Holy Family

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Holy Family by Juan Simon Gutierrez

The Holy Family consists of the Child Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and Saint Joseph. Veneration of the Holy Family was formally begun in the 17th century by Blessed François de Laval, the first bishop of New France, who founded a Confraternity.

The Feast of the Holy Family[edit]

The Holy Family - Rafael

The Gospels speak little of the life of the Holy Family in the years before Jesus’ public ministry.[1] All that is known are the sojourn in Egypt, the return to Nazareth, and the incident that occurred when the twelve-year-old boy accompanied his parents to Jerusalem.[2] The parents were apparently observant Jews, making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem every year with other Jewish families (Luke. 2:41).

The Feast of the Holy Family is a liturgical celebration in the Roman Catholic Church in honor of Jesus of Nazareth, his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and his foster father, Saint Joseph, as a family. The primary purpose of this feast is to present the Holy Family as a model for Christian families.[2] The Feast of the Holy Family is celebrated on the Sunday following Christmas, unless that Sunday is January 1, in which case it is celebrated on December 30.

The Feast of the Holy Family was instituted by Pope Leo XIII in 1893 on the Sunday within the Octave of the Epiphany; that is to say, on the Sunday between January 7 through January 13, all inclusive (see General Roman Calendar of 1962). The calendar of the 1962 Roman Missal, whose use is still authorized, keeps the celebration on that date. It was never a holy day of obligation,[3] unless its celebration fell on a Sunday, when therefore there is an obligation to attend Mass on that day.

In the calendar promulgated in 1969, the feast was moved to the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas, between Christmas and New Year's Day (both exclusive), or when there is no Sunday within the Octave (if both Christmas Day and the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God are Sundays), it is held on 30 December, a Friday in such years. (In other words, the feast is on the same day as the Tridentine-rite Mass of the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas.)

Cultural references[edit]

In art[edit]

The Holy Family was a popular theme in Christian art. An oil painting by Joos van Cleve of the Netherlands, dated to about 1512, is on display at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.[4] Michaelangelos' tempura rendition (c.1506) hangs in the Uffizi in Florence.[5] A Holy Family by Guilio Romano is on view at the Getty Center in Los Angeles.[6]

The Cathedral of the Holy Family of Nazareth is in the cathedral parish of the Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma.[7]

A pious practice among Catholics is to write "J.M.J." at the top of letters and personal notes as a reference to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as the Holy Family.[8]

The members of the Holy Family are the patrons of the Congregation of Holy Cross. The Holy Cross Sisters are dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Holy Cross Brothers to St. Joseph, and the Priests of Holy Cross to the Sacred Heart.

The Sons of the Holy Family is also a religious congregation devoted to the Holy Family.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Martin, James. "The Holy Family", Catholic Update
  2. ^ a b Strasser O.S,B., Bernard. With Christ Through the Year
  3. ^ It is not among the ten such feasts listed in canon 1247 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law, a list repeated unchanged in the Code of 1983.
  4. ^ "The Holy Family", New York Metropolitan Museum of Art
  5. ^ "The Holy Family", Art in the Bible
  6. ^ "The Holy Family", The J. Paul Getty Museum
  7. ^ Cathedral of the Holy Family of Nazareth
  8. ^ Perrotta, Louise Bourassa (March 2000). Saint Joseph. Our Sunday Visitor Publishing. p. 149. ISBN 978-0-87973-573-9. 

External links[edit]