POPE FRANCIS’ REFLECTION ON THE FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY
Some addresses given by Pope Francis on the Feast of the Holy Family on different years.
Saint Peter’s Square
Holy Family Year C Sunday, 26 December 2021
Dear brothers and sisters, buongiorno!
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth. God chose a humble and simple family through which to come into our midst. Let us contemplate in amazement the beauty of this mystery, emphasizing two concrete aspects for our families.
The first: the family is the story from which we originate. Each one of us has our own story. None of us was born magically, with a magic wand. We all have our own story and the family is the story from which we originate. The Gospel of today’s liturgy reminds us that even Jesus is the son of a family story. We see him traveling to Jerusalem with Mary and Joseph for the Passover; then he makes his mommy and daddy worried when they do not find him; found again, he returns home with them (cf. Lk 2:41-51). It is beautiful to see Jesus inserted into the warp of familial affections which were born and grew in the caresses and concerns of his parents. This is important for us as well: we come from a story composed of bonds of love, and the person we are today was born not so much out of the material goods that we make use of, but from the love that we have received, from the love in the heart of the family. We may not have been born into an exceptional family, one without problems, but this is our story – everyone must think: this is my story – these are our roots: if we cut them off, life dries up! God did not make us to be lone rangers, but to walk together. Let us thank him and pray to him for our families. God thinks about us and wants us to be together: grateful, united, capable of preserving our roots. We need to think about this, about our own story.
The second aspect: we need to learn each day how to be a family. In the Gospel, we see that even in the Holy Family things did not all go well: there were unexpected problems, anxiety, suffering. The Holy Family on holy cards does not exist. Mary and Joseph lose Jesus and search for him anxiously, only to find him three days later. And when, seated among the teachers in the Temple, he responds that he had to be about his Father’s business, they do not understand. They need time to learn to know their son. So it is with us too: each day, a family needs to learn how to listen to each other to understand each other, to walk together, to face conflicts and difficulties. It is a daily challenge and it is overcome with the right attitude, through simple actions, caring for the details of our relationships. And this too helps us a lot in order to talk within the family, talk at table, dialogue between parents and children, dialogue among siblings. It helps us experience our family roots that come from our grandparents. Dialogue with the grandparents!
And how is this done? Let us look to Mary, who in today’s Gospel says to Jesus: “Your father and I have been searching for you” (v. 48). Your father and I; it does not say, I and your father. Before the “I”, comes “you”! Let us learn this: before the “I” comes “you”. In my language there is an adjective for the people who put the “I” before the “you”: “Me, myself and I, for myself and my own good”. People who are like this – first “I” and then “you”. No, in the Holy Family, first “you” and then “I”. To protect harmony in the family, the dictatorship of the “I” needs to be fought – when the “I” inflates. It is dangerous when, instead of listening to each other, we blame each other for mistakes; when, rather than showing care for each other, we are fixated on our own needs; when instead of dialoguing, we isolate ourselves with our mobile phones – it is sad at dinner in a family when everyone is on their own cell phones without speaking to each other, everyone speaking on their own phones; when we mutually accuse each other, always repeating the same phrases, restaging an old scene in which each person wants to be right and that always ends in cold silence, that silence you can cut with a knife, cold, after a family discussion. This is horrible, really horrible! I repeat a piece of advice: in the evening, when everything is over, always make peace. Never go to bed without making peace, otherwise there will be a “cold war” the next day! And this is dangerous because it initiatives a series of scolding, a series of resentments. How many times, unfortunately, conflicts originate and grow within the domestic walls due to prolonged periods of silence and from unchecked selfishness! Sometimes it even ends up in physical and moral violence. This lacerates harmony and kills the family. Let us convert ourselves from “I” to “you”. What must be more important in a family is “you”. And please, each day, let us pray a little bit together – if you can make the effort – to ask God for the gift of peace. And let us all commit ourselves – parents, children, Church, society – to sustain, defend and safeguard the family which is our treasure!
May the Virgin Mary, the spouse of Joseph, the mamma of Jesus, protect our families.
Dec. 30, 2018
GOSPEL OF YEAR C
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today we are celebrating the Feast of the Holy Family, and the liturgy invites us to reflect on the experience of Mary, Joseph and Jesus, united by an immense love and inspired by great trust in God. Today’s Gospel passage (cf. Lk 2:41-52) recounts the journey of the family of Nazareth to Jerusalem, for the celebration of Passover. But, on the return journey, the parents realize that their 12-year-old son is not in the caravan. After three days of searching and fear, they find him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, focused on a discussion with them. At the sight of the Son, Mary and Joseph “were astonished” (v. 48) and the Mother revealed their fear to him, saying: “your father and I have been looking for you anxiously” (ibid.)
