The Holy Family
Protector of Families
Feast Day: The Sunday between Christmas and New Year's Day or December 30 (if both are Sundays)
The Child Jesus is God in the flesh, the fulfillment of the prophecies and the New Covenant. In His humility and out of His love for us, He took on our humanity and was every way tempted like us but did not sin. He is the Son of God who lived, died and rose again from the grave that we might have life in all its fullness.
Little is known of the life of the Holy Family in the Gospels in the years before Jesus’ public ministry. All that is known are the birth of Jesus, the sojourn in Egypt, the return to Nazareth, and the incident that occurred when the twelve-year-old boy accompanied his parents to Jerusalem. As faithful observant Jews, the parents made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem every year with other Jewish families (Luke. 2:41).
To present the Holy Family as a model for Christian families, the Feast of the Holy Family was instituted by Pope Leo XIII in 1893. The Feast is a liturgical celebration in the Catholic Church in honour of Jesus of Nazareth, his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and his foster father, Saint Joseph, as a family. Since the 1969 revision of the General Roman Calendar, the feast is celebrated on the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas, the Sunday 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. It is a holy day of obligation only if it falls on a Sunday.
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.
The Holy Family consists of St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and the Child Jesus.
St. Joseph is known as the husband of Mary and foster-father of Jesus. It was to him that God entrusted Jesus, His only begotten Son, and the caring of the Blessed Mother who was chosen to bring the Messiah into the world, "the one who would save man from their sins."
The Virgin Mary was the vessel specially chosen by God through which Jesus would be conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. She is the Ark of the Covenant whose "Yes" to the will of the Father, brought the gift of salvation to the world.
Pillar of Families, Patron of the Universal Church, unborn children, fathers, workers, travelers, immigrants, and a happy death
Feast Day: 19 March, 1 May
Joseph was a descendant of the house of King David. After marrying Mary, he found her already pregnant and, “being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace” (Matthew 1:19), decided to divorce her quietly, but an angel told him that the child was the Son of God and was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Obeying the angel, Joseph took Mary as his wife. After Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem in Judaea, where the Holy Family received the Magi, an angel warned Joseph and Mary about the impending violence against the child by King Herod of Judaea, whereupon they fled to Egypt. There the angel again appeared to Joseph, informing him of Herod’s death and instructing him to return to the Holy Land.
Avoiding Bethlehem out of fear of Herod’s successor, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus settled in Nazareth (Matthew 2:22–23) in Galilee, where Joseph taught his craft of carpentry to Jesus. Joseph is last mentioned in the Gospels when he and Mary frantically searched for the lost young Jesus in Jerusalem, where they found him in the Temple (Luke 2:41–49). Like Mary, Joseph failed to comprehend Jesus’ ironic question, “ ‘Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ ” The circumstances of Joseph’s death are unknown, except that he probably died before Jesus’ public ministry began and was certainly dead before the Crucifixion (John 19:26–27).
Although the veneration of Joseph seems to have begun in Egypt, the earliest Western devotion to him dates from the early 14th century, when the Servites, an order of mendicant friars, observed his feast on March 19, the traditional day of his death. Among the subsequent promoters of the devotion were Pope Sixtus IV, who introduced it at Rome about 1479, and the celebrated 16th-century mystic St. Teresa of Ávila. Already patron of Mexico, Canada, and Belgium, Joseph was declared patron of the universal church by Pope Pius IX in 1870. In 1955 Pope Pius XII established the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker on May 1 as a counter-celebration to the communists’ May Day. (Source: Britannica)
Our Lady of Fatima
Feast Day: 13 May
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." (Genesis 3:15)
“A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head”. (Rev. 12:1)
In the year 1917, the “Great War” raged, that would cost Europe over 37 million lives, an entire generation. Amidst this great trial, on May 5, 1917, Pope Benedict XV invited the world to perform a nine-day novena of prayer to Our Blessed Mother, to pray for Peace and a quick end to the First World War. Eight days later, on May 13, 1917, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children at Cova de Ira in Fatima, Portugal.
