By Lisa Zengarini
Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin, Primate of All Ireland, has renewed the call on Catholics to look at the Holy Family as a “model, inspiration and guide”, knowing that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph experienced “not only the joys and happiness of being together as a family”, but also the hardships that “ordinary families” have to live through. He did so in his homily for the Feast of the Holy Family which the Universal Church celebrated on December 27.
A model for us all
Although the Holy Family was “unimaginably special”, “we have to be careful about ‘bubble-wrapping’”, Jesus Mary and Joseph completely, because they too had their “up and downs”, the prelate said. He then recalled Pope Francis’ words during the World Meeting of Families in 2018, who, while acknowledging that: “No family drops down from heaven perfectly formed”, still suggested that: “Every family should look to the icon of the Holy Family of Nazareth”.
Archbishop Martin stressed that the Holy Family is an example of serenity rooted in deep faith, courage and wisdom to trust in God. “These three gifts are much needed in our families this Christmas – jostled as we are with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis”, the Irish Primate noted. “Our families share uncertainty about the future, weariness with the ongoing restrictions, confusion of changing messages, nervousness – fear even – with talk of new waves and new variants of the virus. Sadly since the beginning of the pandemic many families among us have had to carry heavy crosses of separation, sickness, grief and loss, worries about employment and finances, or simply missing those comforting family rituals of being together, visiting, and being close and present to each other in the normal way”, he added.
Grasp the hand of the Lord
However, Archbishop Martin said “families of faith can find consolation, good news, hope and promise in the wonder of the Christ-child, born into a human family, to be our Saviour. Faith with wisdom, courage, trust and serenity guides our journey as families through uncertainty and the unknown. Just as a loving parent takes the hand of their frightened child, so we firmly grasp the hand of Him who has made us, Who redeemed us and saved us, and Who journeys with us every step of the way”, he concluded.
Although major feast days dedicated to Jesus, the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph also exist, the Feast of the Holy Family commemorates their life together and the celebration focuses on religious family life. Devotion to the Holy Family of Nazareth goes back centuries and the Coptic Christians in Egypt can trace it back to the earliest days of Christianity, probably because it was to Egypt that the Holy Family fled from the threats of King Herod. However, in Western Christianity a cult of veneration for the Holy Family as a group did not arise until the 17th century and was not officially recognized until the feast day for the Universal church was formally instituted in 1921 by Pope Benedict XV. Originally celebrated on the Sunday after Epiphany, the Feast was moved to the Sunday after Christmas in 1969.
During his Sunday Angelus address, yesterday, Pope Francis announced that on 19 March 2021, the fifth anniversary of the Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” on the joy and beauty of familial love, he will inaugurate the Year “Amoris Laetitia Family,” which will conclude on 26 June 2022, on the occasion of the X World Meeting of Families in Rome.