled, kind, merciful, or restrained, who has not learnt selfconquest and a contempt for this world when opposed to virtue. And yet it must be said that it seems to have been pre-determined by the counsel of God that there should be no salvation to men without strife and pain. Truly, though God has given to man pardon for sin, He gave it under the condition that His only begotten Son should pay the due penalty; and although Jesus Christ might have satisfied divine justice in other ways, nevertheless He preferred to satisfy by the utmost suffering and the sacrifice of His life. Thus he has imposed upon His followers this law, signed in His blood, that their life should be an endless strife with the vices of the age. What made the apostles invincible in their mission of teaching truth to the world; what strengthened the martyrs innumerable in their bloody testimony to the Christian faith, but the readiness of their soul to obey fearlessly His laws? And all who have taken heed to live a Christian life and seek virtue have trodden the same path; therefore We must walk in this way if We desire either Our own salvation or that of others. Thus it becomes necessary for every one to guard manfully against the allurements of luxury, and since on every side there is so much ostentation in the enjoyment of wealth, the soul must be fortified against the dangerous snares of riches lest straining after what are called the good things of life, which cannot satisfy and soon fade away, the soul should lose "the treasure in heaven which faileth not." Finally, this is matter of deep grief, that free-thought and evil example have so evil an influence in enervating the soul, that many are now almost ashamed of the name of Christian -- a shame which is the sign either of abandoned wickedness or the extreme of cowardice; each detestable and each of the highest injury to man. For what salvation remains for such men, or on what hope can they rely, if they cease to glory in the name of Jesus Christ, if they openly and constantly refuse to mold their lives on the precepts of the gospel? It is the common complaint that the age is barren of brave men. Bring back a Christian code of life, and thereby the minds of men will regain their firmness and constancy. But man's power by itself is not equal to the responsibility of so many duties. As We must ask God for daily bread for the sustenance of the body, so must We pray to Him for strength of soul for its nourishment in virtue. Hence that universal condition and law of life, which We have said is a perpetual battle, brings with it the necessity of prayer to God. For, as is well and wisely said by St. Augustine, pious prayer flies over the world's barriers and calls down the mercy of God from heaven. In order to conquer the emotions of lust, and the snares of the devil, lest we should be led into evil, we are commanded to seek the divine help in the words, "pray that ye enter not into temptation."[ How much more is this necessary, if we wish to labor for the salvation of others? Christ our Lord, the only begotten Son of God, the source of all grace and virtue, first showed by example what he taught in word: "He passed the whole night in the prayer of God,"and when nigh to the sacrifice of his life, "He prayed the longer." (Pope Leo XIII, Exeunte Iam Anno, December 25, 1888.)
As we know, the family has been under attack in the past few centuries. Pope Leo XIII noted this in Arcanum, February 10, 1880, and Humanum Genus, April 20, 1884. Pius XI did so in Ubi Arcano Dei Consilio, December 23, 1922:
Just as the smallest part of the body feels the effect of an illness which is ravaging the whole body or one of its vital organs, so the evils now besetting society and the family afflict even individuals. In particular, We cannot but lament the morbid restlessness which has spread among people of every age and condition in life, the general spirit of insubordination and the refusal to live up to one's obligations which has become so widespread as almost to appear the customary mode of living. We lament, too, the destruction of purity among women and young girls as is evidenced by the increasing immodesty of their dress and conversation and by their participation in shameful dances, which sins are made the more heinous by the vaunting in the faces of people less fortunate than themselves their luxurious mode of life. Finally, We cannot but grieve over the great increase in the number of what might be called social misfits who almost inevitably end by joining the ranks of those malcontents who continually agitate against all order, be it public or private.
