Christmas Day is over, and even though the season of Christmas stretches on for some time, many of us might be more focused on winding down from the holiday than on the other celebrations that follow.
But the Catholic Church actually gives us quite a few great feast days directly following Christmas Day, not the least of which is the Feast of the Holy Family celebrated on the first Sunday after Christmas.
This year, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family on December 27. We might think of this feast as one that’s more important for married couples and parents, but there is actually a lot of good material for reflection for singles when it comes to the Holy Family.
Here are three reasons to work on developing a devotion to the Holy Family in your life this year, and some ways to do it.
1. A willingness to embrace suffering
Learning to embrace suffering in a holy way can be a struggle for any Catholic. During our single years, there can often be quite a few opportunities for this.
The Holy Family can be great models for us when it comes to picking up our crosses and embracing suffering.
From the very beginning of the story, when Mary was visited by the archangel Saint Gabriel, it must have been clear to her that this was going to be the start of a lot of difficulty for her. Even on a natural level, she would have known immediately that she could suffer from false assumptions about her character because of this pregnancy.
Similarly, in the case of Joseph, many theologians assert that his hesitance to marry Mary after learning about the conception of Jesus was less about him thinking that she’d been with another man and more about him realizing the difficult path of their future together, as well as his own weakness.
The two of them began enduring more suffering in having to travel to Bethlehem (while Mary was very pregnant!) and then giving birth in a barn of all places. Then, at the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, they both heard Simeon prophesy that a sword would pierce Mary’s heart.
Throughout all these sufferings, and this promise of more harsh suffering to come, Mary and Joseph remained steadfast and faithful.
As we face sufferings in our own lives and perhaps struggle with accepting them, the Holy Family can be a great inspiration for us.
2. Openness to God’s will
When we don’t know exactly what direction our life is headed in, it can be very difficult to maintain an attitude of submission to God’s will. The Holy Family’s example can help us here as well.
Mary and Joseph obviously show us how to be open to God’s will in their initial choice to do what God was asking of them to begin with. But their openness to God’s will didn’t stop there.
They could have looked for a way to avoid traveling to Bethlehem or to put it off. But instead, they embraced the unexpected journey and ended up cooperating with God to fulfill the prophecy that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem.
After Jesus was born, it wasn’t long before they had to flee for their lives into Egypt. They probably never imagined that they would have to do anything like this, but because they were ready and willing to do God’s will, they were successful in protecting the Infant Jesus.
As our own lives take unpredictable turns and frustrating twists, we can look to Mary and Joseph’s example of holy submission to God’s will in their lives.
3. The holiest example of family life
If we don’t have a spouse and children of our own yet, that is no reason to assume that the example of holy family life we can see in the Holy Family isn’t applicable to us yet.
Single women can and should look to Mary’s example while striving to prepare for a future marriage and motherhood. And single men should certainly look to the example of Joseph while striving to prepare for marriage and fatherhood.
But even beyond that, we can also look to the Holy Family for a reminder of just what we should be seeking in a spouse.
While we won’t find a spouse who is as perfect as Mary or Joseph, we should definitely be looking for someone who wants to imitate them in their lives and who wants a family life like the Holy Family.
And we can certainly pray to Mary and St. Joseph for help in finding such a spouse. They can be powerful intercessors in the difficult search for a holy life partner.
Ways to cultivate this devotion
There’s no reason to focus on the Holy Family for just the one day each year that the Catholic Church officially celebrates them. Instead, we’d do well to look to them frequently in our lives.
One of the best ways to do this can be to pick up some spiritual reading about the Blessed Virgin Mary, Joseph, or the Holy Family. It’s also a good idea to meditate on various aspects of their lives during silent prayer.
You can also look into the practice of Consecration to Mary through the prayers of Saint Louis Marie de Montfort. It is a lengthy process of prayer, but it can be a very fruitful devotion.
There is also a similar consecration to Joseph that allows us to take him as our spiritual father.
You can also consider a novena (nine days of prayer) to the Holy Family for a specific intention. Many people traditionally begin novenas nine days before a feast day, but you can also begin it on the feast itself, or even at a totally unrelated time of year.
We can also definitely use small statues or images of the Holy Family in our home to remind us to focus on them.
Cultivating a devotion to the Holy Family can be a fruitful practice for Catholics at all stages in their lives, but perhaps especially throughout the difficulties and uncertainties of our single years.
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