Entry 0320: Reflections on the feast of the Holy Family by Pope Benedict XVI during His Pontificate
On six occasions during his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the Feast of the Holy Family, on 31 December 2006, 30 December 2007, 28 December 2008, 27 December 2009, 26 December 2010, and 30 December 2012. Here are the texts of the six brief reflections delivered before the recitation of the Angelus.
The silence of Joseph, a just man (see Mt 1:19), and the example of Mary who kept all these things in her heart (see Lk 2:51), usher us into the mystery of the Holy Family, full of faith and humanity. I hope that all Christian families will live in God’s presence with the same love and the same joy as the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 31 December 2006
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On this last Sunday of the year we are celebrating the Feast of the Holy Family of
. I address
with joy all the families of the world, wishing them the peace and love that
Jesus brought us in coming among us at Christmas. Nazareth
In the Gospel we do not find discourses on the family but an event which is worth more than any words: God wanted to be born and to grow up in a human family. In this way he consecrated the family as the first and ordinary means of his encounter with humanity.
In his life spent at
Jesus honored the Virgin Mary and the righteous Joseph, remaining under their
authority throughout the period of his childhood and his adolescence (see Lk
2: 41-52). In this way he shed light on the primary value of the family in
the education of the person.
Jesus was introduced by Mary and Joseph into the religious community and frequented the synagogue of
With them, he learned to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, as the Gospel passage offered for
our meditation by today’s liturgy tells us.
When he was 12 years old, he stayed behind in the
and it took his parents all of three days to find him. With this act he made them
understand that he “had to see to his Father’s affairs”, in other words, to the
mission that God had entrusted to him (see Lk 2: 41-52).
This Gospel episode reveals the most authentic and profound vocation of the family: that is, to accompany each of its members on the path of the discovery of God and of the plan that he has prepared for him or her.
Mary and Joseph taught Jesus primarily by their example: in his parents he came to know the full beauty of faith, of love for God and for his Law, as well as the demands of justice, which is totally fulfilled in love (see Rom 13: 10).
From them he learned that it is necessary first of all to do God’s will, and that the spiritual bond is worth more than the bond of kinship.
The Holy Family of Nazareth is truly the “prototype” of every Christian family which, united in the Sacrament of Marriage and nourished by the Word and the Eucharist, is called to carry out the wonderful vocation and mission of being the living cell not only of society but also of the Church, a sign and instrument of unity for the entire human race.
Let us now invoke for every family, especially families in difficulty, the protection of Mary Most Holy and of
May they sustain such families so that they can resist the disintegrating
forces of a certain contemporary culture which undermines the very foundations
of the family institution.
May they help Christian families to be, in every part of the world, living images of God’s love.
FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY
St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 30 December 2007
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, we are celebrating the Feast of the Holy Family. As we follow the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, let us fix our gaze on Jesus, Mary and Joseph and adore the mystery of a God who chose to be born of a woman, the Blessed Virgin, and to enter this world in the way common to all humankind. By so doing he sanctified the reality of the family, filling it with divine grace and fully revealing its vocation and mission. The Second Vatican Council dedicated much attention to the family. Married partners, it said, must be witnesses of faith to each other and to their children (see Lumen Gentium, no. 35). The Christian family thus shares in the Church’s prophetic vocation: with its way of living it “proclaims aloud both the present power of the
and the hope of the blessed life” (ibid.). Then, as my venerable
Predecessor John Paul II tirelessly repeated, the good of the person and of
society is closely connected to the “healthy state” of the family (see Gaudium
et Spes, no. 47). The Church, therefore, is committed to defending and to
fostering “the dignity and supremely sacred value of the married state” (ibid.).
To this end, an important event is being held in Kingdom of God Madrid this very day, whose participants I
now address in Spanish.
