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World Meeting of Families Icon

The icon of the Holy Family of Nazareth will be to the fore at all the major ceremonies for the World Meeting of Families in August, and at the final Mass in Dublin. It was taken on pilgrimage around the diocese of Tuam during the month of January 2018, and was in the Church of The Holy Rosary, Castlebar, for a weekend.

What is an icon?

An icon is not like a photograph, nor is it a portrait. It is and image which invites us to prayer. It is our hope that it will invite people to prayer while we prepare our hearts for World Meeting of Families 2018. (See

The pupils of Crimlin N.S. went with their teachers to attend Mass in the Church of The Holy Rosary and to view the icon. It is a beautiful work of art, taking the form of a triptych (a picture or carving in three panels side by side). (See

From the outside, it looks somewhat like a house with front doors. On these outside doors, we are presented with the Archangels Michael and Gabriel, who carry with them the desire of God to protect. Their heads are bowed in adoration and service of God, the Holy One.

When the doors of this icon are opened, we see in the centre the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph seated at table, sharing a meal and sharing their faith. Their faith was celebrated in their home. It is in our home that the reality of God-with-us is communicated and passed on to future generations. Their gathering around the table is reminiscent of the Three Angels in the famous 15th century Icon of the Holy Trinity by Andrei Rublev.

Christian Marriage is sometimes compared with the Holy Trinity, as a communion of the giving and receiving of love that is life-giving. Indeed, the family is called to be the “living icon” of the Most Holy Trinity.

The Holy Family have a place at their table for us They invite us to join them.

They are no strangers to the trials of family life. They themselves have been refugees, fleeing the violence of Herod. They have known great anxiety. Hence the radishes and bitter herbs of the Passover meal represent the sorrows and trials of the people of Israel in their slavery and also represent for us the trials and sacrifices of patience and love experienced in every family.

The unleavened bread and cup of wine on their table call to mind the Eucharist for us.

Flanking the Holy Family icon are those two Gospel narratives: the Raising of Jairus’ Daughter and the Wedding Feast of Cana.

These are passages in the Gospels in which we see Jesus’ deep compassion and concern for marriage and for those living with the burdens of family life.

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