Jan 5 Holy Family

A few non-Catholic friends and relatives who attended our wedding were poking fun at us during the rehearsal: 


“Wives should be subordinate to their husbands!? Give me a break. This is the 21st Century! You are equals in this relationship! You should really take that part out.” 


There were eyerolls, and even some concern about “what I was getting myself into.” 


Our loved ones meant well; their comments were simply based on a lack of understanding of the beautiful Sacrament of Matrimony as our entrance into life as a family.  


From the very beginning, families were created to reflect the eternal communion of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The family unit is designed to reflect Heaven on Earth. Sin may have marred the image, but Christ has given us the way back.


O God, who were pleased to give us the shining example of the Holy Family, graciously grant that we may imitate them in practicing the virtues of family life and in the bonds of charity, and so, in the joy of your house, delight one day in eternal rewards.


When we look at the virtues of family life through our Biblical lens, we can view our roles within the family as beautiful gifts, exemplified by the Holy Family and intended to advance each family member toward salvation.

Husbands and Wives

I think the most important takeaway from the following passages is this: within the Holy Trinity, there is ultimate and complete harmony. There is no jealous rivalry. There is no bitterness. Each person of the Holy Trinity honors and glorifies the other two persons with great joy. 


Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.

 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So [also] husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. (Eph 5:21-30)


When a man is asked to lead and guide his family, he is bearing the responsibility, the privilege, and the duty of laying aside his own desires in order to be a spiritual leader to his wife and children on their path to salvation. When a woman is asked to submit to her husband, she is asked to help him in his mission of guiding their family with joy and gladness in a way that honors Christ. 

Children and Parents

As we raise our children and Godchildren in the Church, we consistently receive reminders that we are ultimately responsible for their discipleship and spiritual well-being. That being said, the Bible also reminds children that they have the responsibility and the duty to respond to their parents with honor and respect. 


Children, obey your parents [in the Lord], for this is right. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise, “that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life on earth.” (Eph 6:1-3)


Take a look at the Old Testament reading from Sirach regarding parents and children: 


For the Lord sets a father in honor over his children

    and confirms a mother’s authority over her sons.

Those who honor their father atone for sins;

     they store up riches who respect their mother.

 Those who honor their father will have joy in their own children,

    and when they pray they are heard.

 Those who respect their father will live a long life;

    those who obey the Lord honor their mother.


 My son, be steadfast in honoring your father;

    do not grieve him as long as he lives.

 Even if his mind fails, be considerate of him;

    do not revile him because you are in your prime.

 Kindness to a father will not be forgotten;

    it will serve as a sin offering — it will take lasting root.

(Sir 3:2-6, 12-14)


And here is the New Testament longer Epistle, from Colossians:


Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col 3:12-17)

Fathers and Children

Parents are given a sacred assignment from God as stewards of the spiritual growth and well-being of their children. This is especially true of the father as the spiritual head of his family. That’s why St. Paul made a point several times to remind fathers not to abuse or exploit their position as head of the family by becoming harsh, mean-spirited, heavy-handed, or overly demanding.


“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up with the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph 6:4)


“Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged.” (Col 3:21)


We even see examples from the Holy Family, such as this passage from Luke in which Jesus obeys his mother and father and thus grows up in holiness and virtue: 


He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.  And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man. (Lk 2:51-52)


So, to circle back to my dear concerned wedding guests. Misunderstandings happen when we don’t see the big picture: everything God asks of us, husbands and wives and children, is for the benefit of our eternal souls. The call for wives to be subordinate to their husbands, for husbands to love their wives, for children to obey their parents, and for fathers not to provoke their children, must all be read in light of the “virtues of family life” mentioned in the above prayer for the Feast of the Holy Family:


  • Compassion
  • Kindness
  • Humility
  • Gentleness
  • Patience
  • Forgiveness
  • Love


And of course, the greatest of these is Love.