PHILADELPHIA — Most Catholic homes have a depiction of the Holy Family framed or on a mantle, but their example should extend beyond a sacramental. The Holy Family serves as the example for Catholic families striving for love, joy and holiness in a world fraught with pain and distress.
As the original domestic church, “we see ourselves in the Holy Family,” said Andrew W. Lichtenwalner, PhD. “They become a light to every family and awaken us to a greater faith.”
Lichtenwalner, director of the Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth for the USCCB, said it’s important to remember Mary, Joseph and Jesus were a family living in relational communities to extend love and compassion.
“Family life is a joy and a gift and it also brings its challenges,” said Lichtenwalner. “By your very marriage you communicate Christ. It doesn’t take an extraordinary fete, it’s reaching out to each other with love.”
A life grounded in the sacraments and prayer guides couples to entrust themselves completely to God, and provides a foundation to traverse the ups and downs of married life. Couples should keep Jesus at the center of their marriage, the way Jesus was at the center of the Holy Family.
“Their marriage was real and their union was dedicated to Christ,” Lichtenwalner said, “and they were alive in the spirit of love. We are all called to be set apart by love.”
Alan Ratliff, a father of seven from New Albany, Ohio, said he was struck by the notion of grace through Mary, Jesus and Joseph.
“I believe a revelation of grace will come through a consecration to the Holy Family,” Ratliff said. “If we focus in prayer then the grace to our families will be revealed.”
Litchenwalner said the Domestic Church is not a metaphor, “it’s a reality,” and that the World Meeting of Families is not just a conference because “we’ve been called here, each one of us, to encounter the Lord and bring something new back and share it.”
He offered ways couples could strengthen their family bond: attend Sunday Mass together and make it a family day; pray to both Mary and Joseph for protection against temptations; have a steady prayer life; and communicate love freely.
“The Holy Family is a mirror for imperfect families in the midst of ordinary circumstances,” Litchenwalner said. “We are called to help each other live holy lives, and the mission of the Holy Family is the mission for all families.”
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