Pope Francis on the Feast of the Holy Family reflected on the power of forgiveness in families and compared everyday family life to an ongoing pilgrimage of prayer and love.

“How important it is for our families to journey together towards a single goal! We know that we have a road to travel together; a road along which we encounter difficulties but also enjoy moments of joy and consolation,” the Pope said Dec. 27 in his morning homily at St. Peter’s Basilica.

“A pilgrimage does not end when we arrive at our destination, but when we return home and resume our everyday lives, putting into practice the spiritual fruits of our experience.”

“Let us not lose confidence in the family!” he said. “It is beautiful when we can always open our hearts to one another, and hide nothing. Where there is love, there is also understanding and forgiveness.”

The Pope connected the Feast of the Holy Family to the Catholic Church’s Year of Mercy.

“In the Year of Mercy, every Christian family can become a privileged place on this pilgrimage for experiencing the joy of forgiveness,” he said. “Forgiveness is the essence of the love which can understand mistakes and mend them. How miserable we would be if God did not forgive us! Within the family we learn how to forgive, because we are certain that we are understood and supported, whatever the mistakes we make.”

Pope Francis encouraged the congregation in St. Peter’s Square to share moments of family prayer.

“What can be more beautiful than for a father and mother to bless their children at the beginning and end of each day, to trace on their forehead the sign of the cross, as they did on the day of their baptism?” he said. “Is this not the simplest prayer which parents can offer for their children?”

It is also important for families to join in a brief prayer before meals “in order to thank the Lord for these gifts and to learn how to share what we have received with those in greater need.”

“These are all little gestures, yet they point to the great formative role played by the family in the pilgrimage of everyday life,” he said.

Pope Francis said it is comforting to think of Mary and Joseph teaching Jesus how to pray.

“And it is comforting also to know that throughout the day they would pray together, and then go each Sabbath to the synagogue to listen to readings from the Law and the Prophets, and to praise the Lord with the assembly.”

He described family life as “a series of pilgrimages, both small and big.”

The Pope reflected on the Sunday reading from the Gospel of Luke in which a young Jesus stayed in Jerusalem in the Temple, causing great distress to Mary and Joseph when they could not find him.

“For this little ‘escapade,’ Jesus probably had to beg forgiveness of his parents,” the Pope suggested. “The Gospel doesn’t say this, but I believe that we can presume it.”

He said that Mary’s question to Jesus, “why have you treated us like this?” contains “a certain reproach, revealing the concern and anguish which she and Joseph felt.” The Pope that Jesus “surely remained close” to Mary and Joseph as a sign of his “complete affection and obedience.”

“Moments like these become part of the pilgrimage of each family; the Lord transforms the moments into opportunities to grow, to ask for and to receive forgiveness, to show love and obedience,” Pope Francis said.

“To all of you, dear families, I entrust this most important mission--the domestic pilgrimage of daily family life - which the world and the Church need, now more than ever.”

Later on Sunday in his Angelus remarks to pilgrims and tourists gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope said that the example and witness of the Holy Family provides valuable guidance for life. In the Holy Family, families can find “strength and wisdom for the journey of every day.”

“Our Lady and Saint Joseph teach us to welcome children as a gift from God, to get them and rear them, cooperating in a wonderful way with the Creator’s work and giving to the world, in every child, a new smile.”

He stressed the virtues of love, tenderness, mutual respect, mutual understanding, forgiveness and joy.

After the Angelus he voiced his thoughts for the many Cuban migrants stranded on the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border. He said many of them are human trafficking victims. He invited the region’s countries to take “all necessary efforts” to resolve the humanitarian crisis.