The Feast of the Holy Family is celebrated today in the Catholic Church throughout the world. This feast day was officially established by Pope Leo XIII in 1893, to honor the family of Jesus of Nazareth, his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and her husband Joseph. The Holy Family of Nazareth is venerated as a model and an inspiration for all Catholic families.
As the Catholic married couple reflect on Mary and Joseph living as husband and wife, they are inspired to be more caring, respectful and affectionate in their love for one another.
The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) referred to the Catholic family as “the domestic Church”: “From Christian marriage there comes the family, in which new citizens of human society are born. By the grace of the Holy Spirit received in Baptism, these are made children of God, thus perpetuating the People of God through the centuries. The family is, so to speak, the domestic Church. Parents, by their words and example, should be the first teachers of the Faith to their children”. (The Church n.11)
This is followed up by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which teaches: “The Christian family is the first place where children first learn the practice of the Faith. For this reason the family home is rightly called ‘the domestic Church’, a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and Christian charity”. (CCC 1666)
In speaking of Christian prayer the Catechism teaches: “The Christian family is the first place of education in prayer. Based on the sacrament of Marriage, the family is the ‘domestic Church’, where God’s children learn to pray ‘as the Church’, and to persevere in prayer. For young children in particular, daily family prayer is the first witness of the Church’s living memory, awakened patiently by the Holy Spirit.” (CCC 2685)
The feast of the Holy Family was instituted to inspire Catholic parents, and to give them and their children the example of Jesus, Mary and Joseph to admire and imitate.
The feast of the Holy Family is usually celebrated on the Sunday between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. If there is no Sunday between Christmas and New Year, as happens this year, the Holy Family is celebrated on December 30th.