February – The month of the Holy Family

    How fitting that after the Christmas season, the Church devotes the month of February to the Holy Family. After spending time meditating on the Infant King and the maternity (both Divine and spiritual) of Mary, as well as the feast of the Holy Family shortly after Epiphany, the Church now presents the entire Holy Family as subject for consideration over the upcoming weeks. 

    Pope Leo XIII played a key role in establishing the feast which is now celebrated by the Church, and himself composed the hymns for Matins, Lauds and Vespers for the feast of the Holy Family, which was officially instituted in 1893. 

    Two of those hymns are reproduced here as aids in dwelling on the Holy Family during this month. 

Pope Leo XIII’s Lauds hymn:

O house of Nazareth the blest,

fair hostess of the Lord,

the Church was nurtured at thy breast

and shared thy scanty hoard.

In all the spreading lands of earth

the wandering sun may see

no dearer spot, no ampler worth

than erst was found in thee!

We know thy humble tenement

was heaven's hermitage:

Celestial heralds came and went

in endless embassage.

There, whatsoever Ioseph asks

Christ hastens to fulfill;

while Mary loves the household tasks

that wait her joyous will.

There, Joseph toileth at her side

her joys and griefs to share,

with thousand ties knit to his bride,

of love and work and prayer.

Yet how their bosoms constant burn

and deeper ardors prove

in love of Christ, whose eyes return

tokens of mutual love.

O then, in all the homes of earth,

be Love the bond of life:

May it enthrone at every hearth

the peace that husheth strife.

All praise to Thee, O Jesus,

who parents dost obey;

Praise to the sovereign Father

and Paraclete for aye.

Meanwhile Pope Leo’s hymn for Vespers reads thus:

O highest Hope of mortals,

blest Light of Saints above,

O Jesu, on whose boyhood

home smiled with kindly love;

And thou whose bosom nursed Him,

O Mary, highly graced,

whose breast gave milk to Jesus,

whose arms thy God embraced.

And thou of all men chosen

to guard the Virgin's fame,

to whom God's Son refused not

a Father's gracious name.

Born for nation's healing,

of Jesse's lineage high,

behold the supplicants kneeling,

o hear the sinner's cry!

The sun returned to evening,

dusks all the twilight air:

we, lingering here before you,

pour out our heartfelt prayer.

Your home was as a garden

made glad with fairest flowers;

may life thus blossom sweetly

in every home of ours.

All praise to Thee, O Jesus,

who parents dost obey;

praise to the sovereign Father

and Paraclete for aye.


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