It is surprising, then, that we should no longer possess that security of life in which we can place our trust and that there remains only the most terrible uncertainty, and from hour to hour added fears for the future? Instead of regular daily work there is idleness and unemployment. That blessed tranquillity which is the effect of an orderly existence and in which the essence of peace is to be found no longer exists, and, in its place, the restless spirit of revolt reigns. As a consequence industry suffers, commerce is crippled, the cultivation of literature and the arts becomes more and more difficult, and what is worse than all, Christian civilization itself is irreparably damaged thereby. In the face of our much praised progress, we behold with sorrow society lapsing back slowly but surely into a state of barbarism.
We wish to record, in addition to the evils already mentioned, other evils which beset society and which occupy a place of prime importance but whose very existence escapes the ordinary observer, the sensual man -- he who, as the Apostle says, does not perceive "the things that are of the Spirit of God" (I Cor. ii, 14), yet which cannot but be judged the greatest and most destructive scourges of the social order of today. We refer specifically to those evils which transcend the material or natural sphere and lie within the supernatural and religious order properly so-called; in other words, those evils which affect the spiritual life of souls. These evils are all the more to be deplored since they injure souls whose value is infinitely greater than that of any merely material object.. . .
Again, legislation was passed which did not recognize that either God or Jesus Christ had any rights over marriage -- an erroneous view which debased matrimony to the level of a mere civil contract, despite the fact that Jesus Himself had called it a "great sacrament" (Ephesians v, 32) and had made it the holy and sanctifying symbol of that indissoluble union which binds Him to His Church. The high ideals and pure sentiments with which the Church has always surrounded the idea of the family, the germ of all social life, these were lowered, were unappreciated, or became confused in the minds of many. As a consequence, the correct ideals of family government, and with them those of family peace, were destroyed; the stability and unity of the family itself were menaced and undermined, and, worst of all, the very sanctuary of the home was more and more frequently profaned by acts of sinful lust and soul-destroying egotism -- all of which could not but result in poisoning and drying up the very sources of domestic and social life.
Added to all this, God and Jesus Christ, as well as His doctrines, were banished from the school. As a sad but inevitable consequence, the school became not only secular and non-religious but openly atheistical and anti-religious. In such circumstances it was easy to persuade poor ignorant children that neither God nor religion are of any importance as far as their daily lives are concerned. God's name, moreover, was scarcely ever mentioned in such schools unless it were perchance to blaspheme Him or to ridicule His Church. Thus, the school forcibly deprived of the right to teach anything about God or His law could not but fail in its efforts to really educate, that is, to lead children to the practice of virtue, for the school lacked the fundamental principles which underlie the possession of a knowledge of God and the means necessary to strengthen the will in its efforts toward good and in its avoidance of sin. Gone, too, was all possibility of ever laying a solid groundwork for peace, order, and prosperity, either in the family or in social relations. Thus the principles based on the spiritualistic philosophy of Christianity having been obscured or destroyed in the minds of many, a triumphant materialism served to prepare mankind for the propaganda of anarchy and of social hatred which was let loose on such a great scale.
Is it to be wondered at then that, with the widespread refusal to accept the principles of true Christian wisdom, the seeds of discord sown everywhere should find a kindly soil in which to grow and should come to fruit in that most tremendous struggle, the Great War, which unfortunately did not serve to lessen but increased, by its acts of violence and of bloodshed, the international and social animosities which already existed? (Pope Pius XI, Ubi Arcano Dei Consilio, December 23, 1922.)
Our little homes, our little Nazareths, can become little replicas of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Perhaps we can plant a few seeds for the restoration of Christendom, if such a restoration is within the Providence of God, especially by means of the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The restoration of Christendom, however, depends upon our willingness to exhibit the virtues of the Holy Family as we invoke the graces won for us by the shedding of every single drop of Our Blessed Lord's Most Precious Blood on the wood of the Holy Cross and that flow into our hearts and souls through the loving hands of Our Lady, the Mediatrix of All Graces, to give us the desire and the courage to do so without compromise and without delay.
