Whether entering a grand cathedral with towering spires or a humble chapel with a single panel of stain glass, it is likely to see at least one statue or painting of the Holy Family. Despite being depicted in different poses and wearing different expressions per the artist’s preference, the Holy Family always consists of Saints Joseph and Mary and a young Christ at the center. But who are these people and why do they play such a crucial role in the development and structure of families worldwide?
Etched in stone and painted with acrylics, it can be hard to imagine saints as people with fears, joys, anxieties, and triumphs. All the onlooker sees are the serene acceptance of whatever mission those saints were tasked with. In truth, the saints were all humans, meaning they all felt the aforementioned emotions.
St. Joseph the Husband and Worker
St. Joseph was a man of great virtue. He was humble and kind. He was loving and understanding. When he discovered that Mary, his betrothed, was pregnant, St. Joseph knew what the penalty for an unmarried woman would be: stoning to death. Instead of proclaiming Mary’s circumstances to a public that would have cruelly punished her, St. Joseph instead made arrangements to send Mary away quietly, so as to save her from what would happen if she stayed.
It is important to add that, at this point, St. Joseph was not aware that Mary was carrying the Son of God. After an angel appeared to him and explained the reason behind Mary’s pregnancy, St. Joseph took her and the unborn child under his roof, protecting them. When the angel appeared again to Joseph to warn him that his family was in danger, Joseph did not hesitate; he took Mary and Jesus away, leaving behind everything he had established and all his relationships. St. Joseph also loved Jesus as his own. He looked after the child under his protection, even searching for him when Jesus disappeared at the temple for three days. St. Joseph was a man who followed God, protected his family, and helped Mary raise Jesus. For these reasons, he is known as both St. Joseph the Husband and St. Joseph the Worker and is the patron saint of the universal church. The Holy Family would not be complete without him.
Mary, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven
The Mother of God and Queen of Heaven and Earth was born into a humble family, the daughter of St. Joachim and St. Anne. It can be easy to forget that someone so magnificent and holy could ever have been human, but that’s what makes our Blessed Mother so unique. Born without the original sin of everyone else, Mary was chosen to bring forth the Savior of the World. One day, perhaps a sunny afternoon, Mary was going about her daily activities and chores when suddenly an angel appeared to her. Imagine that! An angel.
In paintings, St. Gabriel the angel, appears in lovely flowing robes and has two colorful wings on his back. This makes a beautiful image, but his message to Mary would change the fate of humanity. He explained that she had been chosen by God to bear his son. That was when Mary gave her world-famous answer, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). She was a young girl. Nevertheless, even at such a young age, Mary answered the call of God. She fled with Joseph to Bethlehem where she gave birth to her son, Jesus Christ. From his first breath to his last, Mary stood by her son in all he did, learning more about her God through the process. How intimidating it must have been to be raising the King of the universe! Yet, despite all of the hardships she must have faced, Mary remained obedient to God. The heart of Mary endured much during the life of her son. No matter what challenge he was presented with, his mother was faithfully by his side, becoming a beacon of light for all the generations to come.
Jesus Christ: The King of the Universe
With Mary and his foster father, Joseph, Jesus was born in the most humble circumstance, to monetarily poor parents. The King of the Universe chose a manger over silk bed-sheets. He chose hay over a jeweled crown. He chose a thin swaddle cloth over elaborately stitched robes of velvet. How great God loved us, to be born so poor despite his mighty and all-powerful existence!
There is little known about Jesus’ childhood until his twelfth year (where his parents searched for him desperately until they found him in the temple). Jesus began his public ministry when he was thirty years old. At this point, he sought out his twelve disciples. Throughout the next three years until his crucifixion, Jesus performed miracles, taught the public, and encouraged his disciples to put their whole beings into following God. His greatest gift to us was himself. Upon two pieces of crossed wood, he died for the sins of all of humanity. His love is so ardent for us that he was more than willing to die for us.