By Patrick B. Craine

ROME, Italy, January 4, 2010 ( – In his Angelus address for the Feast of the Holy Family on December 27, Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed the importance of the family, founded upon a true understanding of marriage, for the good of mankind.

“God wished to reveal Himself by being born in a human family, and hence the human family has become an icon of God,” the Holy Father told the crowd in St. Peter's Square.

“God, by having come into the world in the bosom of a family, shows that this institution is a sure way to meet and know Him, and a permanent call to work for the loving unity of all people,” he continued. “Thus, one of the greatest services which we as Christians can offer our fellow men and women is to show them the serene and solid witness of a family founded upon marriage between a man and a woman, defending it and protecting it, because it is of supreme importance for the present and future of humankind.”

“In truth, the family is the best school in which to learn to live the values that dignify individuals and make peoples great,” he added.  “There too sufferings and joys are shared, as everyone feels cloaked in the affection that reigns in the home by the mere fact of being members of the same family.”

Reflecting on the day's Gospel reading, the finding of Christ in the Temple, Pope Benedict offered guidance for authentic Christian education.  “Jesus' decision to remain in the Temple was above all the fruit of his intimate relationship with the Father, but also the fruit of the education received from Mary and Joseph,” he said.

“Here we may catch a glimpse of the authentic meaning of Christian education,” he continued.  “It is the result of a collaboration that must always be sought between the educators and God. The Christian family is aware that children are God's gift and project. Hence it cannot consider them as it own possessions but, serving God's plan through them, is called to educate them in the greatest of freedoms which is that of saying 'yes' to God in order to accomplish His will.”

The Pope concluded with a prayer that families experience “this love of total commitment and fidelity which Jesus brought into the world by His birth, nourishing and strengthening it with daily prayer, the constant practice of virtue, reciprocal understanding and mutual respect.”