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The Holy Family – a model for all families

The dignity of the human person and the common good rank higher than the comfort of those who refuse to renounce their privileges. When these values are threatened, a prophetic voice must be raised.

Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, para 218
CCSJ Social Justice Education Committee

By Leela Ramdeen
Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI

The Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is celebrated this Sunday. As Pope Francis has said, we are asked to “reflect on the experience lived by Mary, Joseph and Jesus, as they grow together as a family in mutual love and in trust in God.”

As the year draws to a close, let us reflect on how well we have modelled our families on the Holy Family, which is an exemplar for all families.

God didn’t get a ‘vaps’ one day and thought that it would be a great idea to create families. He has a plan for each family.

We must stop being so ‘own way’ that we close our hearts and minds to what God has planned for us. If we keep God at the centre of the life of our family, we will be able to discern His will for us.

St John Paul II referred to the family as “the basic cell of society…a society in its own original right.” He said: “The future of humanity passes by way of the family” and that marriage and family life find themselves “at the centre of the great struggle between good and evil, between life and death, between love and all that is opposed to love.”

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI warned on March 9, 2012 about “the powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage… marriage and the family are institutions that must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature. The contemporary crisis of marriage and the family, has led to grave societal problems bearing an immense human and economic cost.”

It is not often that we take time to read what our Catechism tells us about the family and society. See, for example, paras 2207–2210.

The breakdown of family life today adversely impacts many. I am on the Board of Credo Foundation for Justice, an NGO, run by the Holy Faith Sisters, that seeks to build a culture of faith that does justice.

It considers itself “a substitute family whose purpose is to protect children and reduce the number of those who are socially displaced and abused. We do this in collaboration with other like-minded agencies by:

  • providing places of safety with developmental and remedial opportunities
  • empowering family
  • creating awareness of social injustices against children.”

Reports from the Children’s Authority highlight the plight of many families who live on the margins, who suffer from abuse, domestic violence and so on. And while our Government can and must do more to strengthen family life, all of us in our parishes must play our part to build strong, holy families in T&T.


What the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

2207 “The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society. The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honour God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society.

2208 The family should live in such a way that its members learn to care and take responsibility for the young, the old, the sick, the handicapped, and the poor. There are many families who are at times incapable of providing this help. It devolves then on other persons, other families, and, in a subsidiary way, society to provide for their needs: ‘Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.’

2209 The family must be helped and defended by appropriate social measures. Where families cannot fulfill their responsibilities, other social bodies have the duty of helping them and of supporting the institution of the family. Following the principle of subsidiarity, larger communities should take care not to usurp the family’s prerogatives or interfere in its life.

2210 The importance of the family for the life and well-being of society entails a particular responsibility for society to support and strengthen marriage and the family. Civil authority should consider it a grave duty ‘to acknowledge the true nature of marriage and the family, to protect and foster them, to safeguard public morality, and promote domestic prosperity.’”