The Domestic Church

Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Some More

by Angela M Jendro

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Feast of the Holy Family

Read the Gospel of Luke 2:22-40

Meditation Reflection:

And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord…and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord…” (vs. 22-25)

We often think of someone having a vocation to mean being called to priesthood or religious life.  However, during the Second Vatican Council, the Church emphasized that marriage and family life is also a holy vocation, and part of the universal call to holiness.  In fact, it described the family as the “domestic church” since children first learn of Christ from their parents and how to follow Him through a life of prayer and sacrificial service in the home.

“The family is, so to speak, the domestic church. In it parents should, by their word and example, be the first preachers of the faith to their children.” (Lumen Gentium n. 11)

God calls every person to a life of holiness with the grace to become a saint.  Daily prayer, sacrifice, and charitable service are not reserved for priests and nuns.  In fact, Pope St. John Paul II repeatedly emphasized the essential and foundational work of the family, especially in his papal encyclical Familiaris Consortio – The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World. Consider his insights below regarding the noble mission of the family, the “Church in miniature” as he calls it. 

“Each family finds within itself a summons that cannot be ignored, and that specifies both its dignity and its responsibility: family, become what you are…the family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love, and this is a living reflection of and a real sharing in God’s love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord the Church His bride.” (n. 17)

Beautiful words, but how does this ideal get realized amidst the messiness of everyday life?  Surprisingly, by way of that very messiness.  “God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Spouses demonstrate this through their commitment to one another despite each other’s imperfections.  The daily interactions of patience and forbearance reveals God’s love which is always faithful.  Parents teach their children of God’s love through their sacrificial care and loving concern even when their child is at his or her worst.  Whether it’s a screaming baby, an embarrassing toddler tantrum in the store, the struggle to discipline and form good habits during childhood, or teenage rebellion, the inexhaustible love of a mother and father witness to the mystery of Christ’s love for us.  In turn, kids know early on their parents’ weaknesses as well.  As they mature, those limitations become even more evident.  Yet, the love and acceptance given precisely in this imperfect state is mutually formative.  Families live and work together on an intimate level that provides the opportunities needed to form habits of virtue.  The philosopher Aristotle said that virtue can only be acquired through practice.  Well, family life offers plenty of practice in the most important and most difficult virtues!

“Thus the home is the first school of Christian life and ‘a school for human enrichment.’ Here one learns endurance and the joy of work, fraternal love, generous – even repeated – forgiveness, and above all divine worship in prayer and the offering of one’s life (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1657)

In addition to training up children in the way of the Lord through virtue, parents are also the first apostles of the Gospel to their kids and teach them Christian worship through participating in the faith together.  Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple in accord with the prescriptions of the Law.  They exercised faithfully both personal prayer as well as communal. Christian parents can imitate their example by praying at home together daily, as well as faithfully attending Sunday Mass and actively participating in the sacramental life.  Moreover, in our present culture they witness their faith in Christ’s sacramental presence by prioritizing it amidst the myriad of competing activities and work that try to bully their way into the schedule.

New parents rightly invest time feeding their kids nutritious foods, taking them to activities such as sports or the arts, and working to ensure they are learning in school.  Nevertheless, as Christian parents, we must remember that our most important concern should be living as one baptized in Christ and raising our kids to be followers of Christ as well.  Something beautiful happens when this takes place, the kids who received faith from their parents, witness it back to them.  They become part of the Mystical Body of Christ which lifts one another up during trials and inspires to be even more prayerful.

“The family, like the Church, ought to be a place where the Gospel radiates.  In a family which is conscious of this mission, all the members evangelize and are evangelized.  The parents not only communicate the Gospel to their children, but from their children they can themselves receive the same Gospel as deeply lived by them.  And such a family becomes the evangelizer of many other families, and of the neighborhood of which it forms part.” (Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 71)

Jesus Christ became man and grew up in a family, in a town, and in a Church.  He knows first hand our struggles, our joys, and our anxieties. Contemplating the life of the Holy Family can bring focus to decisions about how to live in our lives.  Today’s Gospel highlights the number one priority – go to Church and bring our kids.  Love Christ and love each other as Christ loves you.

Consider:

  • No family is perfect, and that includes in practicing the faith.  What are the faith traditions you already have that you love, and what would you like to change or add to make Christ more present in your family routine?
  • What virtues have you acquired through your interactions with you family over the years?  What virtues would you like to grow in yet? 
  • Meditate on the family life of Jesus, Mary and Joseph at each stage of His life.

Practical Application:

  • Be intentional about your family prayer life and worship this week.  Whether attending Mass, meal prayers, or adding something new, make a plan to honor Christ in your family life.

© 2020 Angela M Jendro

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