Astonishment — they “were astonished” — and anxiety — “your father and I, anxious” — are the two elements to which I would like to call your attention: astonishment and anxiety.
In the family of Nazareth astonishment never waned, not even in a dramatic moment such as Jesus being lost: it is the ability to be astonished before the gradual manifestation of the Son of God. It is the same astonishment that even strikes the teachers of the temple, “amazed at his understanding and his answers” (v. 47). But what is astonishment; what is it to be astonished? Being astonished and being amazed is the opposite of taking everything for granted; it is the opposite of interpreting the reality that surrounds us and historical events according to our criteria alone. A person who does this does not know what amazement is, what astonishment is. Being astonished is being open to others, understanding others’ reasons: this attitude is important for mending compromised interpersonal relationships, and is also indispensable for healing open wounds in the familial environment. When there are problems in families, we take for granted that we are right and we close the door to others. Instead, it is important to think: ‘What is good about this person?’, and to be astonished by this ‘good’. And this helps family unity. If you have problems in the family, think about the good things in the family member with whom you have problems, and be astonished by this. This will help to heal familial wounds.
The second element that I would like to grasp from the Gospel is the anxiety that Mary and Joseph felt when they could not find Jesus. This anxiety reveals Jesus’ centrality in the Holy Family. The Virgin and her husband welcomed that Son, protected him and watched him grow in age, wisdom and grace in their midst, but above all he grew in their hearts; and, little by little, their affection for him and their understanding of him grew. This is why the family of Nazareth is holy: because it was centred on Jesus; all of Mary and Joseph’s attention and concerns were directed toward him.
That anxiety that they experienced in the three days that Jesus was missing should also be our anxiety when we are distant from him, when we are distant from Jesus. We should feel anxious when we forget Jesus for more than three days, without praying, without reading the Gospel, without feeling the need of his presence and of his comforting friendship. And many times, days pass in which I do not remember Jesus. But this is bad, this is really bad. We should feel anxious when these things happen. Mary and Joseph searched for him and found him in the temple while he was teaching: for us too, it is especially in the house of God that we are able to encounter the divine Teacher and receive his message of salvation. In the Eucharistic celebration we have a living experience of Christ; he speaks to us; he offers us his Word; he illuminates us, lights our path, gives us his Body in the Eucharist from which we draw vigour to face everyday difficulties.
And today let us go home with these two words: astonishment and anxiety. Do I know how to be astonished, when I see the good things in others, and in this way resolve family problems? Do I feel anxious when I am distant from Jesus?
Let us pray for all the families in the world, especially those in which, for various reasons, peace and harmony are lacking. And let us entrust them to the protection of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
Dec. 27, 2015
GOSPEL OF YEAR C
The biblical readings which we just heard presented us with the image of two families on pilgrimage to the house of God. Elkanah and Hannah bring their son Samuel to the Temple of Shiloh and consecrate him to the Lord (cf. 1 Sam1:20-22, 24-28). In the same way, Joseph and Mary, in the company of Jesus, go as pilgrims to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover (cf. Lk 2:41-52).
We often see pilgrims journeying to shrines and places dear to popular piety. These days, many of them are making their way to the Holy Door opened in all the cathedrals of the world and in many shrines. But the most beautiful thing which emerges from the word of God today is that the whole family goes on pilgrimage. Fathers, mothers and children together go to the house of the Lord, in order to sanctify the holy day with prayer. It is an important teaching, which is meant for our own families as well. Indeed, we could say that family life is a series of pilgrimages, both small and big.
For example, HOW COMFORTING IT IS FOR US TO REFLECT ON MARY AND JOSEPH TEACHING JESUS HOW TO PRAY! This is a sort of pilgrimage, the pilgrimage of education in prayer. And it is comforting also to know that throughout the day they would pray together, and then go each Sabbath to the synagogue to listen to readings from the Law and the Prophets, and to praise the Lord with the assembly. Certainly, during their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, they prayed by singing the Psalm: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’ Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem (Ps 122:1-2).”
How important it is for our families to journey together towards a single goal! We know that we have a road to travel together; a road along which we encounter difficulties but also enjoy moments of joy and consolation. And on this pilgrimage of life we also share in moments of prayer. WHAT CAN BE MORE BEAUTIFUL THAN FOR A FATHER AND MOTHER TO BLESS THEIR CHILDREN AT THE BEGINNING AND END OF EACH DAY, TO TRACE ON THEIR FOREHEAD THE SIGN OF THE CROSS, AS THEY DID ON THE DAY OF THEIR BAPTISM? IS THIS NOT THE SIMPLEST PRAYER WHICH PARENTS CAN OFFER FOR THEIR CHILDREN? To bless them, that is, to entrust them to the Lord, just like Elkanah and Anna, Joseph and Mary, so that he can be their protection and support throughout the day. In the same way, it is important for families to join in a brief prayer before meals, in order to thank the Lord for these gifts and to learn how to share what we have received with those in greater need. These are all little gestures, yet they point to the great formative role played by the family in the pilgrimage of everyday life.
