Pastoral Letter; Holy Family; 31 Dec 2017






To be read at all Masses over the weekend of December 30th/31st – 2017


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

St Pope John Paul II, in his Exhortation on the Family, wrote these words: “The future of humanity passes by way of the family.”

These words apply not just to our own families today, but in a special way to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  For with our Saviour’s birth in Bethlehem, the future of all humanity, past, present and future, passes by way of this family.

Jesus Christ was able to be conceived in the womb of Mary, only because she welcomed him with a generous mother’s love.  Mary was able to accept her child without fear because she was protected by the faithful integrity of her husband Joseph.

By their great care for the sacred infant, this couple enabled him to grow to full human maturity and to be filled with wisdom – thus assisting him to preach the Gospel and to bring salvation to the whole world through his life, death and resurrection.

Our salvation, therefore, has been accomplished through the means of a family.

God instituted the family from the beginning to share in his work of creation – to be fruitful and multiply.

  • Through the Holy Family he allows humanity to share in his work of re-creation.
  • In God’s plan of salvation, everything happens through the family.
  • The future of humanity passes by way of the family.

These words are true for us today.

For the way we live as families determines not only who we will be as individuals but also the nature of our society and of our collective culture.

The way we treat others in the home ultimately shapes the way we will treat and think about other people.

The values we learn in the home are the values we will take into the wider world.

And yet today we see many trends by which the family, given us by God to be the foundational building block and stability of society, is being slowly but surely obscured and undermined.

Our Catholic Catechism tells us that a family is a man and woman united in marriage, together with their children.  Each of these components is questioned today.

The complimentary love of a man and a woman, as husband and wife, mother and father, is seen as an outdated constraint on society.

Marriage is often stated to be an irrelevant institution.

Today many do not see the importance of making vows to each other before God when choosing to live together.

Children are seen as an optional extra or something to have once all other personal ambitions have been achieved.

This erosion of the principals of the family can only bring about the destruction of society as we know it.

The future of humanity passes by way of the family.

  • Of course, there will be struggles and crosses and woundedness in every home.
  • There is only one family we call the Holy Family.
  • We are called to imitate them as best we can.

But, the structure of the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the traditional structure of the family in society, is not some rarely attained optional ideal.

It is a way that is possible to live, with the grace that God gives in the sacrament of Marriage and in the other Sacraments of the Church’s life.

I would like to ask every parish to find ways of supporting family life in 2018 – by bringing families together to meet each other socially, or providing them with a day of recollection, and giving them affirmation and encouragement as they seek to live as Christ calls each member of his Family to live.

To all the children here today,

I would ask you that you never forget all that your parents do for you – their love and prayers for you, the encouragement they give you in their own example of living the Christian faith.

They might not have all the answers to your questions, but their faith shows how important it is to live close to Jesus Christ and to keep his commandment of love.

Don’t throw it all away until you have had a chance to grow old enough to see its fruits in your life.

To all parents here today,

Remember that you are the first teachers of your children in the ways of faith.

You have a responsibility not just to look after their physical and intellectual welfare but also their spiritual development as children of God.

I would like to suggest two simple things by which you can entrust each other and your children into God’s hands.

  • First, say a grace before the meals that you eat together as a family.
  • Second, have your house blessed during this year by your parish priest.

These are small things in themselves, but real signs of prayer and of placing your family and home and all that happens there, under God’s blessing.

Finally, today’s Gospel speaks of the two elderly and holy people- Simeon and Anna.

Grandparents are a source of great blessing and bring a fountain of experience and wisdom to each home.  May we and the whole of society learn to care for those parents who once cared for us and may we also grow in our respect for the elderly.

As we approach the new year of 2018, may the prayers of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph bring grace and peace and many blessings into your homes and the life of your family.

Please be assured that I pray for all of you and your families.  May I ask you to pray for me and for our Diocesan family in East Anglia?

With all good wishes for the coming year,

Yours devotedly in Christ,

Alan Hopes

Bishop of East Anglia