Holy families to consider on the feast of the Holy Family

Wedding bands decorate the reliquary containing the remains of Louis and Marie Zelie Guerin Martin. (CNS/Sanctuary of Lisieux)

VATICAN CITY — Since Christmas was on a Sunday this year, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of the Holy Family today.

At his general audience Wednesday, Pope Benedict talked about the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph being a model, especially of prayer, for Christian families.

Earlier this year, Marist Father Anthony Ward, undersecretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, compiled a list of other holy families for Catholics to imitate. The list of married couples was drawn from the 2004 edition of the “Roman Martyrology,” a thick tome listing the saints and blesseds of the Catholic Church according to their feast dates.

Father Ward’s list shows the Catholic Church formally, liturgically honors three married couples from the New Testament: Sts. Joachim and Anna (Mary’s parents), Sts. Zachariah and Elizabeth (the parents of St. John the Baptist) and Sts. Aquila and Priscilla (missionaries who traveled with St. Paul).

The list also includes eight married couples martyred in the first centuries of Christianity and seven married couples who lived in Europe in the Middle Ages. Interestingly, three of the Medieval couples are made up of a husband who has been canonized and his wife who has be beatified. Those three are: St. Stephen of Hungary and Blessed Giselle; St. Isidore the Farmer (or Laborer) and Blessed Maria de la Cabeza; and St. Elzear and Blessed Dephine of Sabran.

Five married couples are among the canonized 19th-century martyrs of Korea, and 16 married couples are among the beatified martyrs of Japan, who were killed in the early 1600s.

Rounding out the list are Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi, a 20th-century couple from Rome who had four children and were active in civic affairs and religious activities. They were beatified together in 2001.

Since the “Roman Martyrology” was published, another married couple has been beatified together: Louis and Zelie Guerin Martin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux.

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