WDTPRS – Holy Family (1962MR): Extend your family bond around someone who has no one else

One of my favorite paintings. It is by Murillo and it hangs in the National Gallery in London. It is “The Heavenly and Earthly Trinities“. I have a large, high definition print, beautifully framed, in the “Two Trinities” chapel over the altar. I will be forever grateful to the readers (esp. JD and AW) who donated so that I could have this wonderful and inspiring work of devotion so well framed. You were and are family to me.  As I, in the framing, put my bounds around this image, you, in your giving, put your bounds around me.
I am reminded daily.

When the Feast of the Holy Family comes around, we sometimes get comments about how many people are hurt because of their families.  The Feast itself and the ideal of the Holy Family leaves them a little shaken.  From the beginning let me recommend what I posted the other day about the purification of memoryHERE  While we don’t forget things that happened to us, or things we have done, we must purify the memory of those things so that the Enemy of the soul has a crowbar into our minds, to distract, to upset, to derail.

Purification of memory is crucially important for those who have been deeply wounded or for those who have deeply wounded others.

With that as a lead in, in the traditional Roman calendar, this Sunday, the 1st after Epiphany, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family.  In the Novus Ordo calendar in most places Epiphany is being observed.  Mind you, it is NOT Epiphany.  It is the observance of Epiphany.

The 1570 Missale Romanum does not have the feast of the Holy Family.  Devotion to the Holy Family really took off in the 17th century, especially in French speaking regions.  Pope Leo XIII seems to have introduced the feast for Canada in 1893 and Benedict XV gave it to the whole Latin Church in 1921.

The fostering of and, now protection of families is of critical importance.  The family is building block of society, which the Enemy is working to destroy.  Of course the enemy will attack families!

The late Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, who was as a priest assigned in 1981 to found the once-sound Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family revealed that the Fatima seer Sr. Lucia wrote in a letter to him:

“Father, a time will come when the decisive battle between the kingdom of Christ and Satan will be over marriage and the family. And those who will work for the good of the family will experience persecution and tribulation. But do not be afraid, because Our Lady has already crushed his head.”

COLLECT (Holy Family – 1962MR):

Domine Iesu Christe, qui Mariae et Ioseph subditus, domesticam vitam ineffabilibus virtutibus consecrasti: fac nos, utriusque auxilio, Familiae sanctae tuae exemplis instrui; et consortium consequi sempiternum.

Subdo, which according to the thick Lewis & Short Dictionary is “to bring under, subject, subdue”, gives us subditus, a, um, “subject”.  Consortium comes from the preposition cum (“with”) and sors (“any thing used to determine chances”).  Sors is further applied to offices that are gained by the casting of lots and methods like drawing straws.  It means, then, “fate, destiny, chance, fortune, condition, share, part.”    It thus means also a “community of goods” and by extension “fellowship, participation, society.”


O Lord Jesus Christ, who, while subject to Mary and Joseph, consecrated domestic life by unutterable virtues, cause us, by the help of them both, to be instructed in the examples of Your Holy Family, and to attain eternal fellowship

A consortium is a situation in which you have “cast your lot” with a group.  You share a common outcome or fate.  At the end of the Roman Canon we hear consortium when we pray to participate in the reward given to great martyrs.  Consequor is “to follow, follow up, press upon, go after, attend, accompany, pursue any person or thing.” It also means, “to follow a model, copy, an authority, example, opinion, etc.; to imitate, adopt, obey” and “to reach, overtake, obtain”.  Consequently, it follows, consequor means “to become like or equal to a person or thing in any property or quality, to attain, come up to, to equal.”

Exemplum is first and foremost “imitation, image, portrait; transcript, copy” and then it is in legal terms a case or cause to be imitated or followed in our behavior, a “precedent”.

Our prayers today taken all together present themes of imitation and instruction: exemplum… instruo… imitor… consequor.

SECRET (Holy Family – 1962MR):

Placationis hostiam offerimus tibi, Domine, suppliciter deprecantes: ut, per intercessionem Deiparae Virginis cum beato Ioseph, familias nostras in pace et gratia tua firmiter constituas.

This prayer was revised somewhat but largely retained in the Novus Ordo for the Feast of the Holy Family.  To my mind, the newer version gives more emphasis to St. Joseph.  However, this is not an ancient prayer.

