Want to Grow in Holiness as a Family? Look to the Holy Family

Tips for your domestic church from the example of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

A painting of the Holy Family by an unknown artist of the 19th century adorns the Church of St. Benedict in Parma, Italy. Pope Leo XIII urged families to place an image of the Holy Family in their homes.
A painting of the Holy Family by an unknown artist of the 19th century adorns the Church of St. Benedict in Parma, Italy. Pope Leo XIII urged families to place an image of the Holy Family in their homes. (photo: Renata Sedmakova/Shutterstock.com)

Every time Chris and Jennifer Sariego and their four children leave their home in the greater Los Angeles area and get into their car for a drive longer than 15 minutes, the family prays the Rosary together. “We call it the minivan Rosary,” Chris said. “If you have an active, on-the-go family, the minivan is a great place to say the Rosary.”

It’s one of the ways their family is growing in holiness together as a domestic church, in the hallowed footsteps of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, whose feast we celebrate the Sunday after Christmas.

In their daily life together, families can grow in holiness by imitating the Holy Family.

Pray together. The Holy Family certainly prayed together. Their life was a living prayer as they grew together in faith and love. Holy Cross Father David Guffey, the national director of Family Theater Productions, encourages families to make the most of prayer, starting with saying grace at the table. “Take a moment and invite members of the family to offer prayers of intercession. Pray for someone or offer a prayer of gratitude for something they’re grateful for in their life,” Father Guffey said.

Family prayer sheds light on what’s in children’s minds and hearts, what and who they’re thinking and worrying about, and what they’re thinking about God, he added.

Grace at every meal is a given for the Sariegos. “It doesn’t matter whether we’re in restaurants or not,” Chris said, explaining that they offer a public witness when they’re out to eat as they bless themselves and pray. Doing so aids them in teaching their “children that being a witness to the faith is important,” he said.

Bless one another. Couples should bless one another, and parents should bless their children, counsels Father Guffey. It is nice to imagine the Holy Family doing such family blessings themselves.

“To know their parents are praying for them, and giving a little blessing, is a beautiful thing. My parents blessed me every night, and it stuck with me,” he said, saying this prayer practice calls down “aid, grace and blessing on the person.”

William Keimig, catechetics professor and assistant director of Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Catechetical Institute, recalls when daughter Elizabeth was sick and he started blessing the 2-year-old with holy water. After she was well, she asked, “Daddy, can you keep blessing me?” So blessing with holy water became a part of the family’s nighttime routine with her six brothers and sisters as a way to communicate trust and peace in the Lord.

Eat together daily. Make it a priority to eat at least one meal a day together. The Holy Family certainly gathered for food and fellowship. The Keimigs have added a tradition to Sunday dinners to make them extra special. “Before the meal,” Keimig explains, he and wife Heather and their children enjoy “‘Sunday medicine’ — a little bit of dessert first. It could be a few pieces of chocolate to give a sense this day is a day of special joy.”

Foster the family Rosary. In the 2002 encyclical Rosarium Virginis Mariae (The Most Holy Rosary), St. John Paul II emphasized, “The family that recites the Rosary together reproduces something of the atmosphere of the household of Nazareth.” Father Guffey advises, “Every domestic church needs rituals that bind the family and help them to be together and pray, to orient them out of themselves towards something greater. The greatest thing is Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the greatest way to look to Christ and learn about Christ is through the eyes and heart of his Blessed Mother Mary. She leads us to Christ. And the heart of Jesus is strength for any home.”

That’s why the Sariegos pray the Rosary faithfully. As Chris said, “We make sure as a family every Sunday evening we set aside time and sit as a family to offer intercessory prayer and say the Rosary.”

He calls the family Rosary the “strongest thing we do to hopefully grow in holiness,” adding, “One of the things I love most about the Rosary is that when we pray it I see my children growing in compassion and love for the people who suffer. We talk about who we’re praying for.” Chris finds it powerful “to see my children become open and think about others and their needs and really learn selflessness. Saying the Rosary together as a family teaches them.”

Prioritize Sundays. Think of Mary, Joseph and Jesus observing the Sabbath faithfully. “Any strong spiritual life begins with getting Sunday right in your whole life,” Keimig explained. “In a good, strong, healthy vision of the family, Sunday plays the central role because it balances things when it is treated as the Lord’s Day and not like the culture so often thinks of it: simply as a second Saturday.”

Keimig said the Lord asks this day to be “an oasis” for family time.

“We all know that parents struggle and suffer because of the cultural imposition of things around them, and Sunday is the day to learn to stand up to them with the Lord’s courage. It starts with Sunday Mass,” he said. He added, “It’s the only spiritual act the Lord raised to a command … and that is to give him the day.”

The Keimigs’ seven children know their dad will not impose chores on them on Sundays, nor will he be doing busy work. Their parents will be “simply available to them, and joyfully so,” he said.

He recommends reading St. John Paul II’s 1998 apostolic letter Dies Domini (Keeping the Lord’s Day Holy), which lays out a spiritual vision to make the Lord’s Day an anchor in family life. The Pope highlighted that joy is precisely one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit granted by keeping holy the Sabbath: “If we wish to rediscover the full meaning of Sunday, we must rediscover this aspect of the life of faith.”

The Keimig children know Sunday is “a family priority.” They look forward to Sundays, knowing it’s “the day the Lord gave” to worship and rest together joyfully.

Joseph Pronechen is a

Register staff writer.

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito says of discerning one’s college choice, ‘There has to be something that tugs at you and makes you want to investigate it further. And then the personal encounter comes in the form of a visit or a chat with a student or alumnus who communicates with the same enthusiasm or energy about the place. And then that love of a place can be a seed which germinates in your own heart through prayer.’

Choose a College With a Discerning Mind and Heart

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito, assistant professor of theology at the University of Dallas (UD) and subprior (and former vocations director) of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas, drew from his experience as both a student and now monastic religious to help those discerning understand the parallels between religious and college discernment.