SUNDAY, DECEMBER 30: As we head into 2013, Pew’s new global map of religion shows us that 1 in 3 people on the planet identify as Christian. Half of those men and women call themselves Catholic. So, a huge number families around the Earth are approaching New Year’s Day with a special emphasis on shoring up their families—as they reflect on Jesus’s “Holy Family.” The idea of honoring Jesus as a baby with his parents stretches all the way back to Gospel accounts of shepherds and Wise Men visiting the infant. Various Christian customs associate these visits to the holy infant with the Christmas period and especially Epiphany. This traditional time of year culminates in the revelation that Jesus is God’s son. Eastern Orthodox traditions, in particular, have a distinctive series of liturgies to bring Jesus quickly from his birth to his revelation as divine. (Here is our 2012 Epiphany story.)
But, Western Christian veneration focusing on the Holy Family took on new forms in the 17th century. Then, an official Vatican decree establishing a Feast of the Holy Family came from Pope Leo XIII in 1893. The liturgical celebration honors the three members of the family from Nazareth: the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph and the child Jesus. (Wikipedia has details.)
In Catholic teaching, this feast emphasizes the church’s teaching on the sacrament of marriage, insisting that its purpose is to form a Christian family. (Access a consecration to the Holy Family at Fish Eaters.) In many churches, a blessing of children is held today; alternatively, married couples are encouraged to renew their vows. Families hoping to keep the feast and strengthen family bonds can read more about Pope Leo XIII and his encyclical On Christian Marriage, or click over to the Vatican’s site for Papal documents on the Family. Catholic Culture also suggests cooking up an authentic Lebanese dinner—the same type Mary would have prepared for Jesus and Joseph—or praying for the well-being of families everywhere.