PRAYER OF THE WEEK
A Prayer for a Family
O dear Jesus,
I humbly implore You to grant Your special graces to our family.
May our home be the shrine of peace, purity, love, labor and faith.
I beg You, dear Jesus, to protect and bless all of us, absent and
present, living and dead.
O Mary, loving Mother of Jesus, and our Mother,
pray to Jesus for our family, for all the families of the world,
to guard the womb of the unborn, the cradle of the newborn,
the schools of the young and their vocations.
Blessed Saint Joseph, holy guardian of Jesus and Mary,
assist us by your prayers in all the necessities of life.
Ask of Jesus that special grace which He granted to you,
to watch over our home at the pillow of the sick and the dying,
so that with Mary and with you, heaven may find our family unbroken
in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
O 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.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity
of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Sir 3:2-6, 12-14
God sets a father in honor over his children;
a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.
Whoever honors his father atones for sins,
and preserves himself from them.
When he prays, he is heard;
he stores up riches who reveres his mother.
Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children,
and, when he prays, is heard.
Whoever reveres his father will live a long life;
he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.
My son, take care of your father when he is old;
grieve him not as long as he lives.
Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him;
revile him not all the days of his life;
kindness to a father will not be forgotten,
firmly planted against the debt of your sins
–a house raised in justice to you.
Although all the emphasis, in these verses of holy Scripture just read to us, seems to be on the obligation of children to their parents, there is a profound lesson here for parents too. “Like father like son” is an old and a true saying very often. If the parents fail to do what is right and just in the sight of God they can hardly complain if their children turn out disobedient to God and to them. The young learn more from example than from precept. If parents give their children the example of a life of obedience to the laws of God, and their country–the children will in turn carry out their duties to God, to their parents and to their fellowman. There have been and there will be exceptions, of course, to this rule but they are exceptions; the vast majority follow the pattern laid down for them by their parents.
As you heard during your marriage ceremony: “children are a gift from God to you,” a gift for this life to be the joy of your young years and a help and comfort in your old age; but above and beyond that, they are a gift which you must do all in your power to return to God when their hour comes. You must not only strive to make them good citizens of this world but you must never forget that God gave them to you primarily so that you would make them citizens of heaven. You may fail, in spite of your best intentions and endeavors, but God will reward you nonetheless–the failure will not be laid to your door.
Today, on the feast-day of the only perfect family that ever lived on this earth, I would ask all parents to examine themselves and see how they are fulfilling this grave responsibility–which God has placed on them. Are they preparing their children by word and example, especially by example, to be worthy citizens of heaven where they will be their parents’ crown and glory?
Ps 128:1-2, 3, 4-5.
Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.
Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD,
who walks in his ways!
For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
blessed shall you be, and favored.
Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.
Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
in the recesses of your home;
your children like olive plants
around your table.
Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.
Behold, thus is the man blessed
who fears the LORD.
The LORD bless you from Zion:
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.
Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.
Brothers and sisters:
Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,
heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,
bearing with one another and forgiving one another,
if one has a grievance against another;
as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.
And over all these put on love,
that is, the bond of perfection.
And let the peace of Christ control your hearts,
the peace into which you were also called in one body.
And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,
as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another,
singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
with gratitude in your hearts to God.
And whatever you do, in word or in deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Wives, be subordinate to your husbands,
as is proper in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives,
and avoid any bitterness toward them.
Children, obey your parents in everything,
for this is pleasing to the Lord.
Fathers, do not provoke your children,
so they may not become discouraged.
Ninety per cent of the first readers of St. Paul’s letter–the first Christian converts of the town of Colossae–were pagans before their conversion. To practice the new Christian virtues was no easy task for people reared in the laxity and license of the paganism of their day. Yet they did practice these virtues and produced many saints and martyrs. After twenty centuries of Christianity one would expect that to live a full Christian life today should be less difficult but unfortunately it is not so. For the fact is our world is rapidly sinking back again into paganism–a paganism more inimical to truth and morality than the paganism of St. Paul’s day. The pagans of the Roman Empire were tired of vice and worldliness–they were looking for the truth and the real purpose of life. They found it in Christianity and cherished it. Today’s neo-pagans are tired of Christianity–they have found it wanting, because they are found wanting in its observance.
Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast
and when he was twelve years old,
they went up according to festival custom.
After they had completed its days, as they were returning,
the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem,
but his parents did not know it.
Thinking that he was in the caravan,
they journeyed for a day
and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances,
but not finding him,
they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.
After three days they found him in the temple,
sitting in the midst of the teachers,
listening to them and asking them questions,
and all who heard him were astounded
at his understanding and his answers.
When his parents saw him,
they were astonished,
and his mother said to him,
“Son, why have you done this to us?
Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”
And he said to them,
“Why were you looking for me?
Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
But they did not understand what he said to them.
He went down with them and came to Nazareth,
and was obedient to them;
and his mother kept all these things in her heart.
