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``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

Feast of
the Holy Family

Why is this Feast celebrated on the first Sunday after Epiphany instead of closer to Christmas? Because in Old Testament Law, a child wasn't a son of Abraham or a true part of the family until his circumcision at 8 days of age, an event of Christ's life that we celebrated on 1 January (from 25 December to 1 January are 8 days).1

Some may prepare for the day by making a Novena to the Holy Family such that it ends on the eve of this feast, and there are a number of other private devotions associated with this day, including the blessing of children by their parents, the private renewal of marriage vows, and consecration of the family to the Holy Family:

Consecration to the Holy Family

O Jesus, our most loving Redeemer, who having come to enlighten the world with Thy teaching and example, didst will to pass the greater part of Thy life in humility and subjection to Mary and Joseph in the poor home of Nazareth, thus sanctifying the Family that was to be an example for all Christian families, graciously receive our family as it dedicates and consecrates itself to Thee this day. Do Thou protect us, guard us and establish amongst us Thy holy fear, true peace and concord in Christian love: in order that by living according to the divine pattern of Thy family we may be able, all of us without exception, to attain to eternal happiness.

Mary, dear Mother of Jesus and Mother of us, by the kindly intercession make this our humble offering acceptable in the sight of Jesus, and obtain for us His graces and blessings.

O Saint Joseph, most holy Guardian of Jesus and Mary, help us by thy prayers in all our spiritual and temporal needs; that so we may be enabled to praise our divine Savior Jesus, together with Mary and thee, for all eternity. Amen.

Say an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory be three times.

Throughout the year, your family would undoubtedly benefit from this prayer, from the 1910 Raccolta, to God, the Holy Family, the three Archangels named in Sacred Scripture, and the family's guardian angels and patron Saints:

God of bounty and of mercy, to Thy almighty protection we commend our home, our family and all we possess. Bless us all, as Thou didst bless the Holy Family at Nazareth.

O Jesus, our most blessed Saviour, by the love with which Thou didst become man for our salvation, by Thy mercy in dying for us on the Cross, bless, we beseech Thee, our home, our family and our household; preserve us from every evil and from the snares of men; protect us from lightning and hail, from fire, flood and tempest; preserve us from Thy wrath, from the hatred and the evil designs of our enemies, from pestilence, famine and war. Let not any one of us die without the holy Sacraments; grant us Thy blessing, that we may bravely confess that faith by which we are sanctified, that we may preserve our hope in sorrow and in affliction, and that we may redouble our love of Thee and our charity towards our neighbour. O Jesus, bless and protect us.

O Mary, mother of grace and of mercy, bless us, defend us against the evil spirit, lead us by the hand across this vale of tears, reconcile us with thy Son, and commend us to Him that we may be made worthy of his promises.

O holy Joseph, reputed father of our Saviour, guardian of His most blessed Mother, head of the Holy Family, intercede for us, and bless and protect our habitation at all times.

St. Michael, defend us against all the malice of hell.

St. Gabriel, make us ever to seek the holy will of God.

St. Raphael, preserve us from sickness and all danger of death.

Ye holy angels, our guardians, keep us day and night in the way of salvation.

Ye holy saints, our patrons, pray for us before the throne of God.

Bless this our home, O God the Father, Who hast created us; O God the Son, Who hast suffered for us on the Cross; O God the Holy Spirit, Who hast sanctified us in baptism. May God in His three Divine Persons preserve our bodies, purify our souls, guide our hearts and lead us to eternal life. Glory be to the Father, glory be to the Son, glory be to the Holy Ghost. Amen.

It's a good day to think of the ways that your family can better emulate the Holy Family. How can you, as a mother, make your heart more like the heart of Our Lady? How can you, as a father, make your heart more like St. Joseph's? How can you, as a daughter or son, better honor your parents and grandparents by embracing the Sacred Heart of Christ and emulating Christ's submission and obedience? How can you make your domestic church holier, happier, more joyous, and more fun?

There is no special music or food for the day, but it seems to be the perfect time to prepare old family recipes. What were the best dishes your grandmothers or your spouse's grandmothers made? Make one or more of those -- and tell your children where the recipes came from, stories of when the food was enjoyed, etc. Make the resulting menu one of the ways you celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family every year. As with the Feast of All Souls, today is a good day to bring out (or make) a family tree, write down your family members' biographies and stories, and teach your children about the people they came from.

Note that throughout the year, it's traditional for Catholics to honor the Holy Family by writing "J.M.J." -- sometimes with a cross on either side -- at the tops of letters, homework, and other such writings. The letters stand, of course, for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.


The Feast of the Holy Family
By St. Bernard of Clairvaux

In Mary we praise that which places her above all others, that is, fruitfulness of offspring together with virginity. For never has it been known in this world that anyone was at the same time mother and virgin. And see of Whom she is mother. Where does your astonishment at this so wondrous dignity lead you? Is it not to this, that you may gaze in wonder yet never sufficiently revere? Is she not in your veneration, nay, in the esteem of Truth itself, raised above choirs of angels? Does not Mary address the Lord and God of all the angels as Son, saying: Son, why hast thou done so to us?