Father Benedict Baur, O.S.B., offered the following reflection on this great feast day, which is particular to us all:
Today the liturgy 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 must 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. . . .
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 one of 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 wishes, and a reasonable mortification of self. It it is to be perfect, it requires complete victory over self-love. It requires a high degree of virtue, deep piety and living faith, and much prayer, and a close union with God. (Father Benedict Baur, O.S.B., The Light of the World, Volume I, B. Herder Book Company, 1953, pp. 148-149.)
Father Maurice Meschler, S.J., delved very deeply into the meaning of the Gospel passage which Holy Mother Church has placed in her liturgy for this wonderful feast, coming as it does within the Octave of the Epiphany of Our Lord, to teach us about the willingness of the God-Man to submit Himself to the authority of His parents after He had manifested his familiarity with the Scriptures and the Law while answering the questions the doctors of the Law had posed to him as a momentary hint of His Public Ministry, which was not begin for another eighteen years:
The only fact in the hidden life of which the circumstances are known with certainty is that Jesus went with His parents to the Feast of the Pasch, remained behind when they left the city, and appeared in public in the Temple.
Narrative and External Circumstances of the Mystery.
The first circumstance was the time. The mystery falls about midway in the course of the hidden life. Our Saviour had attained his twelfth year (Luke ii. 42), and was now at the age when, as a responsible member of the community and entitled to full rights, he was subject to the law; or, as the Jews were accustomed to say, He had become “a son of the law”. Now the Feast of the Pasch was drawing near, and He wished to celebrate it for the first time in Jerusalem, as in duty bound; since the law commanded all men to make a pilgrimage to the Temple three times in the year, the Pasch being fixed for one of these pilgrimages (Deut. Xvi. 16). The women also accompanied their husbands out of devotion (I Kings I. 3 seq.) "So our Saviour went as a pilgrim to Jerusalem, accompanied by His parents, who undertook this Paschal pilgrimage every year" (Luke ii. 41).
The second circumstance is the feast and the place of its celebration. The Feast of the Pasch was one of the centres, indeed the chief centre and focus of Jewish ecclesiastical life. Since the visit to the national sanctuary formed an essential part of the celebration of the Pasch, the concourse of people from all parts of the world was immense, and amounted to hundreds of thousands. No feast of the year had such deep significance as that of the Pasch, the memorial of that divine act which made Israel the chosen people of God and released it from the bonds of Egypt. Lastly, the sacrifice by which this feast was distinguished – the Paschal Lamb – was the original and chief sacrifice of the whole covenant, and the principal type of the Saviour . All these details have an important bearing on the mystery.
The third circumstance was that our Saviour remained behind in Jerusalem when His parents started on their homeward journey. The Paschal Lamb was eaten on the 14th of Nisan (March), the solemn sacrifice took place on the 15th, and on the 16th the first-fruits of barley were offered; then the pilgrims could set out on their return journey. Perhaps Mary and Joseph did so. But our Saviour did not go with them; He quitted His parents intentionally and with a set purpose – no difficult feat in the vast crowd of pilgrims traveling in separate companies (Luke ii. 43 44)> At the first encampment for the night, probably in Beroth or Ophnie, His parents discovered His absence, and set out with unspeakable sorrow and anxiety, seeking for Him all the way back to the city and probable also in the city itself, until they found Him at last on the third day in the Temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors (Luke ii 45 46).
That was the fourth circumstance. Whilst His parents were seeking Him, He had been attending the lectures which were held in the synagogue (a building adjacent to the Temple) or on one of the Temple terraces, by resident or visiting doctors of the law. Everyone could attend them, and might propose his doubts and questions. There, as it appears, our Saviour lingered for the greater part of this time, and excited universal attention and admiration by the insight and wisdom displayed in His questions and answers (Luke ii. 47 48).