And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor
before God and man.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 94 Thanks to the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the understanding of both the realities and the words of the heritage of faith is able to grow in the life of the Church:
– “through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts”;1 it is in particular “theological research [which] deepens knowledge of revealed truth”.2
– “from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which [believers] experience”,3 the sacred Scriptures “grow with the one who reads them.”3
– “from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth”.5
CCC 472 This human soul that the Son of God assumed is endowed with a true human knowledge. As such, this knowledge could not in itself be unlimited: it was exercised in the historical conditions of his existence in space and time. This is why the Son of God could, when he became man, “increase in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man”,6 and would even have to inquire for himself about what one in the human condition can learn only from experience.7 This corresponded to the reality of his voluntary emptying of himself, taking “the form of a slave”.8
CCC 503 Mary’s virginity manifests God’s absolute initiative in the Incarnation. Jesus has only God as Father. “He was never estranged from the Father because of the human nature which he assumed… He is naturally Son of the Father as to his divinity and naturally son of his mother as to his humanity, but properly Son of the Father in both natures.”9
CCC 517 Christ’s whole life is a mystery of redemption. Redemption comes to us above all through the blood of his cross,10 but this mystery is at work throughout Christ’s entire life:
– already in his Incarnation through which by becoming poor he enriches us with his poverty;11
– in his hidden life which by his submission atones for our disobedience;12
– in his word which purifies its hearers;13
– in his healings and exorcisms by which “he took our infirmities and bore our diseases”;14
– and in his Resurrection by which he justifies us.15
CCC 531 During the greater part of his life Jesus shared the condition of the vast majority of human beings: a daily life spent without evident greatness, a life of manual labor. His religious life was that of a Jew obedient to the law of God,16 a life in the community. From this whole period it is revealed to us that Jesus was “obedient” to his parents and that he “increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.”17
CCC 534 The finding of Jesus in the temple is the only event that breaks the silence of the Gospels about the hidden years of Jesus.18 Here Jesus lets us catch a glimpse of the mystery of his total consecration to a mission that flows from his divine sonship: “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s work?”19 Mary and Joseph did not understand these words, but they accepted them in faith. Mary “kept all these things in her heart” during the years Jesus remained hidden in the silence of an ordinary life.
CCC 583 Like the prophets before him Jesus expressed the deepest respect for the Temple in Jerusalem. It was in the Temple that Joseph and Mary presented him forty days after his birth.20 At the age of twelve he decided to remain in the Temple to remind his parents that he must be about his Father’s business.21 He went there each year during his hidden life at least for Passover.22 His public ministry itself was patterned by his pilgrimages to Jerusalem for the great Jewish feasts.23
CCC 2197 The fourth commandment opens the second table of the Decalogue. It shows us the order of charity. God has willed that, after him, we should honor our parents to whom we owe life and who have handed on to us the knowledge of God. We are obliged to honor and respect all those whom God, for our good, has vested with his authority.
CCC 2599 The Son of God who became Son of the Virgin also learned to pray according to his human heart. He learns the formulas of prayer from his mother, who kept in her heart and meditated upon all the “great things” done by the Almighty.24 He learns to pray in the words and rhythms of the prayer of his people, in the synagogue at Nazareth and the Temple at Jerusalem. But his prayer springs from an otherwise secret source, as he intimates at the age of twelve: “I must be in my Father’s house.”25 Here the newness of prayer in the fullness of time begins to be revealed: his filial prayer, which the Father awaits from his children, is finally going to be lived out by the only Son in his humanity, with and for men.
1 DV 8 § 2; cf. Lk 2:19,51.
2 GS 62 § 7; cf. GS 44 § 2; DV 23; 24; UR 4.
3 DV 8 § 2.
4 DV 8 § 2.
5 St. Gregory the Great, Hom. in Ez. 1,7,8:PL 76,843D.
6 Lk 2:52.
7 Cf. Mk 6 38; 8 27; Jn 11:34; etc.
8 Phil 2:7.
9 Council of Friuli (796): DS 619; cf. Lk 2:48-49.
10 Cf. Eph 1:7; Col 1:13-14; 1 Pt 1:18-19.
11 Cf. 2 Cor 8:9.
12 Cf. Lk 2:51.
13 Cf. Jn 15:3.
14 Mt 8:17; cf. Is 53:4.
15 Cf. Rom 4:25.
16 Cf. Gal 4:4.
17 Lk 2:51-52.
18 Cf. Lk 2:41-52.
19 Lk 2:49 alt.
20 Lk 2:22-39.
21 Cf. Lk 2 46-49.
22 Cf. Lk 2 41.
23 Cf. Jn 2 13-14; 5:1, 14; 7:1, 10, 14; 8 2; 10:22-23.
24 Cf. Lk 1:49; 2:19; 2:51.
25 Lk 2:49.
The Church has appointed this Sunday within the octave of Christmas as the Feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth. She wants all Christian families to try to model their lives on this, the holiest of families that ever lived on earth. No family can ever hope to be as perfect as this one was, but every family must strive to imitate it if only from afar.
