Importance of marriage and family: Holy Family reminds us that we need to protect traditions Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler, editor   
Thursday, Dec. 09, 2010 -- 1:00 AM

In this season before Christmas, we should be thinking about the Holy Family as we put up our holiday creches alongside our other decorations.

My husband and I have inherited a large Nativity scene with a barn, which we put on a table in our living room. Into the barn we put a cow, sheep, a donkey, along with the key figures of baby Jesus in a manger, Mary, and Joseph. We also have shepherds, camels, and the wise men to place outside of the stable.

We felt it was important to have our children and grandchildren realize the importance of the religious aspect of the Christmas season. One of our granddaughters was really excited to see baby Jesus in the barn (I realize some people wait for Christmas day to put the figure in the crib, but we wanted to place it right away).

The Holy Family as a model

Thinking about the Holy Family at this time of year made me realize again the importance of marriage and family life in the world. Jesus was born and grew up in a nurturing family life which can be a model for families today.

He had an earthly father and mother who loved him. Remember how distraught they were when he was lost in the temple!

Jesus worked alongside his father in the carpentry business. He seemed to have a warm relationship with his mother, too. When they ran out of wine at the wedding feast at Cana, he decided to answer her request for help even though he wasn’t ready to “go public” with his ministry.

Attempts to redefine marriage

Yet today, it is sad to see that traditional family life is being threatened by proposals to redefine marriage from its longstanding definition of the union of one man and one woman.

Those of us who believe in the traditional definition are sometimes pictured as being intolerant or old-fashioned. We are accused of not welcoming diversity or change.

But time and time again, voters throughout our country have upheld traditional marriage. Referendums in many states have shown majority support for the marriage of one man and one woman.

In 2006, Wisconsin voters approved a ban on gay marriage, which was upheld by the state Supreme Court in a 7-0 vote in 2010. In 2008, California voters approved Proposition 8 by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent. It defines marriage as between a man and a woman, thus banning same-sex marriage

Now oral arguments are set to begin this week on an appeal of Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling that California’s Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. Judge Walker based his ruling in part on the claim that defining marriage as between a man and a woman lacked any rational basis and instead reflected religion-based hostility to homosexual persons, according to a news release from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Religious leaders speak out

The USCCB joined leaders of some of the largest religious communities in the United States in expressing their commitment toward the protection of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In an open letter released December 6, entitled “The Protection of Marriage: A Shared Commitment,” leaders from Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish, Lutheran, Mormon, Orthodox, Pentecostal, and Sikh communities affirmed the importance of preserving marriage’s unique meaning.

“The broad consensus reflected in this letter — across great religious divides —is clear: The law of marriage is not about imposing the religion of anyone, but about protecting the common good of everyone,” said Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, newly elected president of the USCCB and one of the letter’s signers.

“People of any faith or no faith at all can recognize that when the law defines marriage as between one man and one woman, it legally binds a mother and a father to each other and their children, reinforcing the foundational cell of human society,” said Archbishop Dolan. “Today is the moment to stand for marriage and its unchangeable meaning. We hope this letter will encourage just that.”

“The Protection of Marriage: A Shared Commitment” is being circulated nationwide. A downloadable PDF versions of the letter can be found at and a backgrounder on the statement can be found at

The letter emphasizes that marriage is the permanent and faithful union of one man and one woman. As such, marriage is the natural basis of the family. Marriage is an institution fundamental to the well-being of all of society, not just religious communities.

“As religious leaders across different faith communities, we join together and affirm our shared commitment to promote and protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman. We honor the unique love between husbands and wives; the indispensible place of fathers and mothers; and the corresponding rights and dignity of all children,” the letter says.

Please pray during this Advent and Christmas season for the intercession of the Holy Family as we join with our religious leaders in promoting and protecting the traditional definition  of marriage.