In The Wizard of Oz, a homesick young Dorothy clicks her heels together and exclaims, “There’s no place like home! There’s no place like home!”
Mary and Joseph must have felt the same way, when they finally settled into their routine in Nazareth. First there was that arduous trip to Bethlehem for the census and the frantic search for lodging. Joseph had been forced to make their bed in a lowly stable—and there, as darkness fell in that faraway land, Mary’s labor began and she delivered her firstborn Son in the brittle straw. Just a few days later, they climbed to Jerusalem to present the newborn Jesus at the Temple—where both Simeon and Anna prophesied, telling the young couple that their infant was the Messiah! Finally, Joseph and Mary had to make that hurried flight into Egypt to escape Herod’s murderous attack on young Jewish male children.
So it must have been quite a happy moment when at last Joseph could turn his attention to carpentry and Mary could sing soft lullabies as she baked bread, her young Son at her knee.
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. The last sentence of today’s Gospel passage offers a peek into their window: “The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.” Young Jesus was safe and snug, in the privacy of his family’s home.
Pope Benedict Encourages Family Prayer
Pope Benedict, in his weekly address on December 28, spoke of the Holy Family as a model of family life marked by faith, work and regular moments of prayer together. “The house of Nazareth,” he said, “is a school of prayer where we learn to listen, to meditate, to penetrate the deepest meaning of the manifestation of the Son of God, drawing our example from Mary, Joseph and Jesus.”
If children do not learn to pray in the family, the Holy Father warned, it will be difficult to fill this gap later.
The Family as Domestic Church: A Contemporary Case Study
Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi understood the need to nurture faith in their young children, and integrated prayer into the daily routine in their family.
Born in Italy in the early 1880s, the couple married in November 1905 in the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. Luigi was a lawyer and civil servant; Maria dedicated herself to her family, while volunteering for a number of charitable and social Catholic movements.
The Quattrocchis had four children. Filippo, the eldest, became a diocesan priest, becoming known by the name of Don Tarcisio. Cesare, the second son, left home in 1924 to become a Trappist monk, taking the name of Fr. Paolino. Stefania entered the Benedictine cloister in Milan and took the name Cecilia.
In 1913, Maria became pregnant a fourth time; but because of complications during the difficult pregnancy, the gynecologists urged her to have an abortion in hope of “at least saving the mother.” Luigi and Maria refused to abort their child, even though the possibility of survival then with that diagnosis was just five per cent. Although Maria’s suffering was great, they chose, instead, to trust in God. The child did survive, and her grateful parents named her Enrichetta. Although Enrichetta did not enter religious life as her older brothers and sister had done, she devoted her life to carrying, first, for her aging parents, and then for her priest brother.
Luigi and Maria’s loving family is an example of heroic sanctity in everyday life—a portrait of love and respect through the ups and downs of marriage. On November 25, 1994, the cause for Beatification for Maria and Luigi Beltrame Quattrocchi was opened. Just seven years later—on October 21, 2001—Pope John Paul II beatified the couple, the first married couple to be so recognized by the Church for their sanctity. On October 28 of that year, the remains of Luigi and Maria were transferred to the crypt in Rome’s Shrine of Divino Amore (Divine Love).
A PRAYER FOR FAMILY LIFE
Dear Lord, with Mary and Joseph, you have lived within a family;
Teach me always to appreciate the precious gift of being part of a family.
Show me ever new ways to protect and comfort those closest to me, and
Let me, each day, do something that will say ‘I love you’ without speaking the words.
But remind me also to frequently say those words.
Let me never part from any member of my family in anger.
Prompt me always to turn back without delay – to forgive, and be forgiven.
And let me see your image within each person
in my own family, and in my greater family,
Knowing that in your Kingdom, we will truly be one family,
United by your sacrifice on the cross.
From Fr. Tommy Lane, S.S.L., S.T.D.