Recently I have been reading some biographies of the founding fathers of our nation and it is interesting to note how they saw, very clearly, that the success of the Republic would be contingent on the virtue and morals of the people who made it up, as well as the strength of family life. We can see, on the other side of this understanding, what happens to a culture, a society, a nation when family life begins to break down. When family life breaks down it is both an indication of interior chaos and a contributor to further chaos. Is there anyone who can seriously doubt that many of the difficulties our own culture faces today are due to that breakdown of the family? And that the breakdown of the family contributes to difficulties in our culture? In many of the same ways, the Church is particularly bound to the family – the Second Vatican Council goes so far as to talk about how the family is the “domestic church” – where the Gospel is proclaimed and lived out, the Faith passed on to future generations, and God is worshipped and adored. How many of us have found our faith lives growing and deepening within our own families? Because of the centrality of the family to the life of the Church it is important for families to have a model and example to look up to and to strive to imitate and the obvious family is the Holy Family.
At the core of the Holy Family, we see Christ Himself – it is having Christ at the very center of the family that makes a family truly holy. When Christ is the One that the families center themselves around - both as individuals and as a family unit - then the individuals and the family together are transformed and begin to resemble Him in their thoughts, words and actions. For Christ to be at the center of our family means a number of things, the first is the importance of prayer and the sacramental life of the Church, particularly the Sunday Mass – both as individuals and as a family unit. The second is an awareness of the Catholic Faith that is not confined to one hour a week, but which permeates the life of the family during the week the entire year through. The third is the commitment on the part of each member of the family to deepen their own individual faith and to live it out both within the “walls” of the family and outside of it. We look to the Holy Family to help us reflect on how to live out our lives in our families, so that they too may grow in holiness – so that our family homes may not only be the place for family members to gather or live, but may truly become the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.
(This article is part of a series that will appear over the course of this year on the Monthly Devotions of the Church’s year).