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Why do we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family?

This feast day honors Jesus, the Blessed Mother, and St. Joseph as the holiest of families, and therefore a model for all Christians families. They were holy because they placed God at the center of their family life, they loved and sacrificed for one another, and they radiated that love to others in the redemptive mission of the Word Incarnate.

Pope St. John Paul II said, “The Redeemer of the world chose the family as the place for his birth and growth, thereby sanctifying this fundamental institution of every society” (Angelus message, 30 December 2001).


When is the Feast of the Holy Family celebrated?

The Church celebrates this Feast on the Sunday occurring between the Nativity of the Lord (December 25th) and Mary, Mother of God (January 1st). However, in some years these feasts occur on Sundays themselves, in which case the Feast of the Holy Family is celebrated on December 30th. This year (2021) the Feast of the Holy Family is Sunday December 26.

Who are the members of the Holy Family?

Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and St. Joseph are the members of the Holy Family. The central figure is the Word-made-Flesh, the Son of God made man for the salvation of the world. He was conceived in the Blessed Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, so that Mary is His Mother according to His human nature. She is titled Mother of God because Her Son is a Divine Person. St. Joseph, husband of Mary, while not the biological father of Jesus, was guided by an angel to assume the responsibilities of fatherhood and as the “Custodian of the Redeemer” (Pope St. John Paul II).

Where do we find accounts of the Holy Family in Scripture?

The history of the Holy Family is found in only two accounts, what are called the Infancy Narratives––the first two chapters of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Writing to a Jewish audience, St. Matthew provides the Abrahamic and Davidic descent of Jesus, followed by an account of His Birth. In chapter 2 he tells of the visit of the Magi, King Herod’s pursuit of the Child and the flight into Egypt. He concludes his narrative with the return from Egypt to Nazareth, remaining silent on Jesus’ life in Nazareth. Jesus next appears as 30 years of age at His baptism by St. John (Mt. 3). St. Luke provides the most detail of Jesus’ early life. His precision reflects his profession as a physician (Col. 4:14), his desire for an accurate account (Lk. 1:1-4), and details which could only have been obtained from the Blessed Virgin. Luke begins with the conception of St. John and the Annunciation of the Lord. He continues with Mary’s visit to Elizabeth and the birth of the Baptist. He then provides an account of Nativity, the angels announcement to the shepherds, Jesus’ circumcision and presentation in the Temple, and Simeon’s and Anna’s recognition and prophecies. Luke concludes with the return to Nazareth, adding only one further detail, Jesus remaining in the Temple when He was 12 years old.

“For every believer, and especially for Christian families, the humble dwelling place in Nazareth is an authentic school of the Gospel.” - St. John Paul II

Why did the Holy Family flee to Egypt?

King Herod the Great, a non-Jew who could only conceive of Christ’s Davidic kingship as threatening his own, sought to put the Child to death. Matthew 2:13-15 tells us, Now when [the wise men] had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt have I called my son.”

Where is Nazareth in the Bible?

Nazareth is a city in Galilee. In Our Lord’s time it may have been populated by craftsmen employed in Roman construction in nearby Sepphoris. Nazareth is where Joseph and Mary were betrothed, the Annunciation took place, and where the Holy Family lived after returning from Egypt after Herod’s death. The meaning of “Nazareth” is rather obscure. St. Jerome attributes it to the Hebrew word “nazir,” meaning “separated,” in reference to being dedicated to God (cf. Numbers 6:1-21). Other scholars, pointing to Isaiah’s use of a similar word, “netzer,” meaning branch, connect it with the house of Jesse and the Davidic kingship of Jesus. Isaiah 11:1 “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch (netzer) shall grow out of his roots.” It may be that both possibilities are true, providentially justifying what was said of Jesus, Matthew 2:23 And he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, "He shall be called a Nazarene."

Where did Jesus spend His childhood?

After returning from Egypt, the Holy Family lived in Nazareth. Other than the fact of living there, both Matthew and Luke are silent on any details of His childhood. Pope St. John Paul II taught, The time [Jesus] spent in Nazareth, the greater part of his life, continues to be shrouded in deep silence. Very little information about it has been passed on to us by the Evangelists. However, if we aspire to a deeper understanding of Jesus' life and mission, we must draw close to the mystery of the Holy Family of Nazareth to observe and listen. (Angelus message, 30 December 2001) Some apocryphal writings tell fantastic stories of Jesus childhood, especially miracles He is alleged to have done. The Church rejects them on account of their fabulous content, as well as their lack of apostolic and patristic support.

“[The Holy Family of Nazareth] radiates genuine love and charity, not only creating an eloquent example for all families, but also offering the guarantee that such love can be achieved in every family unit.” - St. John Paul II

How old was the Virgin Mary when she had Jesus?

We are unsure about Mary’s exact age, but most Bible scholars believe that in keeping with Jewish practice of the day she may have been as young as 14 or 15.

Why did God choose Mary?

When Pope Pius IX declared the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in the apostolic constitution Ineffabilis Deus, he spoke of the Father’s eternal decision, inseparable from the decision that the Word would become flesh, saying, From the very beginning, and before time began, the eternal Father chose and prepared for his only-begotten Son a Mother in whom the Son of God would become incarnate and from whom, in the blessed fullness of time, he would be born into this world. Above all creatures did God so love her that truly in her was the Father well-pleased with singular delight. Therefore, far above all the angels and all the saints so wondrously did God endow her with the abundance of all heavenly gifts poured from the treasury of his divinity that this mother, ever absolutely free of all stain of sin, all fair and perfect, would possess that fullness of holy innocence and sanctity than which, under God, one cannot even imagine anything greater, and which, outside of God, no mind can succeed in comprehending fully.

Was Mary married to Joseph?

Yes, in the Jewish system of arranged marriages and rabbinical law they were betrothed, and while the woman did not move into the home of her husband for a time, any child that was conceived was his. This was the basis for Joseph’s doubts. The angel showed him through the situation. Luke 1:18b-21 When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to send her away quietly. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

“Dear brothers and sisters, let us look to the Holy Family of Nazareth as an example for all Christian and human families.” - St. John Paul II