In Joseph, the father of the family has his model. Patiently and humbly he worked at his carpenter’s bench to provide the necessities of life for his wife and for the child Jesus. He could not always give them all he would wish for them but he did what he could gladly and humbly. To his neighbors he was just another carpenter, unknown to the world, of no importance in their eyes, yet his name will be known and revered until the end of time. Fathers, many (if not most) of you too, are living a life of obscurity–a life of monotonous toil–a daily struggle to provide bread for your family. You will never make the headlines in the newspapers because of what you are doing, but you are playing an important, an essential part, in God’s plan for providing citizens for heaven.
If you carry out faithfully the task God has given you, if you provide for and protect the wife and family God has committed to your care you will make the headlines in the world to come, your names will be written in the Book of Life.
Mothers of families, in Mary you have the perfect example you should strive to follow. She was a dutiful, faithful wife and an ideal and loving mother. How often she must have regretted that her beloved spouse had to struggle so hard to earn their meager, daily bread. How great must have been her grief that she could not give her beloved Child more comforts in his infancy and youth. She had days of sorrow and anxiety, sorrow which culminated at the foot of the cross on Calvary, but she accepted it all as God’s will for the salvation of the world. You too have your days of anxiety and your years perhaps of worry–worries which will not end till you draw your last breath. But think of your Model, turn to Mary for courage and for help. She can and will get you the strength to keep going on the hard road of motherhood.
Like her, you too have a great task to perform for God. You have the eternal salvation of your family in your hands. Their future in this world and in the more important world–the next–will depend largely on how you behave as mother of the family. Your greatest joy in heaven, after the beatific vision, will be, please God, that you will be surrounded by your family which, aided by God’s grace, you did so much to bring there.
Children : your duty in the family is to love, honor and obey your parents. And your model is none other than Jesus of Nazareth who, though he was God, made himself subject to Joseph and Mary. He who was God, has set you an example which you must follow. Your obedience will never be as perfect as his but it can and should be as perfect as you can make it. Be a comfort and a consolation to your parents. Remember always what they have done for you in your infancy when you could not help yourself. Remember what they have done and are still doing for you in order to fit you to take your place in this life and in the next.
Show your thankfulness and appreciation by doing what they tell you. You may not see the reason for all their restrictions and all their commands but it is because they have your welfare at heart and because they truly love you that such commands and restrictions are placed on you. It is only later on in life that you will fully understand the true love they had for you and the great sacrifices they made for you so that you would be worthy of them and worthy of your heavenly father who gave you to them. Show your appreciation now while you have them.
Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission of Franciscan Press.
Passover and Family
In the course of a year, a people is always in danger of disintegrating, not only through external causes, but also interiorly, and of losing hold of the inner motivation which sustains it. It needs to return to its fundamental origin… We experience the primal, chaotic powers rising up from the very midst of a progressive society – which seems to know everything and to be able to do anything – and attacking the very progress of which it is so proud. We see how, in the midst of prosperity, technological achievement, and the scientific domination of the world, a nation can be destroyed from within; we see how the creation can be threatened by the chaotic powers which lurk in the depths of the human heart. We realize that neither money nor technology nor organizational ability alone can banish chaos. Only the real protective wall given to us by the Lord, the new family he has created for us, can do this… Passover is a summons, urgently reminding us that the family is the living home in which humanity is nurtured, which banishes chaos and futility, and which must be protected as such… The individual family cannot survive; it will disintegrate unless it is kept safe within the larger family which guarantees it and gives it security. So this night needs to be the night in which we set out once again on our twin paths: we set out on the path to the new city, the new family, the Church, and dedicate ourselves irrevocably to her, to our heart’s true home; and then, on the basis of this family of Jesus Christ, we can proceed to grasp what it meant by the human family and by the humanity which sustains and protects us.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Act of Consecration of a Christian Family to the Holy Family
To the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Oh Mother Most Pure,
we come to You as a family
and consecrate ourselves to your most Immaculate Heart.
We come to You as a family
and place our trust in Your powerful intercession.
Oh Dearest Mother Mary,
teach us as a mother teaches her children,
for our souls are soiled
and our prayers are weak
because of our sinful hearts.
ready to respond to You
and follow Your way,
for Your way leads us
to the heart of Your Son, Jesus.
We are ready to be cleansed and purified.
Come then Virgin Most Pure,
and embrace us with Your motherly mantle.
Make our hearts whiter than snow
and as pure as a spring of fresh water.
Teach us to pray,
so that our prayers may become more beautiful
than the singing of the birds at the break of dawn.
Dear Mother Mary,
we entrust to Your Immaculate Heart of hearts,
our family and our entire future.
Lead us all to our homeland which is Heaven.
Immaculate Heart of Mary,
pray for us.