At Fatima, our Blessed Mother imparted a message of hope and of Peace. She requested the children to pray the Rosary and make penance and offer sacrifices for the conversion of sinners and for Peace in the world.
The message of Fatima invites us to return to God our Father by prayer and acts of reparation and sacrifice for the sins of the world.
On August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb hit Japan. Amidst the destruction, 8 Jesuits survived with minor injuries and no ill effects. In an interview, Fr. Hubert Fischer said “we believed that we survived because we were living the Message of Fatima.”
According to Sr. Lucia, “we must try as much as possible to make reparation to Our Lord through an ever-increasing intimate union with Him so that we identify ourselves with Him and He becomes in us the Light for the whole world.”
She also said, “The final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and family. Do not be afraid because anyone who operates for the sanctity of marriage and the family will always be contended and opposed
in every way, because this is the decisive issue . . . however, Our Lady has already crushed its head”.
St. John Paul II
Pope of the Family
Feast Day: 22 October
St. Therese of the Child Jesus and Holy Face (The Little Flower)
Doctor of the Church and Patroness of Missions and Missionaries
Feast Day: 1 October
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (Born Marie-Françoise-Thérèse Martin, January 2, 1873 – September 30, 1897), or Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, O.C.D., was a French Discalced Carmelite nun. She is popularly known as "The Little Flower of Jesus" or simply, "The Little Flower".
Thérèse has been a highly influential model of sanctity for Catholics and for others because of the "simplicity and practicality of her approach to the spiritual life". Together with St. Francis of Assisi, she is one of the most popular saints in the history of the church. Pope Pius X called her "the greatest saint of modern times."
Karol Józef Wojtyła became pope of the Catholic Church from 16 October 1978 until his death on 2 April 2005. Born in Poland, he was the first non-Italian pope since the Dutch Pope Adrian VI who served from 1522 to 1523. He is also the second longest-serving pope in modern history after Pope Pius IX who served for nearly 32 years from 1846 to 1878.
John Paul II is credited for helping to end Communist rule in his native Poland and eventually all of Europe. He significantly improved the Catholic Church's relations with Judaism, Islam, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion. He also supported the Church's Second Vatican Council and its reform, and in general held firm to orthodox Catholic stances. He often spoke about suffering in the world and was a vocal advocate for human rights. He is also one of the most traveled world leaders in history, visiting 129 countries during his pontificate.
As part of his special emphasis on the universal call to holiness, he beatified 1,340 people and canonised 483 saints, more than the combined tally of his predecessors during the preceding five centuries. By the time of his death, he had named most of the College of Cardinals, consecrated or co-consecrated a large number of the world's bishops, and ordained many priests.
John Paul II died on April 2, 2005, at the age of 84, at his Vatican City residence. More than 3 million people waited in line to say good-bye to their beloved religious leader at St. Peter's Basilica before his funeral on April 8.
With the traditional five-year waiting period waived, John Paul II's cause for canonisation commenced in 2005, one month after his death. On 19 December 2009, John Paul II was proclaimed Venerable by his successor Pope Benedict XVI. He was beatified on 1 May 2011 after the Congregation for the Causes of Saints attributed one miracle to him, the healing of a dying French nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre Norman, from Parkinson's disease—the same illness that killed the pope. The second miracle involved a 50-year-old woman, who claimed that she was cured of a brain aneurysm after a photograph of Pope John Paul II spoke to her.
On 27 April 2014, John Paul II was canonised, alongside Pope John XXIII. Like John XXIII, his feast day is not celebrated on the date of his death as is usual, but on the anniversary of his papal inauguration, 22 October 1978. The official sainthood ceremony brought together four popes. Pope Francis led the event to elevate Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII to sainthood, which was also attended by Francis's predecessor Emeritus Pope Benedict. On Thursday, 11 September 2014, Pope Francis added his optional memorial to the worldwide General Roman Calendar of saints' feast days in response to worldwide requests.