Many features of this mystery come upon us as a surprise and a revelation, and are quite at variance with the usual conduct of our Lord – His withdrawal from the supervision and control of His parents, His exposing them to such unspeakable sorrow and anxiety for so long a time, His public appearance in the Temple and His acceptance of the applause excited by the display of His wisdom. All these things were in marked contrast to the character of the hidden life, which was above all things a life of obedience and deepest humility; they were quite contradictory to His usual mode of action; they caused bitter pain not only to His parents, but also to His own Heart, which was filled with such love and respect for them. Indeed, under ordinary circumstances, they would have been a violation of the simplest filial duty; for who does not understand the pain and anxiety endured by His father and Mother during these three days? It was this that occasioned Mary's gentle reproach: “Son, why hast thou done so to us? Behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing” (Luke ii. 48). There must have been some profound mystery underlying our Saviour's conduct.
THE MEANING AND LESSON OF THE MYSTERY
Our Saviour Himself gives us the key to the solution of these problems, in His answer to His Mother: “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father's business?” (Luke ii 49). What did He mean by this? Evidently that, though He has a Mother and owes her consideration, He has nevertheless a Father also, Who is greater, and Whose Will and command must always take the first place. And what else does the Heavenly Father will and command but the promotion of His honour and the salvation of mankind by the manifestation of His Son? Our Saviour came to fulfill this behest and Will of His Father; that is His life-work, and He often declared later in His public life (John iv. 34; v. 30; vi. 37 – 40; xvii. 3). This staying behind and appearing in the Temple is but a new manifestation of Himself; or more strictly speaking, it is a transient prelude of His public life, and this in a double sense, according to its end and according to the manner of His public ministry.
As regards its end, the public life of our Saviour is a magnificent witness of Himself, a revelation of His coming, His existence and work, by means of miracles and teaching. Here also we have something similar. Why does He appear in public? Why does He allow His wonderful wisdom to shine forth? Why does He attract attention to Himself, and suffer the plaudits of the crown? If we examine carefully the words of Holy Scripture, we see in all this a new manifestation of our Saviour, full of an importance peculiar to itself. And why? First, because it is the first manifestation of which He Himself is the agent. Hitherto others – Elizabeth, the angels, the shepherds, Simeon and Anna, the Magi – had borne witness to Him, but now He bears witness of Himself. Secondly, the manifestation is important because it is so attractive. What is more lovable and engaging that an intelligent child of this age? It is under this form that our Saviour chooses now to appear before the people. Thirdly, the manifestation is important because it has a splendour of its own, revealing as it does His insight and wisdom, and also His Divinity; for He calls God His Father, although in a mysterious and obscure manner (Luke ii 49). And lastly, it is of consequence on account of the great attention and admiration accorded to Him. We get a glimpse of the wonder, He excited by the fact that His parents found Him “sitting in the midst of the doctors,” and marveled at the sight (Luke ii 48). It seems, then, that He was not sitting with the other listeners and scholars; but that the doctors filled with admiring interest, had taken Him into their own circle and were questioning Him. This says a great deal, if we consider how important a position the doctors of the law held at this time, and what respect was paid to them. For this reason some of the holy Fathers call this occurrence a miracle. As Heli once bowed before the supernatural wisdom of little Samuel and Daniel, when but a your, pronounced sentence upon the two elders, so now the twelve-year-old Saviour sits among the doctors of the law. It is certainly a remarkable event, and in keeping with the public appearance of Jesus in later years.
Moreover this scene was also a prelude to the public life with regard to the exteriour circumstances and the manner in which our Saviour manifested Himself afterwards, by teaching and working miracles. There was the same complete detachment from hearth and home, flesh and blood; the same poverty and separation from His family. As later on He left His Mother and lived on alms, so now He left His parents and depended on the charity of kind people for food and shelter. It is true that His absence is one of three days only, but we must remember how much more trying are the circumstances, through the grief of His parents and their ignorance of His whereabouts. Thus, then His appearance in the Temple was really a perfect though transient prelude to His public life, a true manifestation of Himself. The answer of Jesus, “Did you knot know that I must be about my Father's business/” is the first word that Holy Scripture records as spoken by Him. It is a great and majestic saying, a revelation of the entire Messianic vocation of Jesus, sudden as a gleam of lightning in the midst of the obscurity and domestic quiet of the hidden life. Now wonder that Mary and Joseph were perplexed at such an unexpected disclosure (Luke ii 50).
