Today’s liturgical feast of the Holy Family honors Jesus; his mother, Mary; and his foster father, Saint Joseph; and their model as a family for all Christians. It was instituted in 1893 by Pope Leo XIII with the date of the feast to fall on the Sunday within the Octave of the Epiphany (January 7 – 13). With the revision of the Roman calendar in 1969, the feast is now celebrated within the Octave of Christmas – meaning, it always falls on the Sunday following Christmas.
Next Saturday we celebrate another great feast in the Church - Mary, the Holy Mother of God, or Mater Dei in Latin. What better way is there to start off our new secular calendar year than to attend Mass? (Masses are on Friday at 6pm, and Saturday at 8:15am.) Because this feast falls on a Saturday, it is not a day of obligation this year. As with most things Marian, this feast celebrates Mary’s motherhood of the Divine Jesus, with the focus being on her role as the bearer of Christ, and not just on Mary. It has been celebrated on January 1st in a variety of ways with references to it as far back as the 7th century. It is celebrated on the 8th day after Christmas – or the ‘Octave’ of Christmas. Pope Paul VI wrote in his Apostolic Letter, Marialis Cultus: "This celebration, placed on January 1 ...is meant to commemorate the part played by Mary in this mystery of salvation. It is meant also to exalt the singular dignity which this mystery brings to the ’holy Mother...through whom we were found worthy to receive the Author of life.’ It is likewise a fitting occasion for renewing adoration of the newborn Prince of Peace, for listening once more to the glad tidings of the angels (cf. Lk. 2:14), and for imploring from God, through the Queen of Peace, the supreme gift of peace."