Becoming A Holy Family

“as for me and my household, we shall serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

“What does it mean to be a holy family?”  I asked my Gr. 2 First Communion class.  Most of the eager young hands in the room went up.

“Be nice.”

“Obey your parents.”

“Do the 10 Commandments.”


“Good answers,” I encouraged them, “but you’re missing one very important point.”  Quizzical faces stared back at me.  After a few  hints, more hands went up in the air.

“Go to church!”

This past Saturday’s class was all about the Holy Family.  As usual, the class participated well, taking turns reading from the textbook, answering questions, participating in the discussion; however, I didn’t want to keep the discussion to the lives of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Nazareth.  I wanted the class to think about how our families can strive for holiness too. I explained that the Holy Family is our model for a Christian, Catholic family.  I was curious to know how the Faith is nurtured at home so I asked some very direct questions.

“How many of you say prayers with your family before bedtime?”  Of the twenty children in the class, only two put up their hands.

“How many of you say the Grace Before Meals?”  No show of hands.

“Do you ever pray the Rosary with your family?”  Again, no hands.

“Who goes to church every Sunday?”  This question was met with a greater show of hands but it wasn’t unanimous.

It’s no surprise that our society is becoming increasingly secular.  The God of Truth, in large part, has been replaced by the gods of convenience, acquisition, power, prestige, sex.  The Lord’s Day has become one more day in which to shop and family time has been replaced with overly scheduled children’s sports practices, music lessons as well as parents’ pursuit of self actualization.  Is it any wonder that so few of the children in my class have any time for prayer at all?   There is nothing wrong with extra-curricular activities.  My own children continue to benefit from them.  What is worrisome is that worldly goals have become more important, more valuable than forming our families into a holy family.  Many families value the outward signs of success more than the inner peace of holiness.

It’s not the biggest house or the most trophies or the fattest bank account that is going to get our families into heaven.   We would be fooling ourselves if we think that showing up for one hour at Mass on Sundays, Christmas and Easter will guarantee eternal life.  Striving for holiness in ourselves and in our families requires perseverance, commitment and recognition that conversion is an ongoing process.  It all starts with prayer for and with our families.

Trying to be a holy family is challenging, especially with powerful distractions from the secular world.  Some of our older or adult children, by their own free will, may choose to deny their Catholic faith for what mistakenly seems to be a more fulfilling way to live.  For a faithful Catholic parent, that is heartbreaking.  My pastor has observed that if we have been diligent in handing on the teachings and joy of the Faith, our wandering children have a greater likelihood of eventually finding their way back into the Church.

From the family will emerge the future defenders of the faith and the leaders of the Catholic Church. In his encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, (John Paul II, 25 March, 1995) Bl. John-Paul II admonishes the family to “fulfil its mission to proclaim the Gospel of Life.”  He states that “parents lead their children to authentic freedom, actualized in the sincere gift of self, and they cultivate in them respect for others, a sense of justice, cordial openness, dialogue, generous service, solidarity and all the other values which help people to live life as a gift.”  Parents are called upon to teach our children the “true meaning of suffering and death” by “fostering attitudes of closeness, assistance and sharing towards sick or elderly members of the family.”  Family life is a “life of love and self-giving.”

Now, more than ever, it’s time to bring back sanctity in the family by building up the domestic church:  the family that prays and endeavours to live the Gospel together.  More important than any earthly reward is the everlasting reward of Heaven.  Our holy-families-in-the-making ought to be setting our hearts and minds on the ultimate praise, “well done good and trustworthy servant.” Matthew 25:23

Deo Gratias

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19 Responses to Becoming A Holy Family

  1. abcinsc says:

    One thought – the family dinner table was the place for checking in and sharing life together… including our Christian values in our family. It became more difficult with competing sports schedules as they got older… but still we managed most nights. But we only had 2 kids and that was 25 years ago.

    I wonder how many kids in your class eat family meals together at all… and how often? The Church cannot do for families what they are unwilling to do for themselves at the most basic level. Still , God can do all things in these kids’ hearts. With God nothing is impossible.

    Thank you for your willingness to serve the families in your parish. Your faithfulness and witness will bear a harvest in this life and the life to come. Bless you.

    • You bring up an important point about the family meal. It’s gotten lost in the busyness of life as well. Since our older kids have varying work/school schedules, we hardly ever sit together at weekday meals. The best we can hope for is Sunday evening, and even then, one or two people may be missing. At this point, it’s the best we can do. Thank you for your comment and for your encouragement.

  2. I read an anecdote of a priest who had been preaching on the Holy Family and how to be more like them. This was when most people had large families. After Mass, a woman came out and said, “Hah! Them with their one.”

  3. lilyboat says:

    Not long ago, I was praying the rosary and my four year old niece came in. She took a great interest in my rosary, but I had a hard time explaining it! In stead, I told her to hold the rosary with me, and as I recited, our fingers traced down the beads together. It was one of the most beautiful moment of my life!

  4. Great post!!! Just tweeted it!! Preserving the sanctity of marriage and family is sooo important. We pray everyday to our Blessed Mother so that we may be a better model of the Holy Family to each other and others!! Does your blog have a twitter/facebook link? Hope all is well:)

  5. LeAnna says:

    Thank you so much for writing this. Since the arrival of my first child 3.5 months ago I have been trying to figure out what a holy family looks like in practice and struggling to figure out what a Catholic family life looks like (I am a convert). It was all well & good before my son arrived to have grand notions about raising a Catholic family but in practice, particularly with an infant who thus far has little interaction or understanding, the whole thing often feels awkward and unnatural. I hope & pray that the little foundations my husband & I try to implement now will be able to grow as our son becomes older and is able to understand more. The one thing he does seem to love is music, so I put him to bed by singing hymns to him and that has also become a special time for me to worship God while spending quality time with my son. I find articles such as this one to be inspiring & encouraging. God bless!

  6. LeAnna, thanks for your comment and for dropping by. You’ve already started planting the seed just by your resolve to be a Catholic family rooted in prayer. Didn’t someone say that singing is praying twice? So, there you go…….a great start to a lifelong journey as a domestic church. God bless you and your family.

  7. Biltrix says:

    I’d like to like this one twice, if I could. What people need to hear is that we are called to be holy, and we have the means to seek and attain that holiness in the Church. Of course, the family needs to be evangelized more than anything else, perhaps, because it all begins at home. Thanks, Terry. Great post!

  8. we can never judge our kids by what they do or say.
    One daughter, who was a science major , declared she only believed in fact, doesn’t attend mass BUT when a friend of mine turned to her and said ,YOU are the one with the most traditional faith, she teared up and nodded. She then said that she had been praying rosaries since she was tiny for souls in purgatory. Now she is one of four daughters who meet with a spiritual director and my husband and I, and growing in her inner life.

  9. reinkat says:

    You are so right with this post.
    I wish I had sorted out my own doubts and my own thoughts and analysis of our culture and its pressures when my own kids were young. Perhaps they would have stayed with the faith if I had been able to reach a point of confidence and certainty in dissenting with the larger society. I think part of being a Holy Family is associating and getting involved with a larger community–and that generally means going to church and participating in parish activities. We need the support, wisdom, and encouragement of others to perservere and teach our children.

  10. A truly beautiful post and message…you are a blessing! God bless!

  11. Pingback: The Feast Of The Holy Family | 8 Kids And A Business

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