I greet the participants in the Meeting for Families that is taking place in
Madrid this Sunday,
together with the Cardinals, Bishops and priests who have accompanied them. In
contemplating the mystery of the Son of God who came into the world surrounded
by the love of Mary and Joseph, I ask Christian families to experience the
loving presence of the Lord in their lives. I likewise encourage them, drawing
inspiration from Christ’s love for humanity, to bear witness to the world of
the beauty of human love, marriage and the family. Founded on the indissoluble
union between a man and a woman, the family constitutes the privileged context
in which human life is welcomed and protected from its beginning to its natural
end. Thus, parents have the right and the fundamental obligation to raise their
children in the faith and values which give dignity to human life. It is
worthwhile working for the family and marriage because it is worthwhile working
for the human being, God’s most precious creature. I have a special word for
children, so that they may love and pray for their fathers and mothers and
their siblings; to young people, so that encouraged by their parents’ love,
they may follow generously their own vocation to marriage, priestly or
religious life; to the elderly and the sick, so that they may find needed help
and understanding. And you, dear spouses, may you always count on God’s grace
so that your love may be increasingly fruitful and faithful every day. I
entrust the outcome of this celebration to the hands of Mary, who “with her “yes’
she opened the door of our world to God” (Spe Salvi, no. 49). Many
thanks and happy holidays!
Let us now turn to the Blessed Virgin, praying for the good of the family and for all the families in the world.
FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY
St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 28 December 2008
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On this Sunday following the Nativity of the Lord we are joyfully celebrating the Holy Family of Nazareth. It is a most suitable context because Christmas is the Feast of the family par excellence. This is demonstrated by numerous traditions and social customs, especially the practice of gathering together as a family for festive meals and for greetings and the exchange of gifts; and how can the hardship and suffering caused by certain family wounds which on these occasions are amplified go unnoticed? Jesus willed to be born and to grow up in a human family; he had the Virgin Mary as his mother and Joseph who acted as his father; they raised and educated him with immense love. Jesus’ family truly deserves the title “Holy”, for it was fully engaged in the desire to do the will of God, incarnate in the adorable presence of Jesus. On the one hand, it was a family like all others and as such, it is a model of conjugal love, collaboration, sacrifice and entrustment to divine
Providence, hard work and solidarity in
short, of all those values that the family safeguards and promotes, making an
important contribution to forming the fabric of every society. At the same
time, however, the Family of Nazareth was unique, different from all other
families because of its singular vocation linked to the mission of the Son of
God. With precisely this uniqueness it points out to every family and in the
first place to Christian families God’s horizon, the sweet and demanding
primacy of his will, the prospect of Heaven to which we are all destined. For
all this, today we thank God, but also the Virgin Mary and St Joseph, who with much faith and
willingness cooperated in the Lord’s plan of salvation.
Thousands of people are meeting in
today to express the beauty and value of the family. I would now like to speak
to them in Spanish.
I now address a cordial greeting to the participants gathered at this moving celebration in
to pray for the family and to commit with fortitude and hope to work in its favor.
The family is certainly a grace of God through which transpires what God
himself is: Love an entirely free love that sustains boundless fidelity, even
in times of difficulty or dejection. These qualities are reflected eminently in
the Holy Family in which Jesus came into the world, was raised and was filled
with wisdom, with Mary’s thoughtful care and St Joseph’s faithful custody. Dear families,
do not let the love, openness to life and incomparable ties that unite your
home weaken. Ask God for this constantly, pray together so that your
resolutions may be enlightened by faith and strengthened by divine grace on the
path to holiness. Thus, with the joy of sharing all things in love, you will
give the world a beautiful witness to how important the family is for the human
person and for society. The Pope is beside you, praying the Lord especially for
those in every family who are most in need of health, work, comfort and
company. In this Angelus prayer, I entrust you all to our Mother in Heaven, the
Most Blessed Virgin Mary.