Reasons Underlying The Mystery
There are three principal reasons why our Saviour thus manifested Himself.
The first reason concerned the Jews. It was very opportune that our Saviour should give some evidence of Himself again, for the last manifestation of Him had been made by the Magi, and the next was not to take place until His Baptism in the Jordan. Since, then, so long a period was to elapse between the two events, it was very fitting that our Saviour should once more recall Himself to the memory of the Jews, as he was about to disappear so completely in the hidden life. The circumstances of time and place – the Paschal Feast and the Temple – were very well chosen for this object (Isa. ii. 3. Mich. iv. 2.). That He first revealed Himself in the lecture-hall, and to the doctors of the law, is also significant. He thus declared Himself the teacher even of these teachers of the law, whose task it was to proclaim to the people the coming of the Messias, but with whom He was later to come into such serious and fatal conflict.
The second reason was one that concerned His parents, and especially His holy Mother. Our Saviour evidently wished not only to comfort her and excuse His behaviour towards her, by this reference to the Will of His Heavenly Father, but also to instruct her and make her understand more clearly His extraordinary and high vocation; namely that He was not on earth merely to carry out the duties of family life, but that He stood under a higher power. For this reason our Saviour very fittingly chose as the time of this admonition the expiration of His twelfth year, when the child outgrew the authority of his parents. He wished to prepare His Mother for the future separation, to be made at His entrance upon His office at Teacher. By this separation she was to assist and share in His vocation. She was also to give us an example of readiness and the noblest spirit of renunciation, when the call of God is heard and sacrifice is demanded. Parents have in this mystery a lesson as to their duty in matters concerning the vocation of their children. They see in Mary, on this occasion, not only the noblest patience and readiness to resign herself to what God wills or permits, but also the authority and right of the mother vindicated, as she gently questions our Saviour as to the reason of His conduct. Parents have the right to inquire into their children's vocation and to test it, but not to make it impossible and overthrow it. On the contrary it is their duty to submit in all patience and resignation to the recognized Will of God with regard to their children. The Will of God and nothing else must decide this matter, for the parents as well as for the children. They too must be about the Father's business. Then they have a share in all the good that proceeds from the vocation of the children. Mary is a beautiful example and a powerful help in the difficulties that arise for parents with regard to these matters, and she merited by her heroic virtue special graces for all who have to suffer such trials. Her example shows us what we have to do, and her aid enables us to act according to her example.
The third and last reason applies to ourselves. We needed a great example of obedience to the call of God under all circumstances. This mystery is really one of vocation, and contains for us the important lesson to carry out God's behest, let Him call us when, how, and to what He will. We must follow. On this account also our Saviour offered this lesson during His youth because it is generally in youth that it becomes our duty to choose a vocation. The whole mystery is arranged in accordance with this intention. Our Savoiur's example teaches us in the first place to what, whither, and how we must follow God. In this case the divine call is unusual, when we regard its object; the Saviour is to appear in public and bear witness of Himself in the midst of the hidden life. It is unusual with regard to the circumstances, demand as it does entire detachment from flesh and blood, and requiring a hard sacrifice. Lastly, it is unusual with regard to the time; for Jesus is still only a boy in His twelfth year. In short, the call tends towards higher things, to the exclusive service of God, to evangelical perfection, which consists essentially in the apostolic life. – Our Saviour teaches us how we are to obey God's call, viz. Completely, immediately, courageously and earnestly. He does not temper the hardness of the sacrifice for His parents. He leaves them without any warning; He made no advances to them; and when at last He is found, He has no tender, caressing excuse to offer, nothing but the earnest and majestic words: “Did you not know that I must be about my Father's business?” Does not our Saviour thrust aside by this example all the difficulties that can oppose a vocation, from whatever source they may come – tender age, consideration of the parents, the sacrifices contained in the vocation itself, or the perfect detachment that it entails? There is not a difficulty in any vocation that is not included in this mystery and removed by the example of our Saviour.
