Celebrating the Domestic Church: The Transformative Power of Families

On Wednesday, Pope Francis alluded to his upcoming message for the Eighth World Meeting of Families by calling this a “critical moment in the history of our civilization.” It is indeed a critical moment in our history, one that needs to be addressed in our families. As the USCCB explains, by definition, “’the family, is so to speak, the domestic church’ (Lumen Gentium #11). This means that it is in the context of the family that we first learn who God is and to prayerfully seek His will for us.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: “The Christian home is the place where children receive the first proclamation of the faith. For this reason the family home is rightly called ‘the domestic church,’ a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity” (CCC 1666). This is the perfect time to think about the domestic church and the critical role it can play for the entire Church.

In today’s culture, we can outsource almost anything to a professional. Beyond the basic nanny, there are sleep-trainers, potty-trainers, baby-proofers, and the list goes on. There seems to be a professional to do every part of child-rearing. For catechesis, we also send our children to professionals or trained volunteers through Catholic schools or religious education programs. But, in so doing, we must not forget that “parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children…. Parents have a grave responsibility to give a good example to their children” (CCC 2223). Our children’s faith formation starts in the home, in our domestic church. The World Meeting of Families is the perfect place to call upon families raise up the very people who will someday lead our Church.

Through his actions, Pope Francis has catechized the world. He can use this weekend to remind families that “they catechize primarily by the witness of their Christian lives and by their love for the faith.” Just as Pope Francis does, so must we do in our families. If we want our children to live the works of mercy, we must live them together. If we want our children to be people of prayer, we must pray with them, for them, and in front of them. If we want our children to love the gift and mystery of the Mass, we must take them there and fully participate ourselves. If we want our children to celebrate the sacraments, we must go often to receive Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist.

Perhaps the greatest example of this is from two very-soon-to-be-canonized parents, Louis and Zélie Martin. This Blessed couple raised St. Thérèse of Liseux. In her writings, St. Thérèse mentions that when she “…saw her father praying her heart was lifted to Heaven” and “…during his daily visits to the Blessed Sacrament his eyes were often filled with tears and his face breathed forth a heavenly beatitude.” Finally, as described in The Fulfillment of All Desire, “On another occasion, Thérèse remarked that while the sermon at Mass was very good, the sermon of watching her father pray was better.” What great examples we have as adults in the faith. When we think of what our children see from us at Mass or at Adoration is it a “heavenly beatitude?” Is our prayer more moving than a homily in influencing our children’s faith? Do we challenge ourselves to live lives of faith worth emulating?

Pope Francis exhorts us to show mercy, pray, care for the earth, care for the poor, and love. When meeting with families, he can ask us all to do this together in our domestic churches. Indeed, the domestic church builds up the foundation of the world Church.   In this critical moment of civilization, we need a reminder that global impact begins with each individual heart in each domestic church.