Dear brothers and sisters, in speaking of the family, I cannot then omit to recall that from 14 to 18 January 2009 the Sixth World Meeting of Families will be taking place in
Let us pray from this moment for this important ecclesial event and entrust
every family to the Lord, especially those families most sorely tried by life’s
difficulties and by the scourges of misunderstanding and division. May the
Redeemer, born in Bethlehem,
give to all of them serenity and the strength to walk united on the path of
FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY
St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 27 December 2009
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today is Holy Family Sunday. We can still identify ourselves with the shepherds of
Bethlehem who hastened to
the grotto as soon as they had received the Angel’s announcement and found “Mary
and Joseph, and the Babe lying in the manger” (Lk 2: 16). Let us too pause to
contemplate this scene and reflect on its meaning. The first witnesses of
Christ’s birth, the shepherds, found themselves not only before the Infant
Jesus but also a small family: mother, father and newborn son. God had chosen
to reveal himself by being born into a human family and the human family thus
became an icon of God! God is the Trinity, he is a communion of love; so is the
family despite all the differences that exist between the Mystery of God and
his human creature, an expression that reflects the unfathomable Mystery of God
as Love. In marriage the man and the woman, created in God’s image, become “one
flesh” (Gen 2: 24), that is a communion of love that generates new life. The
human family, in a certain sense, is an icon of the Trinity because of its
interpersonal love and the fruitfulness of this love.
Today’s Liturgy presents the famous Gospel episode of the 12-year-old Jesus who stays behind in the
Temple in Jerusalem unbeknown to his parents who,
surprised and anxious, discover him three days later conversing with the
teachers. Jesus answers his Mother who asks for an explanation that he must “be
in his Father’s house” that is God’s house (see Lk 2: 49). In this episode the
boy Jesus appears to us full of zeal for God and for the Temple. Let us ask ourselves: from whom did
Jesus learn love for his Father’s affairs? As Son he certainly had an intimate
knowledge of his Father, of God, and a profound and permanent relationship with
him but, in his own culture he had of course learned prayers and love for the Temple and for the
Institutions of Israel from his parents. We may therefore say that Jesus’
decision to stay on at the Temple
was above all the result of his close relationship with the Father, but it was
also a result of the education he had received from Mary and Joseph. Here we
can glimpse the authentic meaning of Christian education: it is the fruit of a
collaboration between educators and God that must always be sought. The
Christian family is aware that children are a gift and a project of God.
Therefore it cannot consider that it possesses them; rather, in serving God’s
plan through them, the family is called to educate them in the greatest
freedom, which is precisely that of saying “yes” to God in order to do his
will. The Virgin Mary is the perfect example of this “yes”. Let us entrust all
families to her, praying in particular for their precious educational mission.
And I now address in Spanish all those who are taking part in the Feast of the Holy Family in
I cordially greet the Pastors and faithful who have gathered in
Madrid to celebrate joyfully the Sacred
Family of Nazareth. How is it possible not to remember the true meaning of this
feast? Having come into the world, into the heart of a family, God shows that
this institution is a sure path on which to encounter and come to know him, as
well as an ongoing call to work for the unity of all people centered on love.
Hence one of the greatest services that we Christians can render our fellow
human beings is to offer them our serene and unhesitating witness as a family
founded on the marriage of a man and a woman, safeguarding and promoting the
family, since it is of supreme importance for the present and future of
humanity. Indeed, the family is the best school at which to learn to live out
those values which give dignity to the person and greatness to peoples. In the
family sorrows and joys are shared, since all feel enveloped in the love that
prevails at home, a love that stems from the mere fact of belonging to the same
family. I ask God that in your homes you may always breathe this love of total
self-giving and faithfulness which Jesus brought to the world with his birth,
nurturing and strengthening it with daily prayer, the constant practice of the
virtues, reciprocal understanding and mutual respect. I then encourage you so
that, trusting in the motherly intercession of Mary Most Holy, Queen of
Families, and under the powerful protection of St Joseph, her spouse, you may
dedicate yourselves tirelessly to this beautiful mission which the Lord has
placed in your hands. In addition you may count on my closeness and affection,
and I ask you to convey to your loved ones who are in the greatest need or find
themselves in difficulty a very special greeting from the Pope. I warmly bless
FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY
St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 26 December 2010
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Gospel according to Luke recounts that when the shepherds of
Bethlehem had received the Angel’s
announcement of the Messiah’s birth “they went with haste, and found Mary and
Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger” (2:16). The first eyewitnesses of Jesus’
birth therefore beheld a family scene: a mother, a father and a newborn son.
For this reason the Liturgy has us celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family on
the First Sunday after Christmas. This year it occurred the very day after
Christmas, and, taking precedence over the Feast of St Stephen, invites us
to contemplate this “icon” in which the little Jesus appears at the centre of
his parents’ affection and care.