Who among the angels may thus presume? It is enough for them, and for them their greatest honour, that while they are spirits by nature they have become and are called angels, as David testifies: Who makest thy angels spirits. Mary, knowing herself mother, with confidence calls that Majesty Son Whom the angels in reverence serve. Nor does God disdain to be called that which He disdained not to be. For the Evangelist adds a little later: He was subject to them.

Who was subject to whom? A God to men. God, I repeat, to Whom the angels are subject: Whom principalities and powers obey: was subject to Mary; and not alone to Mary, but to Joseph also, because of Mary. Admire and revere both the one and the other, and choose which you admire the more: the most sweet condescension of the Son, or the sublime dignity of the Mother. For either am I at a loss for words: for both are wondrous. For that God should obey a woman is humility without compare; and that a woman should have rule over God dignity without equal. In praise of virgins is it joyfully proclaimed: that they follow the lamb withersoever he goeth. Of what praise shall you esteem her worthy who also goeth before Him?

Learn, O Man, to obey. Learn, O Earth, to be subject. Learn, O Dust, to submit. The Evangelist in speaking of thy Maker says: He was subject to them; that is, without doubt, to Mary and to Joseph. Be you ashamed, vain ashes that you are. God humbles Himself, and do you exalt yourself? God becomes subject to men, and will you, eager to lord it over men, place yourself above your Maker? O would that God might deign to make me, thinking such thoughts at times in my own mind, such answer as He made, reproving him, to His apostle: Go behind Me, Satan: because thou savorest not the things that are of God.

For as often as I desire to be foremost among men, so often do I seek to take precedence of God; and so do I not truly savour the things that are of God. For of Him was it said: And he was subject to them. If you disdain, O Man, to follow the example of a Man, at least it will not lower thee to imitate thy Maker. If perhaps you cannot follow Him wheresoever He goeth, at least follow in that wherein He has come down to you.

If you are unable to follow Him on the sublime way of virginity, then follow God by that most sure way of humility; from whose straitness should some even from among the virgins go aside, then must I say what is true, that neither do they follow the Lamb withersoever he goeth. He that is humble, even though he be stained, he follows the Lamb; so too does the proud virgin; but neither of the two whithersoever He goeth: because the one cannot ascend to the purity of the Lamb that is without stain, nor will the other deign to come down to the meekness of the Lamb, Who stood silent, not merely before the shearer, but before the one that put Him to death. Yet the sinner who makes after Him in humility, has chosen a wholesomer part than the one that is proud in his virtue; since the humble repentance of the one washes away uncleanness, but the pride of the other contaminates his own virtue.

Truly blessed was Mary who possessed both humility and virginity. And truly wondrous the virginity whose fruitfulness stained not, but adorned her; and truly singular the humility, which this fruitful virginity has not troubled, but rather exalted; and wholly incomparable the fruitfulness which goes hand in hand with her humility and her virginity. Which of these things is not wondrous? Which is not beyond all comparison? Which that is not wholly singular? It would be strange if you did not hesitate to decide which you regard as most worthy of praise: whether the wonder of fruitfulness of offspring in virginity, or of virginal integrity in a mother: sublimity of Offspring, or humility joined to such dignity: unless it be that we place both together above each one singly: and it is truly beyond any doubt more excellent and more joyful to have beheld these perfections united in her, than to see but one part of them.

And can we wonder that God, of Whom it is written that He is wonderful in his saints, shows Himself in His own Mother yet more wondrous still. Venerate then, Ye spouses, this integrity of flesh in our corruptible flesh. Revere likewise, Ye virgins, fruitfulness in virginity. Let all men imitate the humility of God's Mother. Honour, Ye angels, the Mother of your King, you who adore the Offspring of our Virgin; Who is your King and our King, the Healer of our race, the Restorer of our fatherland: Who among you is so sublime, yet among us was so lowly: to Whose Majesty as well from you as from us let there be adoration and reverence: to whose Perfection be there honour and glory and empire for ever and ever. Amen.

Prayer to the Holy Family

Domine Iesu Christe, qui Mariae et Ioseph subditus, domesticam vitam ineffabilibus virtutibus consecrasti: fac nos, utriusque auxilio, Familiae sanctae tuae exemplis instrui et consortium consequi sempiternum: Qui vivis et regnas in saecula saeculorum. Amen.


Lord Jesus Christ, Who, being made subject to Mary and Joseph, didst consecrate domestic life by Thine ineffable virtues; grant that we, with the assistance of both, may be taught by the example of Thy Holy Family and may attain to its everlasting fellowship. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.


1 In the Novus Ordo, the Feast is remembered on the Sunday between Christmas Day and January 1 (if both Christmas and January 1 are Sundays, it is celebrated on December 30th).

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