Aside from his innumerable contributions to the church and to society, John Paul II had a special place in his heart for young people having started the World Youth Days which gathered young people from all over the world to celebrate the Christian faith. Dubbed by Pope Francis as the Pope of the Family, he is also remembered for his legacy in the development of Church teaching on marriage and family.
Thérèse felt an early call to religious life, and overcoming various obstacles, in 1888 at the early age of 15, she became a nun and joined two of her elder sisters in the cloistered Carmelite community of Lisieux, Normandy. After nine years as a
Carmelite religious, having fulfilled various offices such as sacristan and assistant to the novice mistress, and having spent her last eighteen months in Carmel in a night of faith, she died of tuberculosis at the age of 24. Her feast day is on October 1st.
The impact of The Story of a Soul, a collection of her autobiographical manuscripts, printed and distributed a year after her death to an initially very limited audience, was great, and she rapidly became one of the most popular saints of the twentieth century. Pope Pius XI made her the "star of his pontificate". She was beatified in 1923, and canonized in 1925.
Thérèse was declared co-patron of the missions with Francis Xavier in 1927, and named co-patron of France with Joan of Arc in 1944. On October 19, 1997 Pope John Paul II declared her the thirty-third Doctor of the Church, the youngest person, and at that time only the third woman, to be so honoured.
Thérèse lived a hidden life and "wanted to be unknown", yet became popular after her death through her spiritual autobiography. She also left letters, poems, religious plays, prayers, and her last conversations were recorded by her sisters. Paintings and photographs – mostly the work of her sister Céline – further led to her being recognized by millions of men and women.
The depth of her spirituality, of which she said, "my way is all confidence and love", has inspired many believers. In the face of her littleness she trusted in God to be her sanctity. She wanted to go to heaven by an entirely new little way. "I wanted to find an elevator that would raise me to Jesus". The elevator, she wrote, would be the arms of Jesus lifting her in all her littleness. (Source: Wikipedia)
Sts. Marie-Azélie Guérin and Blessed Louis Martin
Patron of Parents and Married Couples
Feast Day: 12 July
Blessed Marie-Azélie Guérin and Blessed Louis Martin were the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux. Blessed Marie-Azélie Guérin, usually called Zélie, was a lacemaker, and Blessed Louis Martin a jeweler and watchmaker. Both her parents were devout Catholics. Louis was "a dreamer, brooder and romantic." He had tried to become a monk, wanting to enter the Augustinian Monastery of the Great St Bernard, but had been refused because he did not know Latin. Later he decided to become a watchmaker, and studied his craft in Rennes and in Strasbourg. Zélie, possessed of a strong, active temperament, wished to serve the sick, and had also considered entering consecrated life, but the prioress of the canonesses regular of the Hôtel-Dieu in Alençon had discouraged her enquiry outright. Disappointed, Zélie learned the trade of lacemaking. She excelled in it and set up her own business on Rue Saint-Blaise at age 22.
Louis and Zélie met in early 1858 and they married just three months later on July 13 of that same year in the actual Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption in Alençon. Her business was so successful that by 1870 Louis had sold his watchmaking shop to a nephew and handled the traveling and bookkeeping end of her lacemaking business. Both of great piety, they were part of the petit-bourgeoisie, comfortable Alençon. For ten months, they lived as brother and sister in a perpetual continence, but when a confessor discouraged them in this, they changed their lifestyle and later had 9 children. From 1867 to 1870 they lost 3 infants and 5-and-a-half-year-old Hélène. All 5 of their surviving daughters became nuns. Their children were:
Marie-Louise (22 February 1860 – 19 January 1940), as a nun, Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart, Carmelite at Lisieux.
Marie-Pauline (7 September 1861 – 28 July 1951), as a nun, Mother Agnès of Jesus, Carmelite at Lisieux.