Placatio means “a pacifying, appeasing, propitiating” especially of the immortal gods.  In our prayer today we might choose a word like “atonement” or even “reconciliation.”  Deprecor is not just “to pray”, but “to pray earnestly.”  Firmiter is the adverb of firmus and can be “firmly, steadily, lastingly, powerfully.”  Because of the beseeching tone of the prayer and the concept of intervention, I will use the word “powerfully.”   When you, gentle reader, go through this vocabulary you might try substituting some of the alternative meanings to see how that will affect the prayer.  You will see why translating the liturgy is not an easy task and why we must pray for all involved.


We offer You this sacrifice of appeasement, O Lord, humbly in earnest prayer, so that, by the intercession of the Virgin Mother of God with blessed Joseph, you may establish our families powerfully in grace and peace

This is spoken by the priest, our mediator with God and alter Christus, at the moment our offerings (spiritual and material) are on the altar in anticipation of the divine act of transubstantiation.

All we are and all our hopes and desires should be united with the frail hosts, the still wine.  Lay participants at Holy Mass share in their way in the priesthood of Christ who was both priest and victim.  We all, priests and lay, at Mass must learn to be still and frail, like the offerings on the altar.   As Paul writes of, we are strong in our weakness.

What we receive in return, particularly through making a good Holy Communion, makes us strong to fulfill our vocations in the world and transform it around us.

It is fitting that we should use the language of bowing, implicit in suppliciter.

We must use the physical posture of bowing down, folding ourselves face down before God, folding and bend our knees to beg Him to form and shape our families. In humility we are raised.  The paradoxes mount.  The more we give in family, the more we gain, as is the case in the blessings of children.

As the family in general goes, so goes society.

But what do we find in prosperous countries?

Legal abortion, growing legalization of euthanasia, same-sex marriages, high divorce rates, young women disposing of newborn infants in garbage cans, scientific experimentation on living human beings, the dreadful prospect of cloning.  The concept of the family is breaking to pieces.

It is good to pray that God might be appeased.

POSTCOMMUNIO (Holy Family – 1962MR):

Quos caelestibus reficis sacramentis, fac, Domine Iesu, sanctae Familiae tuae exempla iugiter imitari: ut, in hora mortis nostrae, occurrente gloriosa Virgine Matre tua cum beato Ioseph; per te in aeterna tabernacula recipi mereamur.

The Novus Ordo retains the first part of this prayer, though it is shifted to address God the Father, rather than the Son, and the last part eliminates the discomforting reference to death.


O Lord Jesus, cause those whom You are restoring by the heavenly sacraments to imitate the models of the Holy Family without ceasing, so that, in the hour of our death, as the glorious Virgin Mother rushes with blessed Joseph to meet us, we may merit to be received by You in the eternal dwelling place

The verb occurro means “to run up to, run to meet”.  The word tabernaculum in ancient Roman religious language is a tent outside the City were the auspices were observed before holding a comitia. In the Old Testament book of Numbers a tabernaculum is the “meeting tent”.  In liturgical language it seems interchangeable with habitaculum or mansio.  I think we have an echo here of Luke 16:9: “And I say to you: Make unto you friends of the mammon of iniquity: that when you shall fail, they may receive you into everlasting dwellings (recipiant vos in aeterna tabernacula)” (Douay).

Today’s imitation vocabulary underscores that we are not without help in his life. We are part of a family, earthly and heavenly, already realized but not yet fulfilled. Christ chose to participate in a family when He began to save us and teach us who we are. Great work goes into the noble vocation of being a member of a family. We must imitate and practice the exempla offered us in the Holy Family, the lives of our extended heavenly family of saints, the good efforts of people around us. By imitation and practice we develop virtues. We build ourselves, with God’s help, into holy individuals and families, and thereby we begin to prepare eternal dwelling places.

Those who have religiously oriented families know this. So do those who do not have families. Often they know this with the bitterness of loneliness.

Perhaps you could extend your family bond around someone you know who has no one else.

Our proximity to Christmas and Epiphany urges us to consider the Divine Infant King’s little manger crib of rough wood.  The wood of the manger foreshadows the wood of His saving Cross.  His self-emptying was a sacrifice which made His saving Sacrifice possible.  He cast His lot with us.  As He was dying, Our Lord guided His Mother, a widow about to lose her only Child, to a new family bond with John, about to be orphaned in a spiritual sense by His Lord’s death.

