Friday, December 30, 2011

The Holy Family -- "Icon of the Domestic Church"

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family. We look to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as the most beautiful example of all that a family can and should be. We implore their intercession as we seek to emulate their love for one another.

A simple Google Image search renders hundreds of beautiful artistic images of the Holy Family. I started this post almost an hour ago and became engrossed in looking at and praying with some of those images. I chose the above image for this post because I love how it shows the practical human side of the Holy Family as well as their great holiness. I was immediately drawn to the brilliant light surrounding Jesus and then the halos above Mary and Joseph. However, seeing them engaged in their daily work together really touched me. So many artistic representations of the Holy Family are "posed" but this one depicts them going about their everyday lives.

And it's in the midst of our everyday lives --- in doing the laundry, referreeing the squabbles, paying the bills, doing the dishes, playing board games, raking the leaves, eating breakfast --- that we truly love one another and learn how to grow in holiness. All of our interactions... our working and playing and praying together... make up our family life, our domestic Church. However, if all of those daily tasks are not grounded in and nourished by prayer they become drudgery and distractions rather than paths to holiness.

In this week's message to the General Audience, Pope Benedict spoke beautifully about the role of prayer in the formation of the domestic church. "The Holy Family", Benedict XVI concluded, "is an icon of the domestic Church, which is called to pray together. The family is the first school of prayer where, from their infancy, children learn to perceive God thanks to the teaching and example of their parents. An authentically Christian education cannot neglect the experience of prayer. If we do not learn to pray in the family, it will be difficult to fill this gap later. I would, then, like to invite people to rediscover the beauty of praying together as a family, following the school of the Holy Family of Nazareth".

And so let's take to heart Pope Benedict's challenge today. Let's recommit ourselves to diligent family prayer. As we prepare to begin a new year, let's take a loving look at our domestic church and discern the areas in which God is calling us to stretch and grow a little bit or a lot.

In our family (inspired by Lacy at Catholic Icing) we are discerning a saint whom we will "adopt" for the year. We will learn about that saint, pray for his/her intercession, and seek to grow in the virtues he/she models for us. We are also committing to praying the Rosary together more frequently.

May 2012 be a blessed and fruitful year for all of our families.

Prayer to the Holy Family

This prayer is taken from Prayer Book for Religious, compiled by Fr. F. X. Lasance, S.J. (Benziger Brothers, 1904). Its language is dated, but its content is beautiful.

O most loving Jesus, Who by Thy sublime and beautiful virtues of humility, obedience, poverty, modesty, charity, patience and gentleness, and by the example of Thy domestic life, didst bless with peace and happiness the family Thou didst choose on earth, in Thy clemency look down upon this household, humbly prostrate before Thee and imploring Thy mercy. Remember that this family belongs to Thee; for to Thee we have in a special way dedicated and devoted ourselves. Look upon us in Thy loving kindness; preserve us from danger; give us help in time of need, and grant us the grace to persevere to the end in the imitation of Thy Holy Family; that having revered Thee and loved Thee faithfully on earth, we may bless and praise Thee eternally in heaven.

O Mary, most sweet Mother, to thy intercession we have recourse, knowing that thy Divine Son will hear thy prayers.

And do thou, O glorious Patriarch, St. Joseph, assist us by thy powerful mediation, and offer, by the hands of Mary, our prayers to Jesus. Amen.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, pray for us.

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