Feast of the Holy Family in Quex Road Church

| February 23rd, 2015

The Holy Family Community in Aberdare Gardens was invited to speak at all Masses in their Parish Church, Quex Road, on the Feast of the Holy Family in honour of the year of consecrated life. In the following paragraphs, Sr. Gemma draws together the main points of the talk:


During this year the Pope is inviting us to think about and pray especially for those men and women who have taken public vows to live the Evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience.

In our address to the parishioners, we emphasised that all Christians are consecrated by virtue of their Baptism.  Religious men and women are not more consecrated than the majority of Christians; they have simply been called to follow Jesus in a different way; to live as he did and to give their whole lives to the building up of God’s reign on earth.  Our way is not a better way – just different.

We also stressed the fact that poverty, chastity and obedience are values that are to be lived by ALL followers of Christ.  All Christians as well as priests, sisters, bishops ….are called to live poorly, chastely and obediently. The only difference is that we make public vows to do that.

The poverty we are talking about here is about living simply, not being greedy; not being dominated by material goods and money but being happy with ENOUGH,  being willing to share generously with those in need.  Poverty means that we recognise that we are totally dependent on God, and interdependent with the whole of creation.    In the last analysis we are all poor because we depend totally on the earth itself for the air we breathe and the food we eat.

Chastity is all about love.  It is about loving others in such a way that they we leave them free.  Chastity is about respecting others, not treating them as objects for our own gratification and, if we are married, it means being faithful to our marriage vows.  Religious men and women take the extra vow of celibacy that is, we vow not to marry so as to be freer to work for the coming of God’s reign on earth.

Again obedience is for all of us.  It means listening attentively to God – in prayer, through the events of our world, in the directives of the Church and above all to our own consciences where God speaks to us when we are open enough to listen.  It means listening and doing God’s will in our daily lives.

In speaking of our Founder, we reflected on the opening lines from A tale of two Cities:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was a time of belief, it was a time of unbelief, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way” .

When the Holy Family was founded it seemed as though everything was falling apart.  This was a time of terror and violent upheaval marked by mass executions of all the so called enemies of the State.  We can’t help but think that things have not changed all that much with the violence that is taking place all around the world.  Yet as Dickens says it was the winter of despair but it was also the spring of hope.  Amazingly hope was born amid the ashes of the French revolution.  In spite of the rejection of God there was a great renewal of religious fervour in France and it was during this time that many religious congregations and institutes were founded including our own – The Holy Family.  We were founded in Bordeaux after the French revolution hence our title: Holy Family of Bordeaux.

Our Founder Pierre Bienvenu Noailles saw the devastation around him; he felt ill at ease with his comfortable life style when there was so much poverty and misery all around him and he felt the call to build a new society.  He dreamed of a world that was radically different from the one he grew up in – a world where all are equal and where all would live in harmony and peace.

The Family that he founded still exists today.  It is a Family made up of priests, consecrated secular women, contemplative and apostolic religious women and lay associates and he envisaged that the members of the Family would work together to build up unity and communion among themselves and work to spread this unity throughout the world.  In this way we aim to collaborate in realising God’s dream of gathering all men and women into the Family of God.  This is the common mission of the members of the Family – to create and build up communion.

There are over four thousand of us worldwide and we engage in all sorts of works – teaching, nursing, social work, prison ministry, and pastoral ministry….whatever is needed.  We are in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America working to build that “new society” that our Founder longed to establish.