There is therefore nothing left for us to do but to follow the call of God, and to put out of our hearts all attachment to created things. What glorious motives, again, this mystery offers us! Above all, God, Who claims over us rights greater than those of even our nearest and dearest; He has indeed a right to all that we have, and especially to our love. But all excessive attachments are opposed to this love, and we may offer anything else we please, it will not satisfy God; for He will have our hearts, not our possessions. We must love God with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our strength. – The second motive is our Saviour. This mystery gives us for the first time a glimpse into His Heart, into His sentiments of love and boundless reverence for God. In His Heart is God, God alone, and nothing but His Will rules there; even the holiest and most justifiable. Our Lord's behaviour to His Mother and St. Joseph on this occasion passes a stern and trenchant judgment upon our inordinate attachments. What can we urge against it? That our Saviour really aought in all things only this Will and service of God, is seen by the manner in which He submits to be taken home again by His parents, and suffers Himself to disappear for so long in the shadow of the hidden life. (Father Maurice Meschler, S.J., The Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ, The Son of God, in Meditations, Freiburg Im Breisgau 1928 Herder & Co., Publishers to the Holy Apostolic See, pp. 173-181.)
Our Lord's Most Sacred Heart beat with tenderness for the sufferings of His Blessed Mother during the three days He was in the Temple, and it was His tender love for Our Lady that prompted Him to explain to her the reasons for His staying behind the Temple (see If It Is In The Apostolicae Sedis, It Is Official Teaching, which contains a passage from the New English Edition of The Mystical City of God). Very contrary to Jorge Mario Bergoglio's blasphemy during a Protestant and Judeo-Masonic Novus Ordo liturgical service on the Novus Ordo sect's "feast" of the Holy Family on Sunday, December 27, 2015, Our Lord, being God in the very Flesh, had no need to "beg forgiveness" of His foster-father and His Most Blessed Mother. Our Lord had to be about the work of His Co-Equal, Co-Eternal God the Father in Heaven. God in the very Flesh never had any need to beg forgiveness from anyone at anytime. Although duly submissive to the authority of His parents both before and after the three days in the Temple, His staying behind in the Temple was preparing His Most Blessed Mother for the sorrows that would piece her Immaculate Heart as He suffered His Sacred Passion and Death to atone in His own Sacred Humanity for the debt that we owed to Him in His Sacred Dvinity.
May our family devotion to the totality of the Catholic Faith without any concessions to conciliarism whatsoever, starting, of course, with the Immemorial Mass of Tradition, to Eucharistic piety and to Our Lady's Most Holy Rosary help us to learn more and more fully each day how to offer up our own prayers and our sufferings and our sacrifices and our penances and mortifications and humiliations in union with the Cross of the Divine Redeemer, giving whatever merit we earn for our prayers and sufferings to His Most Sacred Heart through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary.
For it is from Nazareth that we come and in Nazareth we must live until, please God we die in a state of Sanctifying Grace and have paid back whatever debt we owe for our sins in Purgatory, we meet the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and, Joseph face to face in an unending Easter Sunday of glory in Paradise.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, we love you! Save souls!
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, pray for us now and in death's agony!
Isn't it time to pray a Rosary now?
Viva Cristo Rey!
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.
Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.
Saint John the Evangelist, pray for us.
Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Gabriel the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Raphael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saints Joachim and Anne, pray for us.
Saints Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, pray for us.
Pope Saint Hyginus, pray for us.