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Feast of the Holy Family



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The Feast of the Holy Family

Fiesta de la Sagrada Familia

by: Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio 


Feast of the Holy FamilyEvery year right after Christmas, we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family.  There is a reason for this.  It’s easy to think the “incarnation” means God took on a human body.


But there is much more to it than that.  In Jesus, God unites himself to an entire human nature.  He fully enters into human experience, with all its peaks and valleys.  And a part of that human experience,  with more than its share of peaks and valleys, is family.


Jesus spent over 90% of his years in the obscure nitty-gritty of family life.  Though only a few chapters are devoted to this lengthy period, what they reveal is significant.  First of all, despite the cuddly image of our nativity scenes, the original Christmas was anything but cozy.  A woman nine months pregnant rides 75 miles on the back of a donkey over bumpy, dusty roads so she can have her baby in a stable full of dirty, smelly animals.  Quickly after the birth they have to pick up and flee for their lives, seeking asylum in a foreign land.  A few years later, the now adolescent son goes missing for several days, and there ensues a conversation characterized by no little emotion.  Joseph is a saint, Mary is without sin, Jesus is God incarnate, yet there are still challenges, difficulties, tense moments, and opportunities for misunderstanding.  Welcome to real family life.

 The Holy Family

All things created by God are good, with human beings and human life very good according to Genesis chapter 1.  Yet in assuming a human body, the Divine Word elevated its dignity, sanctifying it, and ennobling it.  In accepting baptism from his cousin John, Jesus sanctifies water and, in baptism, makes it an instrument of his sanctifying power.  In entering into family life, Jesus does the same.  The family, up til now naturally good, becomes an instrument of sanctification and growth in holiness.


As a teen, I thought a serious pursuit of holiness required opting out of marriage to enter a monastery.  Holiness was about lots of quiet prayer and apostolic work.  Noisy family life was a distraction to all this.  The role of married folks was limited to getting to Mass & the sacraments, obeying the 10 commandments, and getting into heaven after a stay in Purgatory.


The feast of the Holy Family shows how far off-base I was.   It reminds us, as Vatican II teaches, that all human beings are called to the heights of holiness.  That all states in life, including student, teenager, and parent, offer abundant opportunities to grow in faith, hope, and love.  That the nitty gritty of family life, if approached right, can be a road to profound personal transformation and communion with God.


Think about it.  The creator of the universe spent most of his human life as a craftsman, working with dad in the family business and ultimately taking it over.   Mary, the holiest of all creatures, spent most of her time changing diapers, cooking, and cleaning.  The secret to holiness is not to do extraordinary things, but to do ordinary things with extraordinary love and gratitude (Col 3:15-17).


The Feast of the Holy FamilyThe word seminary means “seedbed.”  It is a greenhouse where, in a sheltered environment, vocations can develop till they can not just survive in the real world, but bear fruit there.  


The family is the original seminary.  In its soil  is sown the call to share in Christ’s holiness and mission.  Ironically, tending to the seedlings causes the parent/gardeners to grow as well.  So family, in God’s plan, is a community where everyone has growing to do.  Maybe that’s why Col 3 talks so much about forgiveness and forebearance!


The bottom line is this–we don’t become holy despite the hustle-bustle of family life, but in and through it.


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This was originally published by Our Sunday Visitor ( as a reflection on the readings for the Feast of the Holy Family, cycle C (Sirach 3:2-7, 12-14; Psalm 128:1-5; Colossians 3:12-21; Gospel: Luke 2:41-52)


This article appears in the Liturgy & Sacraments , Advent & Christmas and Prayer & Sprituality sections of The Crossroads Library.


For another article  by Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio on the Feast of the Holy Family, click here.  For other articles by Dr. D'Ambrosio to read and download visit the Crossroads Library.


Great Adventure Bible Time Line Catholic Study by Jeff Cavins - 24 talks on DVD
 Jeff Cavins, Great Adventure Time Line Catholic Bible Study The Bible Timeline provides a clear understanding of the underlying Scriptural narrative, which is essential to all Bible reading and study. The 24-part Bible Timeline Bible Study dives deep into the Biblical story. A combination of individual reading and study, group discussion, and lecture commentary guides participants as they read through the 14 narrative books of The Bible Timeline and discover the meaning of each in light of the whole.


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The Bible Study Pack for the Great Adventure Bible Timeline Catholic Scripture Study includes the 33” full-color chart, the Bible Timeline seminar workbook, the full-color bookmark, the memory bead wristband, Study Questions and Responses and large Binder to keep all your notes together!


 Feast of Faith, Eucharist, Communion, Sacrament, Catholic Church Feast of Faith - 2 DVD set | Resource on the Eucharist

In this enlightening, four-part adult faith formation series developed for the Eucharist, Dr. D’Ambrosio offers profound reflections on the nature of the Holy Eucharist – the “source and summit” of the Catholic faith. Don't forget the amazing workbook!


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In this dynamic, four-part faith formation series, on the Creed, Dr. D'Ambrosio explains how this expression of the basic beliefs of Roman Catholicism is relevant to our personal relationship with God. Remember the dynamic workbook that follows this series!

Taking Aim at the Tough Issues:

Sex, Abortion, War and Capital Punishment

Taking Aim at the Tough Issues: Sex, War, Abortion, War and Capital PunishmentA lot of people skirt the difficult issues. In this hard hitting series of two talks, Marcellino D'Ambrosio takes dead aim at the most controversial of moral issues sharing the wisdom of the Catholic tradition in a way that makes eminent sense.


In the first talk entitled "Sex and the Theology of the Body," he lays down some basic principles that provide answers for all the tough sex questions including homosexual marriage and contraception.


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Often, discussions of these issues generate more heat than light. This series, appropriate for both adults and teens, is refreshingly different.


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