At the end of that pilgrimage, Jesus returned to Nazareth and was obedient to his parents (cf. Lk 2:51). This image also contains a beautiful teaching about our families. A PILGRIMAGE DOES NOT END WHEN WE ARRIVE AT OUR DESTINATION, BUT WHEN WE RETURN HOME AND RESUME OUR EVERYDAY LIVES, PUTTING INTO PRACTICE THE SPIRITUAL FRUITS OF OUR EXPERIENCE. We know what Jesus did on that occasion. Instead of returning home with his family, he stayed in Jerusalem, in the Temple, causing great distress to Mary and Joseph who were unable to find him. For this little “escapade”, Jesus probably had to beg forgiveness of his parents. The Gospel doesn’t say this, but I believe that we can presume it. Mary’s question, moreover, contains a certain reproach, revealing the concern and anguish which she and Joseph felt. Returning home, Jesus surely remained close to them, as a sign of his complete affection and obedience. Moments like these become part of the pilgrimage of each family; THE LORD TRANSFORMS THE MOMENTS INTO OPPORTUNITIES TO GROW, TO ASK FOR AND TO RECEIVE FORGIVENESS, TO SHOW LOVE AND OBEDIENCE.
In the Year of Mercy, EVERY CHRISTIAN FAMILY CAN BECOME A PRIVILEGED PLACE ON THIS PILGRIMAGE FOR EXPERIENCING THE JOY OF FORGIVENESS. FORGIVENESS IS THE ESSENCE OF THE LOVE WHICH CAN UNDERSTAND MISTAKES AND MEND THEM. HOW MISERABLE WE WOULD BE IF GOD DID NOT FORGIVE US! WITHIN THE FAMILY WE LEARN HOW TO FORGIVE, BECAUSE WE ARE CERTAIN THAT WE ARE UNDERSTOOD AND SUPPORTED, WHATEVER THE MISTAKES WE MAKE.
Let us not lose confidence in the family! It is beautiful when we can always open our hearts to one another, and hide nothing. WHERE THERE IS LOVE, THERE IS ALSO UNDERSTANDING AND FORGIVENESS. To all of you, dear families, I entrust this most important mission – the domestic pilgrimage of daily family life – which the world and the Church need, now more than ever.
POPE FRANCIS’ 2020 REFLECTION ON THE FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY
27 December 2020
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
A few days after Christmas, the liturgy invites us to turn our eyes to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. It is good to reflect on the fact that the Son of God wanted to be in need of the warmth of a family, like all children. Precisely for this reason, because it is Jesus’ family, the family of Nazareth is the model family, in which all families of the world can find their sure point of reference and sure inspiration. In Nazareth, the springtime of the human life of the Son of God began to blossom at the moment he was conceived by the work of the Holy Spirit in the virginal womb of Mary. Within the welcoming walls of the House of Nazareth, Jesus’ childhood unfolded in joy, surrounded by the maternal attention of Mary and the care of Joseph, in whom Jesus was able to see God’s tenderness (cf. Apostolic Letter Patris Corde, 2).
In imitation of the Holy Family, we are called to rediscover the educational value of the family unit: it must be founded on the love that always regenerates relationships, opening up horizons of hope. Within the family one can experience sincere communion when it is a house of prayer, when the affections are serious, profound, pure, when forgiveness prevails over discord, when the daily harshness of life is softened by mutual tenderness and serene adherence to God’s will. In this way, the family opens itself to the joy that God gives to all those who know how to give joyfully. At the same time, it finds the spiritual energy to be open to the outside world, to others, to the service of brothers and sisters, to collaboration in building an ever new and better world; capable, therefore, of becoming a bearer of positive stimuli; the family evangelises by the example of life. It is true, in every family there are problems, and at times arguments. “And, Father, I argued…” but we are human, we are weak, and we all quarrel within the family at times. I would like to say something to you: if you quarrel within the family, do not end the day without making peace. “Yes, I quarrelled”, but before the end of the day, make peace. And do you know why? Because cold war, day after day, is extremely dangerous. It does not help. And then, in the family there are three words, three phrases that must always be held dear: “Please”, “Thank you”, and “I am sorry”. “Please”, so as not to be intrusive in the life of others. Please: may I do something? Is it alright with you if I do this? Please. Always, so as not to be intrusive. Please, the first word. “Thank you”: so much help, so much service is granted to us in the family: always say thank you. Gratitude is the lifeblood of the noble soul. “Thank you”. And then, the hardest to say: “I am sorry”. Because we always do bad things and very often someone is offended by this: “I am sorry”, “I am sorry”. Do not forget the three worlds: “please”, “thank you”, and “I am sorry”. If in a family, in the family environment there are these three words, the family is fine.
