Pope Leo XIII instituted this feast in 1892, encouraging societies honoring the Holy Family to be established everywhere. He established this feast day to remind families of the sacredness of the family and to provide the laity with a model upon which to structure their own families.
11. Secondly, the mutual duties of husband and wife have been defined, and their several rights accurately established. They are bound, namely, to have such feelings for one another as tocherish always very great mutual love, to be ever faithful to their marriage vow, and to give one another an unfailing and unselfish help. The husband is the chief of the family and the head of the wife.
The woman, because she is flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone, must be subject to her husband and obey him; not, indeed, as a servant, but as a companion, so that her obedience shall be wanting in neither honor nor dignity. Since the husband represents Christ, and since the wife represents the Church, let there always be, both in him who commands and in her who obeys, a heaven-born love guiding both in their respective duties. For "the husband is the head of the wife; as Christ is the head of the Church. . . Therefore, as the Church is subject to Christ, so also let wives be to their husbands in all things."(18)
12. As regards children, they ought to submit to the parents and obey them, and give them honor for conscience' sake; while, on the other hand, parents are bound to give all care and watchful thought to the education of their offspring and their virtuous bringing up: "Fathers,... bring them up" [that is, your children] "in the discipline and correction of the Lord."(19) From this we see clearly that the duties of husbands and wives are neither few nor light; although to married people who are good these burdens become not only bearable but agreeable, owing to the strength which they gain through the sacrament.
In 1974 Pope Paul VI wrote, in his Apostolic Exhortation, Marialis Cultus (For the Right Ordering and Development of Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary):
On the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph the Church meditates with profound reverence upon the holy life led in the house at Nazareth by Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Man, Mary His Mother, and Joseph the just man (cf. Mt. 1:19).
Marriage and family life one of the paths towards holiness and heaven. I guess the pitfalls are in the little everyday things of laundry, dishes, meals and just getting on each other's nerves. But the benefits and joys of a loving family supersede all of that.
Mr. Pete and I have gotten so good at carrying some of the burdens of marriage and children - for instance last night we had to get up at 3 a.m. to change a bed sheet when Rosie told us her tummy hurt and then she had a little accident. We moved around the house like well-programmed, sleep-deprived zombies, changing sheets and clothes while comforting a squirmy six year old, without saying much at all. We rule at night time bodily function disasters. It wasn't always so.
The challenge we still work on are defiant teens and young adults and how we cede our control and governance while still expressing concern and even disapproval - it's a tight balancing act. But whatever doesn't kill us will hopefully make us stronger and even perhaps holier!
Mr.Pete and I share a bit about our family life to Pre-Cana couples every year. Seems appropriate to share it here today on this Feast Day.