Tag Archives: Holy Family

Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization

Holy Family ABronzinoIn advance of the October 2014 extraordinary Synod of Bishops on Marriage and family, the “instrumentum laboris,” —the working document of 75 pages— offers a broad picture of the ways the Catholic Church witnesses to the Gospel and teaches and lives the moral life and the significant work that needs to be done to adequately address contemporary challenges. The office for synods published “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.

The Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops is the third of this category. One might say this is the first synod with such wide interest, international participation in the initial stages and hope for good work going forward.

The Pastoral Challenges of the Family” is based on the feedback and analysis requested from the national various Conferences of Bishops around the world late in 2013. So, besides the questionnaire, the document also incorporates the concerns of those who sent their reflections directly to the Pontifical Council for the family with the appropriate theological reflection. This is the first Synod for Lorenzo Cardinal Baldisseri.

The Holy Father has placed the work of the Synod under the patronage of the Holy Family. The Synodal prayer concludes the instrumentum labors.

The Holy Family of Nazareth: an ‘incomparable gift from God’

English: Holy Family, Mary, Joseph, and child ...

Today is the
feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth. In the liturgy the passage from Luke’s
Gospel presents the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph who, faithful to tradition, go
to Jerusalem for the Passover with the twelve-year-old Jesus. The first time
Jesus had entered the Temple of the Lord was forty days after his birth, when
his parents had offered “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons”
(Luke 2:24) on his behalf, which is the sacrifice of poor. “Luke, whose
Gospel is filled with a whole theology of the poor and poverty, makes it clear
… that Jesus’ family was counted among the poor of Israel; he helps us to
understand that it was there among them where the fulfillment of God’s promise
matured” ( The Infancy Narratives, 96). Today Jesus is in the Temple
, but this time he has a different role, which involves him in the first
person. He undertakes the pilgrimage to Jerusalem as prescribed by the Law (Ex
23.17, 34.23 ff) together with Mary and Joseph, although he was not yet in his
thirteenth year: a sign of the deep religiosity of the Holy Family. But when
his parents return to Nazareth, something unexpected happens: he, without
saying anything, remains in the City. For three days, Mary and Joseph search
for him and find him in the Temple, speaking with the teachers of the Law (Lk
2: 46 ,47), and when they ask him for an explanation, Jesus tells them they
have no cause to wonder, because that is his place, that is his home, with the
Father, who is God (The Infancy Narratives 143). “He – Origen writes –
professes to be in the temple of his Father, the Father who has revealed
Himself to us and of which he says he is the Son” (Homilies on the Gospel
of Luke, 18, 5).

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Holy Family

Holy Family JdeBray.jpg

God, who were pleased to give us the shining example of the Holy Family,
graciously grant that we may imitate them in practicing the virtues of family
life and in the bonds of charity, and so, in the joy of your house, delight one
day in eternal rewards.

Today is a fitting day to follow the Fourth Commandment: Honor your father and mother. Of course, this applies to our living and deceased parents.

The consistent teaching of the Church, based on sacred Scripture and Tradition, tells us that the family is an irreplaceable contribution to the good of society. In an eminent
way the family, through responsible motherhood and fatherhood, and the spouses’ unique and singular participation in God’s work of co-creation. Pope Benedict XVI reminds that us that “the
natural family, as an intimate of life and love, based on marriage between a
man and a woman, constitutes ‘the primary place of humanization for the person
and society,’ and ‘a cradle of life and love'” (Message for the Celebration
of the World Day of Peace 2008).

The Holy Family

Holy Family, Rupnik 2007.jpg

This mosaic
of the Holy Family is located in the Chapel at the Saint Peter Canisius, the
Jesuit House of Writers located on the Borgo Spirito Santo, Rome. The mosaic is by Father Mark Rupnik,
S.J. and the artisans of the Centro Alleti (Rome) December 23, 2007. Father
Rupnik inspiration were the Contemplations on the Incarnation and the Nativity
from Saint Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises.

In the Exercises we read about
the Nativity. “The first point is [for me] to see the persons, that is, to see our
Lady, and Joseph, and the servant girl (the ancilla, the handmaid), and the
infant Jesus after he is born, making myself a poor little fellow and unworthy
little slave boy, looking at them, contemplating them, and serving them in
their needs as if I were there present, with all possible respect and

A version of Father Rupnik’s Holy Family mosaic is found in the Holy Family Chapel at the Knights of Columbus, Supreme Council, New Haven, Connecticut. 

On the Holy Family by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

Virign & Child Fiesole altar Angelico.jpg

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, no, 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 have you done so to us?

Who among the angels may thus presume? It is enough for
them, and for them their greatest honor, that while they are spirits by nature
they have become and are called angels, as David testifies: Who makes your
angels spirits. [Ps.103: 4] Mary, knowing herself a 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 are the angels subject: Whom principalities and powers
: 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
. 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
goes. [Rev. 14: 4] Of what praise shall you esteem her worthy who also goes
before Him?

Learn, O Man, to obey. Learn, O Earth, to be subject. Learn, O
Dust, to submit. The Evangelist in speaking of his 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: Get behind me, Satan: because you savor not the things that are of God. [Mark 8:

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 savor 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 goes, 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 straightness should some even from among the
virgins go aside
, then must I say what is true, that neither do they follow the
Lamb to wherever he goes. 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 goes: 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 [you and me] who follows Him in humility, has
chosen a more wholesome 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.

Holy Family ATiarini.jpg

Truly blessed was Mary who possessed both
humility and virginity. And truly wondrous the virginity of those whose fruitfulness is not stained, 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, [Ps. 67: 36] shows
Himself in His own Mother yet more wondrous still. Venerate then, Ye spouses,
this integrity of flesh in our corruptible flesh. Revere likewise, you virgins,
fruitfulness in virginity. Let all men imitate the humility of God’s Mother.
Honor, you angels, the Mother of your King, you who adore the Offspring of our
; 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 honor and glory and empire for ever and ever.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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