Marie-Léonie (3 June 1863 – 16 June 1941), as a nun, Sister Françoise-Thérèse, Visitandine at Caen.
Marie-Hélène (3 October 1864 – 22 February 1870)
Marie Joseph Louis (20 September 1866 – 14 February 1867)
Marie Joseph Jean-Baptiste (19 December 1867 – 24 August 1868)
Marie-Céline (28 April 1869 – 25 February 1959), as a nun, Sister Geneviève of the Holy Face, Carmelite at Lisieux.
Marie-Mélanie Thérèse (16 August 1870 – 8 October 1870)
Marie-Françoise Thérèse (2 January 1873 – 30 September 1897), as a nun, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, Carmelite at Lisieux, canonised in 1925
From 1865, Zélie Martin complained of breast pain and in December 1876 a doctor told her of the seriousness of the tumour. In June 1877 she left for Lourdes hoping to be cured, but the miracle did not happen.."The Mother of God has not healed me because my time is up, and because God wills me to repose elsewhere than on the earth." On August 28, 1877, Zélie Martin died of breast cancer in Alencon, aged 45 when Thérèse was barely 4 1/2 years old. Her funeral was conducted in the Basilica Our Lady of the Assumption where she had married Louis. Few weeks later, Louis sold her lacemaking business and the saint Blaise's street home, and moved to Lisieux, in Normandy, where Zélie's brother Isidore Guérin, a pharmacist, lived with his wife and two daughters.
In 1889 Louis suffered two paralyzing strokes followed by cerebral arteriosclerosis, and was hospitalised for three years at the Bon Sauveur asylum in Caen. In 1892 he returned to Lisieux, where his daughters Céline and Léonie looked after him devotedly until his death on 29 July 1894 at the chateau La Musse near Évreux.
Louis and Marie-Azélie Martin were declared "venerable" on 26 March 1994 by Pope John Paul II. They were beatified on 19 October 2008 and Jose Cardinal Saraiva Martins, the legate of Pope Benedict XVI, presided at the Mass of Beatification in the Basilique de Sainte-Thérèse, Lisieux. On 7 January 2013, Archbishop Carlos Osoro Serra of Valencia, Spain presided at the opening of the canonical process to inquire into the healing in 2008 of a little girl named Carmen who was born in Valencia four days before Louis and Zelie were beatified. Eight doctors testified that there was no scientific explanation for her cure. The diocesan tribunal held its closing session on 21 May 2013, and the file was sent to Rome for review by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. In October 2015, Louis and Zellie Martin were canonized as saints during the Synod of Bishops on the Family. (Source: Wikepedia)
St. Ann and St. Joachim
Patron of Grandparents
Feast Day: 26 July
St. Joachim and St. Anne are the married couple traditionally honored as the parents of Mary, which makes them the grandparents of Jesus.
St. Joachim and St. Anne remind us of the mystery of the Incarnation: God truly became man and entered into a human family that included not only his mother Mary and father Joseph but their parents, and their parents, and their parents, all the way back to Adam (and Eve) at the dawn of creation, according to St. Luke’s chronology (Luke 3:23-38). Like all of us, Jesus was born into a web of relationships, the “cradle of life and love” that is the family (John Paul II, Christifideles Laici, no. 40).
Although tradition holds that Joachim and Anne are the parents of Mary, the Mother of God, we have no historical evidence, however, of any elements of their lives, including their names. Any stories about Mary's father and mother come to us through legend and tradition.
The oldest story comes from a document called the Gospel of James. According to the legend told in this document, St. Joachim and St. Anne struggled with infertility and were childless for decades. Like other barren couples in Scripture (eg. Abraham and Sarah, Elkanah and Hannah), sterility was a great burden to Joachim and Anne and even a hindrance to their participation in community life. A story is told of St. Joachim wanting to offer sacrifice in the temple but being turned away because of his childlessness. Retreating into the mountains to air his grievance with God, both he and his wife receive an angelic prophecy of Anne’s pregnancy. We can imagine her thanking God in the same words used by Hannah when she became a mother:
“My heart exults in the Lord,
my horn is exalted in my God.