In the poor grotto of Bethlehem — the Fathers of the Church wrote — shines a very bright light, a reflection of the profound mystery which envelopes that Child, which Mary and Joseph cherish in their hearts and which can be seen in their expression, in their actions, and especially in their silence. Indeed, they preserve in their inmost depths the words of the Angel’s Annunciation to Mary: “the Child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Lk 1:35).
Yet every child’s birth brings something of this mystery with it! Parents who receive a child as a gift know this well and often speak of it in this way. We have all heard people say to a father and a mother: “this child is a gift, a miracle!” Indeed, human beings do not experience procreation merely as a reproductive act but perceive its richness and intuit that every human creature who is born on earth is the “sign” par excellence of the Creator and Father who is in Heaven.
How important it is, therefore, that every child coming into the world be welcomed by the warmth of a family! External comforts do not matter: Jesus was born in a stable and had a manger as his first cradle, but the love of Mary and of Joseph made him feel the tenderness and beauty of being loved. Children need this: the love of their father and mother. It is this that gives them security and, as they grow, enables them to discover the meaning of life. The Holy Family of Nazareth went through many trials, such as the “massacre of the innocents” — as recounted in the Gospel according to Matthew — which obliged Joseph and Mary to flee to
(see 2:13-23). Yet, trusting in divine Providence, they found their stability and
guaranteed Jesus a serene childhood and a sound upbringing.
Dear friends, the Holy Family is of course unique and unrepeatable, but at the same time it is a “model of life” for every family because Jesus, true man, chose to be born into a human family and thereby blessed and consecrated it. Let us therefore entrust all families to Our Lady and to
Joseph, so that they do not lose heart in the face of
trials and difficulties but always cultivate conjugal love and devote
themselves with trust to the service of life and education.
FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY OF
Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 30 December 2012
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today is the Feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth. In the liturgy the passage from Luke’s Gospel presents to us the Virgin Mary and
Joseph. Faithful to the tradition, they go to Jerusalem for the
Passover taking the 12-year-old Jesus with them. The first time that Jesus had
entered the Temple of the Lord was 40 days after his birth, when his parents
had offered on his behalf “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons” (Lk
2:24) on his behalf, that is, the sacrifice offered by the poor.
“Luke, whose entire Gospel is shot through with a theology of the poor and a theology of poverty, is once again making it abundantly clear that Jesus’ family belongs to the poor of Israel, and that it was among such as them that the promises would be fulfilled” (Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, p. 81).
Today Jesus is once again in the
but this time he has a different role, which involves him in the first person.
He makes the pilgrimage, with Mary and Joseph, to Jerusalem as prescribed by the Law (see Ex
23:17, 34:23 ff) even though he was not yet in his thirteenth year: a sign of
the Holy Family’s deep devotion. Yet, when his parents set out on their return
something unexpected happens. Without saying a word Jesus remains in the city. Mary
and Joseph search for him for three days and find him in the Temple, conversing
with the teachers of the Law (Lk 2: 46, 47); and when they ask him for an
explanation, Jesus answers that they should not be surprised since this is his
place, the house of his Father, who is God (The Infancy Narratives, p.
123). “He”, Origen writes, “professes to be in the temple of his Father, the
Father who has revealed himself to us and whose Son he says he is” (Homilies
on the Gospel of Luke, 18, 5).
Mary and Joseph’s anxiety about Jesus is the same as that of every parent who educates a child, introduces him or her to life and to understanding reality. Today, therefore, it is only right to say a special prayer to the Lord for all the families of the world. Emulating the Holy Family of Nazareth, may parents be seriously concerned with the development and upbringing of their children so that they grow up to be responsible and honest citizens, never forgetting that faith is a precious gift to be nurtured in their children by their own example.
At the same time let us pray that every child be welcomed as a gift of God and be supported by the love of both parents in order to increase, like the Lord Jesus “in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man” (Lk 2:52).
May the love, loyalty and dedication of Mary and Joseph be an example to all Christian couples who are not the friends or masters of their children’s lives, but rather are custodians of this incomparable gift of God.
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