Christ bound them together into a new family, a family of charity, a family of Blood, though not of blood: “And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.” (John 19:27 RSV).

This is a Christian imperative. These are Christ’s saving exempla to be imitated.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Cafea Fruor says:

    As a woman who is very much struggling with being single, childless, and beginning perimenopause in her early 40s and thus losing sight of a chance to have her own family, I thank you, Fr. Z., for the plug for those of us without families. My nuclear family is still living, so, yes, I technically have family. And yet I don’t really have family because, for various reasons tied to how terribly dysfunctional and abusive my family is, I’m estranged from my siblings and have had to distance myself from my parents indefinitely. I see my parents and stepparent sometimes, but always with emotional distance to protect myself. Owing to those same family problems, I never got to know my extended family, either. So I’m functionally an orphan. As I’ve gotten older, i.e., not a young adult, I’ve also felt less like a part of the family of the Church, because at the parishes to which I’ve belonged, those without families are seen merely as potential volunteer help (as if I, in a doctoral program, magically have more free time than a married person) and no one reaches out to me unless help is needed. I’ve tried doing general parish things but often feel quite left out because I can’t talk about things like the joys of raising kids or the stress of spousal disagreements. There aren’t any singles events or anything, and those of us without family get the “honor” of being asked to clean up after the parish festival at midnight when the families have gone home. I celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family with special affection because the Holy Family means so much to one without real family. I guess it wasn’t the Church’s motive for having the Feat of the Holy Family, but I find it’s really, really helpful to have the feast follow right on the heels of Christmas, when we family-less singles often find ourselves lonelier than during the rest of the year.

    When I was a kid, knowing I would eventually grow up and leave my family of origin got me through some rough childhood times, but I never thought I’d get to my 40s and not have my own family. I don’t know if that’ll ever happen. I have some friends but had to move out of state for school (I need a much better-paying job if I’m going to be a single-income household indefinitely), and it’s VERY hard to make new friends at this age. Or maybe you can make friends, but it’s hard to make close friends because everyone’s so busy you maybe see them once every couple of months, which isn’t enough. I recently heard a married guy talk about some problems he was having with his wife and how his emotional needs are getting met, and I had to bite my tongue not to say, “Welcome to my life. I NEVER have my emotional needs met.” So yet, it’s indeed bitterly lonely at times, and those of us without families often feel like we’re not even on the Church’s radar and or the radar of those who have families. So I would very much love it if a couple or family extended their bond around me. To feel like I was part of a family would be absolutely amazing!

  2. Cafea Fruor says:

    Ugh. Sorry for the typos. I tried to hit preview and ended up hitting post instead.

  3. Eugene says:

    I extend my prayers for you Cafea Fruor, that 2023 bring you the connection you desire and deserve!

  4. Cafea Fruor says:

    Thanks so much, Eugene! I really appreciate it. :)

  5. maternalView says:

    Cafea Fruor- may I suggest a novena to St. Maximilian Kolbe? He gave up his life so a man could go home to his family.

    While I have a family, I can somewhat relate in that at my old parish no one ever reached out to me. I had children & a husband but I needed friendship. So I volunteered A LOT. People started seeing me around. Then people started asking me to do stuff. I ended up on the parish council, president of the women’s guild and a few other things. Over the years I come to realize I my role is to be of service to others.

    Maybe no one will offer what you desire. Perhaps that’s not where God sees you. But you could be exactly what someone else needs. Be that. And maybe the rest will come.

    I’ll pray for you.

  6. Cafea Fruor says:

    Thans, maternalView. I do try to be of service, and I do volunteer. Still, when I’m putting in 80+ hour weeks at school, applying for practicums, working, and also volunteering, trying to connect with friends, etc., sometimes I’m just absolutely parched and need to receive instead of constantly giving, giving, giving. The bow that’s always taught will eventually break, and you can’t keep giving when you’re totally spent.

  7. beelady says:

    Cafea Fruor,
    I am so sorry for your pain, I will pray for you.
    A wise priest counselled me recently to pray daily, “For the grace to know and feel that I am God’s beloved daughter.” That simple prayer is helping me through a very difficult time and it may be a help to you as well.

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