Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Feast of the Holy Family-Jesus, Mary, and Joseph-13 January AD 2008

Interior of an Irish Peasant Cabin
Pictorial Times, February 7, 1846


The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in Latin and English
Holy Family - Jesus, Mary, and Joseph
Dominica infra Octavam Epiphaniæ - Sanctæ Familiæ
Apostolic Letter of Pope Leo XIII, Néminem fugit.

    I am going to read just a little more of Saint Paul's epistle than is given in the Roman Missal:

A Lesson from the Epistle of blessed Paul to the Colossians:
iii: 12-16

    Brethren: Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, a heart of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if any man has a quarrel against you: even as Christ forgave you, so also do you forgive. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also you are called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.

+ The continuation of the Holy Gospel according to Luke
Luke ii: 42-52

    When Jesus was twelve years old, they, going up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast, and having fulfilled the days, when they returned, the Child Jesus remained in Jerusalem, and His parents knew it not. And thinking that He was in the company, they came a day's journey, and sought Him among His kinsfolk and acquaintances. And not finding Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. And it came to pass that after three days they found Him in the Temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them and asking them questions. And all that heard Him were astonished at His wisdom and His answers. And seeing Him they wondered. And His mother said to Him, "Son, why hast Thou done so to us? Behold, Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing." And He said to them, "How is it that you sought Me? Didst you not know that I must be about My Father's business? And they understood not the word that He spoke to them. And His mother kept all these words in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and grace with God and men.

    Barbara d’Hillehoust, and her husband Louis, had ventured from France to Canada in 1643 to work among the Indians. After her husband died, she was invited to Montreal, Quebec, where she founded an Association of the Holy Family in 1663. She received the encouragement of Monsignor François de Laval who was to become Bishop of Quebec-and, later her work received the encouragement of the saintly Pope Leo XIII, who raised the Association to the rank of an Arch-Confraternity in 1893, and composed part of the Mass and Office we celebrate today. The feast was extended tot he entire Church by Pope Benedict XV in 1921.[2]

    A major goal of the Arch-Confraternity and the Popes was to propose the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as model of Catholic family life for all of the faithful to imitate. Indeed the two and a half centuries or so that connected the d’Hillehoust mission in Canada and the pontificate of Pope Benedict XV were a very turbulent time-a time in which Christian families and Christendom itself came under serious attack by the philosophical and political movements of the time.

    To understand the situation, one must look to the spiritual and material culture of Western Europe around the time of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. Europeans were already becoming conscious of their place in the world. What today we call the “Commercial Revolution,” was already in progress, improving the conditions of all Europe through trade, making a variety of food and clothing available where previously two or three local crops were all that could be had. Yet, by modern standards, even the wealthy lived in conditions that we might find intolerable. Running water, central heating, and sanitary sewers were virtually unknown. Taking a bath was a complex task that most people put off as long as they could-you had to chop the wood (assuming you had some) to build the fire to heat the water you brought from the well or the creek in buckets-you had to have a big enough pot to boil the water, and then some kind of a tub (probably wooden or cast iron) to take the bath in. You had to make your own soap. And all but the most wealthy families shared the same bathwater.

    Food was rarely plentiful or varied in kind. In spite of trade, many regions were dependant on a few crops, and locally produced textiles. Much of that limited production came from cottage industries. In the towns a number of craft guilds produced stone, wood, and metal wares, a piece at a time, in relatively small quantities. Famine or plague could wipe an inhabited region of the map. By way of example, over a million people died in Ireland around 1850 when the potato crop failed for six years running.

    Modern medicine, even in its most basic forms, did not exist until the end of this period. In Pope Leo XIII’s time (about 1850), Ignatius Semelweiss first determined that germs carried disease. Alexander Fleming did not discover penicillin until 1928, six years after Benedict XV died and Pius XI was elected Pope. People simply died from infections, and many children did not become adults or even adolescents.

    Quite reasonably, people were thirsty for the material progress which human knowledge and ingenuity began to make in the centuries following Columbus. Material progress under such conditions is certainly a good thing, even for the spiritual part of man, for men and women lose heart, grow bitter, and may even lose their faith, when they shiver in the cold and dark, have little to eat, and bury their children in infancy-generation after generation, even in relatively good times.

    But there is a down side to rapid material progress as well-the problem is twofold. First, in those centuries mankind began to attribute all that is good to itself. Not only did people begin to ignore God as the source of goodness, but also they began to think that He had been stingy with them, and they began to blame His Church for restraining their further progress. People began to see their own personal well-being as the only goal and supreme law. The false theologians of the “Reformation” attempted to replace God’s Church with the personal inspiration of every Christian. The false philosophers of the “Enlightenment” began to replace God and divine providence with the false god of human reason. The Modernist heretics of the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries attempted (and continue to attempt) to replace reality itself-for having no God but themselves, they have no ground of absolute truth and morality-they have only their sentiments and their consensus of opinion.

    At the same time, rapid material progress has given mankind a sense of laziness and self-centeredness. It is no longer enough to have decent food, basic medicine, sanitation, warm clothing, running water, central heating, and electric light. The expectation of rapid progress extends far beyond what is necessary to what is luxurious, and perhaps even harmful. That expectation often excludes the welfare of the unitary family. A little more than a hundred years after Pope Leo XIII, we find ourselves buried in meaningless entertainments which separate the family, rather than bring it together. The agricultural life of the European peasant has given way to the city life of the Industrial Revolution-we have far more material goods, but we are jammed into small quarters and subject to continuous noise and disruptions of the spirit. We are exposed to numerous temptations to the sins of the flesh: in practical but immodest dress, in licentious movies and other media, in being separated from our families for hours (or days or weeks) and thrown together with others under conditions conducive to infidelity.

    There is the temptation to avoid having children, or to have them under very casual conditions. The Western civilization that we used to call “Christendom” is simply failing to reproduce itself, and will become extinct in this century if we do not change our ways.

    For all of these reasons, the Church’s holy Popes have urged us to adopt the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as our model of family life. As husbands, fathers, mothers, wives, and children we have in them the perfect models to imitate. Pope Leo tells us:

    To all fathers of families, Joseph is truly 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.[3]

    The duty of preserving and nurturing family life is incumbent upon all of us: men, women, and children; whether or not we have children; whether or not our parents and brothers and sisters are still among us. We must never tempt anyone to deviate from the ideals represented by Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. If we find ourselves with the opportunity to help a family to follow those ideals, we must do so as generously as our means allow.

    Always follow the advice we heard today from Saint Paul:

Put on, holy and beloved, a heart of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, forgive even as Christ forgave you. And above all these things put on charity (love), which is the bond of perfection.... Whatsoever you do-in word or deed-do all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.[4]




    [2]  Dom Guéranger, The Liturgical Year, Vol. III;;

    [3]  Apostolic Letter of Pope Leo XIII, Néminem fugit.

    [4]  Cf.  Colossians iii: 12-21.


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