Since the three holiest persons the world has ever beheld, Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God, His immaculate mother, Mary, and His foster-father, Saint Joseph, dwelt together for many years in the humble home of Nazareth, it is natural that Catholics should venerate them not only as individuals but also as a family. The cult of the Holy Family, however, did not manifest itself to any extent in the Church until the 17th century. At that time this devotion became popular throughout Europe, and was introduced into Canada through the zeal of F. de M. Laval, first Bishop of Quebec. This period witnessed the establishment in France of a religious congregation of women known as Daughters of the Holy Family. At the present day there are several religious congregations both of brothers and of sisters under the patronage of the Holy Family.
In 1861, Father Francoz, a Jesuit, founded at Lyons an association of Christian families consecrated to the Holy Family. Pope Leo XIII, in his Apostolic letter “Neminem fugit” (14 June 1892) and in his brief “Quum nuper” (2 July 1892), affiliated to this society all the similar organizations throughout the world and enriched it with many privileges and indulgences. The Cardinal-Vicar of Rome is the protector of this association. The Archconfraternity of the Holy Family differs from the preceding association in that it is composed, not of families as such, but of individuals. It owes its origin to the zeal of a Belgian military officer of the 19th century, Henri Belletable.
Perceiving the havoc that was being wrought among the working classes by socialism, Belletable established at Liege, 1844, a confraternity of working-men under the patronage of the Holy Family. Its first spiritual director was the Redemptorist, Father Victor Dechamps, later cardinal and Archbishop of Malines. In 1847 the organization was approved by Pope Pius IX, who elevated the confraternity of Liege to the dignity of an archconfraternity, with the right to affiliate to itself other confraternities throughout the world and to communicate to them its spiritual privileges. The confraternity is now extensively spread through Europe and America and has a membership of several hundred thousand. It is no longer limited to working-men; any Catholic, man or woman, child or adult, may join this association. It is, to a great extent, under the direction of the Redemptorist Fathers, the rector of the Redemptorist community at Liege being its chief director. One of the most celebrated confraternities is that in the Redemptorist Church at Limerick, Ireland, which counts more than 6,000 men as practical members.
By decree of the Congregation of Rites, 26 October 1921, a feast of the Holy Family was instituted for the universal Church, to be celebrated on the Sunday within the octave of the Epiphany.
Among the many masters who have represented the Holy Family in art are: Alberti, Baroccio, Batoni, Bartolommeo, Burckmair, Annibale Carracci, Agostino Carracci, Cignani, L. Cranach the Elder, Credi, Da Vinci, EI Greco, Fra Bartolommeo, Franeia, Imola, Lanzano, Luini, Mantegna, Mengs, Michelangelo, Murillo, Perugino, Pinturicchio, Piombo, N. Poussin, Raphael, Rembrandt, Reni, Ribera, Romano, Rottenhammer, Rubens, Sarto, Schongauet, Signorelli, Titian, Trevisani, Van der Werden, Van Dyck, Van Orley, Vasari, Veronese, Zaleski.
- “devotion to the Holy Family”. . Saints.SQPN.com. 11 June 2010. Web. 20 May 2013. <http://saints.sqpn.com/devotion-to-the-holy-family/>