Emulating the Holy Family When Your Family Doesn’t Feel so Holy

holy family sacred art

By Anne Metz

My family doesn’t feel super holy, to be honest. When we show up at mass on Sunday, we definitely feel like the B team.

First of all, we’re usually late. My dad says, “Mass is at 9, but Anne and her family go to the 9:05.” Then there’s the chatting, the waving at cute babies, and the occasional zoning out, me included.

But holiness is more than just a good showing at mass.

It's about living out our faith every day, moment to moment. We can look to the Holy Family for our inspiration and as a model of how to live a holy home life.

What can we learn from the Holy Family?


Let’s start with Mary. She does not speak much in the Bible, so what she does say must be of great importance. Three things that stand out to me about what Mary says (and doesn’t say) in Scripture are her fiat, her praise, and her quietness.

When the angel Gabriel appears to Mary to tell her that she will be the Mother of Jesus, she could have said, “No way!” But she didn’t. She gives her fiat, her yes, to God: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). From this we learn to be open to God’s plan for our lives and to say “yes” to God, even when we can’t see the good He is working.

Mary also says, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” ( Luke 1:46). Let’s also take time to praise and worship our God. Thank God for His blessings, express your awe, and marvel at His works. And let's do it out loud, in front of our children, to model this behavior for them.

Another passage that strikes me about Mary is her quietness. In Luke 2:19 it says, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” In a world filled with noise and distraction, let's follow Mary’s example of quiet contemplation. Take time to sit in silence. Prayer should be a two-way conversation; allow for peace and stillness in your life so you can hear God’s voice.


Now, on to Joseph. Joseph says even less than Mary. In fact, he says nothing at all. So, we need to look at Joseph’s actions as an example of how to live.

He was a protective and loving husband and stepfather. We know that he worked hard as a carpenter to provide for his family. We know that he was open to hearing God’s voice through the angel who visited him. We know that even before he knew Mary to be the mother of Jesus, he planned to divorce her quietly and not bring shame upon her.

All of these actions translate into virtues that we can emulate. To be like Joseph we need to be kind, hardworking, loving, protective, and open to God’s plan for our lives. And maybe most importantly, we need to show our love to people in action, not just in words. 

Can we ever live up to them?

Let me point out that we will never, ever live up to the Holy Family. As a mom, I can’t be Mary. My husband is not Joseph. My kids certainly aren’t Jesus. But looking to the Holy Family doesn’t mean we have to get everything right.

The goal is not perfection. We are human; we are fallible; we will make mistakes. The important thing is that we get back up, dust ourselves off (ideally on the way to the confessional) and look to the Holy Family as an example of selfless love.

When she’s not writing about faith, Anne Metz works for Growing Catholics, whose mission is to bring Scripture to all, especially tweens and teens.

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