Written by Sunnie Lain, Vincentian Support Services
The feast of The Holy Family is a day on which Catholics worldwide celebrate Jesus’s earthly family–The Divine Son of God Jesus, his mother the Virgin Mary, and his foster-father Joseph. It is also a day on which we celebrate our own families. The Gospels tell us very little about the life of the Holy Family–they speak of the early years of the Holy Family, including the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, the flight into Egypt, and the finding of Jesus in the temple. Even without a lot of detail, however, we can still learn a lot about family living from scripture.
Just how does one live out the Church in the family? St. Paul gives us some advice on family life in Colossians 3:12-17:
“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.”
We believe as Catholics that the Holy Family of Jesus is the model on which our families should be based. Our family life is holy when we incorporate our faith into our home life. We extend this belief to our vision of our place in the community and world. As members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, we believe that all humans are a family. As a family, we bring the love of Christ not only to our families, but to our communities and to those in need.
Speaking out for the rights and needs of vulnerable people in our midst, standing with them in solidarity, are also part of what we are called to do as a Christian family.
Vincentians around the world, through our Voice of the Poor advocacy work, do just that. Our domestic and international twinning programs connect needy St. Vincent de Paul Conferences with other Conferences who have extra funds to share. Our disaster relief programs help people worldwide who have been affected by natural or man-made disasters. In these ways, we come together to help members of our “family” whom we may never meet.
As Vincentians, we have the great privilege of seeing our neighbors at times when they are most in need—when they feel the most vulnerable and even broken. At those times, we become their family. During the Christmas season, when work slows down for many people, Vincentians are at their busiest. We collect and distribute food, gifts, and fill many other needs for those we serve. Oftentimes, the help that St. Vincent de Paul gives keeps the heat, electricity, or water on so that families can stay safe, warm, and together over the holidays. For those in need of shelter, St. Vincent de Paul’s two Gateway Shelters’ doors are always open. And always, as we do this, we try to bring the good news of Christmas to those people we help. Vincentians, in their face-to-face contact with those we serve, “see Christ in the face of the poor”.
We see every man, woman, and child who comes to us as part of our family.