The Feast of the Holy Family became a feast in the Christmas season of the universal church calendar only in 1920. Before that it was a feast celebrated by the church in Canada.
The First World War, which had gone on for 4 year and brought about a massive dislocation in family life all over the world, was just ending. Like the Family in Matthew’s Gospel today, families were trying to escape violence, keep together and get a safe place to live and bring up children. The church placed this feast in her calendar for that reason.
“Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him,” the angel says to Joseph. There’s a promise to every family in God’s promise to Joseph. It’s a promise so many immigrant families displaced by wars, political situations, climate change, need to hear now. God cares for them. Think of families in Ukraine and some war-torn parts of Africa, families on our southern borders escaping political instability.
The Family of this feast is not a model of a perfect family, safe in secure Nazareth, but an embattled family trying to find its way. It’s a model for embattled families today.
The Feast of the Holy Family also offers a promise young people in our society, afraid to get married and have children, need to hear. Don’t be afraid of the commitment that is marriage and the children that come to you. God will see you through.
Finally, it’s a promise we all must work to see fulfilled as much as we can.
More than we realize, feasts and seasons alert us to real situations in life. They are graces from God. We need to pay more attention to the feasts we celebrate on our church calendar.
“For people are instructed in the truths of faith, and brought to appreciate the inner joys of religion far more effectually by the annual celebration of our sacred mysteries than by any official pronouncement of the teaching of the Church. Such pronouncements usually reach only a few and the more learned among the faithful; feasts reach them all; the former speak but once, the latter speak every year – in fact, forever. The church’s teaching affects the mind primarily; her feasts affect both mind and heart, and have a salutary effect upon the whole of man’s nature” (Pius X.Encyclical Quas primas, 11 December 1925).”