I have swallowed up my enemies;
I rejoice in my victory.
. . .
The barren wife bears seven sons,
while the mother of many languishes.”
- 1 Samuel 2: 1, 5
Though nothing factual can be known about St. Joachim and St. Anne, today they are honored in the church by virtue of being the parents of Mary. The church recognizes them as nurturing Mary, teaching her in a way that God chose her to be a worthy Mother of God. Laying the groundwork for Mary’s faith, St. Joachim and St. Anne prepared her for the day when she would answer one day to the angel Gabriel “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to thy word.”Furthermore, it was their example of parenting that Mary must have followed as she brought up her own son, Jesus. Their faith laid the foundation of courage and strength that allowed Mary to stand by the cross as her son was crucified and still believe.
Especially for couples, the marriage between Joachim and Anne serves as a significant witness to why marriage is “unique for a reason.” As parents, Mary is the fruit of their marriage. By a singular grace of God in view of the merits of Jesus, she was preserved from all stain of Original Sin from the moment of her conception. Thus it is in the context of married life and conjugal love that Mary is prepared to receive the Divine Logos, the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus is the Logos, the “Reason” at the heart of all reason and truth, including the truth of marriage.
Anne (or Ann) is the patron saint of Christian mothers and of women in labor. St. Joachim and St. Anne are the patron saints of grandparents and infertile couples. (Sources: Catholic Online and Marriage Unique for a Reason)
St. Gianna Molla
Patroness of Mothers, Physicians and Unborn Children
Feast Day: 28 April
Saint Gianna Beretta Molla (October 4, 1922 – April 28, 1962) was an Italian pediatrician, wife and mother who is best known for refusing both an abortion and a hysterectomy when she was pregnant with her fourth child, despite knowing that continuing with the pregnancy could result in her death. She was canonized as a Saint of the Catholic Church in 2004.
Saint Gianna Beretta Molla was born in Magenta, Italy as the tenth of thirteen children in her family, only nine of whom reached adulthood. When she was three, her family moved to Bergamo, and she grew up in the Lombardy region of Italy. In 1942, Gianna began her study of medicine in Milan. She received a medical diploma in 1949, and opened an office in Mesero, where she specialized in pediatrics.
In December 1954, Gianna met Pietro Molla, an engineer who worked in her office. They were officially engaged the following April, and they married in September 1955. They welcomed the births of their children Pierluigi, in 1956, Mariolina, in 1957, and Laura in 1959.
In 1961, Gianna was pregnant again. During the second month, Gianna developed a fibroma on her uterus. After examination, the doctors gave her three choices: an abortion, a complete hysterectomy, or removal of only the fibroma. Gianna opted for the removal of the fibroma, wanting to preserve her child’s life.
Gianna clearly expressed her wishes to her family saying, “This time it will be a difficult delivery, and they may have to save one or the other – I want them to save my baby.” On April 21, 1962, Holy Saturday of that year, Gianna went to the hospital, where her fourth child, Gianna Emanuela, was successfully delivered by Caesarean section. However, Gianna continued to have severe pain, and died of septic peritonitis 7 days after the birth.
Gianna was beatified by Pope John Paul II on April 24, 1994, and canonized on May 16, 2004. Gianna’s husband Pietro, and their children Laura, Pierluigi & Gianna, were present at the canonization ceremony, the first time in the history of the Church that a husband witnessed his wife’s canonization. In his homily at her canonization Mass, Pope John Paul II called Gianna “a simple, but more than ever, significant messenger of divine love.”
Saint Gianna is the inspiration behind the Gianna Center in New York City. It is the first pro-life, Catholic healthcare center for women in New York. The Gianna Center provides primary care with specialized gynecologic care. (Source: World Meeting of Families website)