Saturday, 8 February 2014

Feast of the Holy Family

Devotion to the Holy Family began in the Middle Ages, with congregations erected in many parts of the world, placed under the protection of the Holy Family. Just as Christ is a person of the Blessed Trinity in heaven, so is He a person in the domestic trinity here on earth. As old as the devotion may be, the feast would only be instituted in the crepuscule of the 19th century.

La Sagrada Familia
Damián Domingo

On 14 June 1892, Pope Leo XIII promulgated the brief Neminem fugit, establishing the Pious Association of the Holy Family, giving it its statutes, and conferring on it the dignity of an archconfraternity. The association was patterned after the Pious Association of Christian Families Consecrated to the Holy Family established in 1861 at Lyon by the Jesuit priest François Philippe Francoz.

This was followed by another brief, Quum nuper, on 2 July 1892, outlining the indulgences and privileges granted to the the Association, and to its guildbrethren.

On the anniversary of Neminem fugit, 14 June 1893, Pope Leo XIII finally instituted the feast of the Holy Family on the third Sunday after Epiphany, composing for it its proper office hymns, namely: O lux beata caelitum for vespers; Sacra jam splendent for matins; and O gente felix hospita for lauds.

Pope Leo XIII could thus be considered as the Pope of the Holy Family.

Pope Leo XIII
[Pope of the Holy Family]

The reforms of Saint Pius X, however, effectively suppressed the feast between 1911 and 1914. On 23 October 1913, Saint Pius X issued the bull Abhinc duos annos, removing feasts on Sundays, and reforming the Psalter.

In 1914, some dubia were referred to the Sacred Congregation of Rites concerning the celebration of the feasts previously fixed on Sundays, which Abhinc duos annos displaced from their formerly assigned day, for places under the title and patronage of the feasts displaced. The dicastery responded with a rescript dated 28 April 1914, fixing the feast of the Holy Family on 19 January.

Pope Benedict XV, successor to Saint Pius X, acceding to the requests of many bishops from all parts of the world, finally re-affixed the feast of the Holy Family on a Sunday, this time the Sunday within the octave of the Epiphany, thereby inscribing it in the general Roman calendar, and extending it to the Universal Church. This came through a decree from the Sacred Congregation of Rites issued to the City and to the World on 26 October 1921.

This was the last translation of the feast in the Old Rite. The feast would later be transferred to the Sunday after Christmas in 1969.

In many old parishes in the Philippines, however, the feast is celebrated on the second Sunday of February, probably as a holdover of the ancient arrangement of feasts in the particular calendar of the Philippine Church. Just as the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus became fixed on the third Sunday of January in many places in the Philippines, so is the feast of the Holy Family fixed on the second Sunday of February in many parishes. The fixing of the feast of the Holy Name was impelled by two factors: (1) the Toletan discipline of celebrating the feast on the 14th of January; and (2) the pre-Pian date of the feast on the second Sunday after Epiphany. Even though the octave days of Saint Stephen until Saint Thomas have been removed, allowing for the celebration of the feast on 2 January, the bastion of devotion of the Holy Name, the city of Cebú, known until the early part of the 20th century as la ciudad del Santísimo Nombre de Jesús, keeps the feast in the midst of January. As for the Holy Family, its placement outside January is a result of the peculiar ordering of the Filipino liturgical calendar.

When Pope Leo XIII instituted the feast of the Holy Family, it appeared in missals on the third Sunday after Epiphany (second Sunday is Holy Name). The ordo of the Philippines practically rendered celebration of this feast on its schedule impossible. After the feast of the Holy Name, three feasts with octaves occurred on the Philippine ordo: Saint Vincent on 22 January, Saint Ildephonsus on 23 January, and Saint Julian on 28 January. After their feasts and octaves, the impeded feasts of January (that appeared on the general calendar but transferred to a fixed or a non-fixed date) are celebrated. By February, the feast of the Purification and that of the Holy Martyrs of Japan hogged the first week of February, and only after then did the calendar clear up and permit celebration of the impeded feasts (e.g., Saint Agnes fixed on 11 February, Saint Francis of Sales on 16 February, Saint Agatha on 18 February, etc.). As of 1903, the feast of the Holy Family was not yet inscribed in the ordo of the Philippines, so it must have been later when the feast was fixed on the second Sunday of February.

With the promulgation of Neminem fugit, it appears that local associations of the Holy Family were soon organised in the Philippine Islands, when the brief finally reached the Islands. On 26 May 1893, the Metropolitan See of Manila approved the Tagalog manual for the Pious Association of the Holy Family, drafted by Fray Francisco Girón, a Discalced Augustinian, Vice-Director of the Asylum of Orphans of Our Lady of the Consolation in Tambobóng, now Malabón.

In 1914, when the Sacred Congregation of Rites fixed the feast on 19 January, a novena in honour of the Holy Family in Hiligaynon was published in Manila, written by Padre Pedro María Tiangson, parish priest of Cápiz. The novena, which was ordered in the traditional Filipino arrangement, of which we shall discuss in a separate post, was approved by ecclesiastical authorites. His Excellency, Dennis Joseph Dougherty, bishop of Jaro (later created a cardinal), decorated the novena with fifty days of indulgence.

As many parishes in the Philippine celebrate on Sunday the feast of the Holy Family, let us join them by recalling the copla of the gozos of the novena in honour of the Holy Family.
Tungod sang mga panabang
ni María kag ni José,
O Jesús, hatagi kamí
kamatayon nga bulahan.
Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

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