What Does a Holy Family Look Like?
What Makes a Family Holy?
Readers Respond

“The Holy Family with a Lamb,” by Raphael, 1507

Today is the Feast of the Holy Family, a time the Church sets aside to reflect on the model of familial love that was set by Mary, Joseph, an the Child Jesus.  Too often, churches and preachers distill the symbolism of this feast to mean that the components of a holy family are a heterosexual couple with a child.

However, our faith experience and our lived reality tells us that “holiness” and “family” mean so much more than this narrow definition.  In today’s epistle reading (Colossians 2: 12-21), we are reminded that as Christians, we must treat one another with “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another”–just some of the values and signs of holiness and strong familial bonds.

Over the past month, Bondings 2.0 has asked our readers to help show the world that loving families exist beyond the heterosexual model.  We asked folks to show us “What does a holy family look like?” and requested readers to send in photos of their families.  We also asked people “What makes a family holy?” and requested readers to respond in JUST THREE  WORDS.

The following are the responses that we received.

Beatrice Benesh writes:  “I am the grandmother in this family.  The photo was taken on a Disney Cruise to Alaska to celebrate the 45th anniversary of my husband and me.  My daughter, Val, is in the front on the right.  Her wife, Ninfa, is in front on the left holding one of their two children.  Next to Val and Ninfa are my son, Larry & his wife, Rebecca.  Next to Rebecca is our daughter, Carolyn, then our daughter, Meredith and Carolyn’s husband, Chris.  On the left next to Larry is my husband, Greg, and then me. At the end are four more grandchildren, Nora (Carolyn & Chris’s) then Archer (Larry & Rebecca’s).  On the right, Lia with the glasses is Val & Ninfa’s other daughter, and little Nate is next to dad, Chris.

“Twenty years ago when Val told me she was gay, it rocked my Catholic self a bit.  I told her it was fine and that we would always love her, and I felt that was true.  However, I didn’t realize what a special gift this would be to our whole family.  As I spent time in prayer and reflection I realized that I do indeed love her just the way she is, and I wouldn’t want her to change in any way.  I also felt that I heard God telling me that He puts people in my life and my job is to love them. I don’t have to completely understand things in this world, and because I don’t, I shouldn’t worry about judging.  This transformed our family.  Where all are welcomed, all are holy because acceptance allows love to flourish.  Nothing is more transformative than love.”

Richard Broggini writes: “My wife and I are married 35 years and blessed with three wonderful children. Six years ago, our son, Matthew (“Gift of God”) came out to us when he was in his mid-twenties. Since that time, we have begun a new journey, as a family, discovering the depth and breadth of the BIGNESS of God’s love.

“In the picture from left to right are: Donnie (boyfriend of daughter Kristen), Kristen, Richard and Kathleen (father and mother), Lauren (daughter), Scott (partner of son Matthew), and Matthew.

“As we opened presents together on Christmas morning, Matthew, seemingly out of nowhere said, “life doesn’t get better than this. I feel so at peace, and content.”
Matthew’s partner, Scott, is Jewish. We first met him three years ago, on Christmas Eve. I had a Menorah and Advent Wreath on the table as that year, they overlapped. I never before lit a Menorah, and Scott never before lit an Advent Wreath candle. As I lit the Menorah with one of the lighting candles, he chanted a beautiful Hebrew prayer which is traditionally chanted when you do something for the first time. I handed the lighting candle to Scott, and he chanted the Hebrew prayer as he lit the candles on the Advent Wreath. It was a moment I will always treasure in my heart – meeting my son’s partner and sealing our meeting with the light and love of two beautiful faith traditions which open wide the doors of God’s love.”

THREE WORDS: Love + Diversity = Unity

Isaiah Bourke DeLeon, Greg Bourke, Michael DeLeon, Bryson Bourke DeLeon

THREE WORDS: Love. Faith. Commitment

Front Row: Russ & Genie Calkins, parents of two gay kids, Sandy Chan (daughter Janet’s partner), daughter Janet Austin, son Jamie Austin Back row: Ray Schreiber (son Jamie’s husband), Virginia Schreiber (Ray’s mom)

THREE WORDS: Twice-blessed, joyful, irreverent

Katherine Kashka, Overland Park, Kansas, USA:
Our family with our gay daughter, from left to right: Katherine, Nick, Elizabeth, Kellie, John

THREE WORDS: Love, Peace, Humor.

From Spanish Fort, Alabama, USA: Jennifer Morgan (former New Ways Ministry Loretto Volunteer) and family at Walt Disney World, Florida: two married couples, three mothers, two sets of siblings–and Mary Poppins!

THREE WORDS:  Quality time together.

Nancy Knipper and Michelle Watters. Married, lesbian, active Catholic couple, Dubuque, Iowa, USA.

THREE WORDS: Called to love

Gay couple raising their child, supported by child’s heterosexual grandparents. CENTER: Ben & Nam, with baby An. An’s grandparents flank them on left and right. Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

THREE WORDS: Love, Kindness, Compassion

Patrick Riley & Gerald Christmas, Arlington, Virginia, USA

THREE WORDS:  Love of God

Tim Ryan and Barry Blackburn,  Toronto, Canada


Heritage= nuclear family and family tree for both partners in our  family.

Friends= our closest bonded relationships –each other–and those very few friends for life.

Fidelity= the covenant of love first with with each other and then with our friends for life.

Cristie Traina and Bill Hutchison, Skokie, Illinois, USA

THREE WORDS:  Unconditional support always.

–Francis DeBernardo and Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, December 31, 2017