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The Holy Family consists of the Child Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and Saint Joseph. The subject became popular in art from the 1490s on, but veneration of the Holy Family was formally begun in the 17th century by Saint François de Laval, the first bishop of New France, who founded a confraternity.

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Mary is presented as an extraordinary child destined for great things from the moment of her conception. Her parents, the wealthy Joachim and his wife Anna (or Anne), are distressed that they have no children, and Joachim goes into the wilderness to pray, leaving Anna to lament her childless state. God hears Anna's prayer, angels announce the coming child, and in the seventh month of Anna's pregnancy (underlining the exceptional nature of Mary's future life) she is born. Anna dedicates the child to God and vows that she shall be raised in the Temple. Joachim and Anna name the child Mary, and when she is three years old they send her to the Temple, where she is fed each day by an angel.

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