Today’s feast reminds us of the example of evangelising with the family, proposing to us once again the ideal of conjugal and family love, as underlined in the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia, promulgated five years ago this coming 19 March. And it will be a year of reflection on Amoris laetitia and it will be an opportunity to focus more closely on the contents of the document. These reflections will be made available to ecclesial communities and families, to accompany them on their journey. As of now, I invite everyone to take part in the initiatives that will be promoted during the Year and that will be coordinated by the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life. Let us entrust this journey, with families all over the world, to the Holy Family of Nazareth, in particular to Saint Joseph, the devoted spouse and father.
May the Virgin Mary, to whom we now address the Angelus prayer, grant that families throughout the world world be increasingly fascinated by the evangelical ideal of the Holy Family, so as to become a leaven of new humanity and of a genuine and universal solidarity.
29 December 2019
GOSPEL OF YEAR A
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
And truly, today is a beautiful day… We celebrate today the feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth. The term “holy” places this family within the sphere of holiness which is a gift from God but, at the same time, is free and responsible adherence to God’s plan. This was the case for the family of Nazareth: they were totally available to God’s will.
How can we not wonder, for example, at Mary’s docility to the action of the Holy Spirit Who asks her to become the mother of the Messiah? Because Mary, like every young woman of her time, was about to realize her life project, that is, to marry Joseph.
But when she realises that God is calling her to a particular mission, she does not hesitate to proclaim herself His “servant” (cf. Lk 1: 38). Jesus will exalt her greatness not so much for her role as a mother, but for her obedience to God. Jesus said: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it” (Lk 11: 28), like Mary. And when she does not fully understand the events that involve her, Mary meditates in silence, reflects and adores the divine initiative. Her presence at the foot of the cross consecrates this total willingness.
Then, with regard to Joseph, the Gospel does not give us a single word: he does not speak, but he acts, obeying. He is the man of silence, the man of obedience.
Today’s Gospel reading (cf. Mt 2: 13-15, 19-23) recalls this obedience of the righteous Joseph three times, referring to the flight to Egypt and the return to the land of Israel. Under God’s guidance, represented by the Angel, Joseph distances his family from Herod’s threats, and saves them. The Holy Family is thus in solidarity with all the families of the world forced into exile, in solidarity with all those who are compelled to abandon their own land due to repression, violence, and war.
Finally, the third person of the Holy Family, Jesus. He is the will of the Father: in Him, says Saint Paul, there was no “yes” and “no”, but only “yes” (cf. 2 Cor 1: 19). And this is made manifest in many moments of His earthly life. For example, the episode at the temple when He responded to the anguished parents who sought Him out: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk 2: 49); His continual repetition: “My food is to do the will of Him Who sent me and to accomplish His work” (Jn 4: 34); His prayer in the olive grove: “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, Your will be done” (Mt 26: 42). All these events are the perfect realisation of the very words of Christ Who says: “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired […] Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book” (Heb 10: 5-7; Psalm 40: 7-9).
Mary, Joseph, Jesus: the Holy Family of Nazareth which represents a choral response to the will of the Father: the three members of this family help each other reciprocally to discover God’s plan. They prayed, worked, communicated. And I ask myself: you, in your family, do you know how to communicate or are you like those kids at the table, each one with their mobile phone, while they are chatting? In that table there seems to be a silence as if they were at Mass… But they do not communicate between themselves. We must resume dialogue in the family: fathers, parents, sons, grandparents and siblings must communicate with one another … This is today’s homework, right on the day of the Holy Family. May the Holy Family be a model for our families, so that parents and children may support each other mutually in adherence to the Gospel, the basis of the holiness of the family.
Let us entrust to Mary, “Queen of the Family”, all the families in the world, especially those who suffer or who are in distress, and invoke upon them her maternal protection.
Dec. 31, 2017
GOSPEL OF YEAR B
WATCH AS WELL VIDEO PRAYER
Dec. 28, 2014
GOSPEL OF YEAR B
Dec. 29, 2013
GOSPEL OF YEAR A
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