Thursday, October 18, 2018

Reason no. 17 why I remain Catholic: The Domestic Church

What is the domestic church? "The Second Vatican Council brought us the term “the domestic Church” the family “as a ‘Church in miniature’ (ecclesia domestica) in such a way that in its own way is a living image and historical representation of the mystery of the Church” (Familiaris Consortio, #49).

In a world that is so broken: broken marriages, broken homes, broken souls, we find an image such as this one, extremely foreign. But the Church has always set the bar high for us. We are called to more! With the divorce rate being over fifty percent it's no wonder that the idea of a domestic Church seems unattainable. But for us who have an inkling of faith and wish to strive for what is good and holy, we can in some small way, contribute to the betterment of society. We can give witness to the possibility of families built on faith and love.

It begins with marriage. A couple, exchanging vows, promises to raise their children Catholic. Then with their first child that they present in the Church for baptism they promise :

“You have asked to have your child baptized.  In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him in the practice of the faith.  It will be your duty to bring him up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor.  Do you clearly understand the commitment you are undertaking?”

This is the promise to create a home where Jesus will be at the center. The home will become a place of prayer, both with the family and as individuals. Their faith will not only be visible in their love but also concretely visible through icons and crucifixes and the reading of Scripture. The family will gather around the table and bless their food and give thanks for their blessings. The parents are the primary educators and the primary education is to teach their children of God's love. Mother Theresa said, "The best and surest way to learn the love of Jesus is through the family.”

When I first discovered the notion of a domestic church it rang true in my heart. I knew that this was what I wanted our home to be. I wanted the presence of Jesus to fill each room and for our home to be a place of love, hope, truth and most of all of forgiveness. The domestic Church is not a perfect place by any stretch of the imagination.  Our homes are messy. There is fighting. There is screaming, an occasional door slamming. There are tears and hugs. There are hurt and sorrow; joy and laughter.  There are all these things and more, but most of all there is a steadfast love that is rooted in forgiveness. Without that, we cannot build a domestic Church.

So besides the tantrums, the late nights with the baby. The endless hours of picking up and cleaning and checking homework and doing laundry, the domestic Church is a place of worship and prayer. We have a designated place where we come together to pray every evening. It is our home altar. There we have on display a crucifix and a few icons. There we have our list of those we keep in our daily prayers and there we sit with our children to talk about the day's events, to cry, to laugh and to live our lives the best way we can, imperfectly.

“Every home is called to become a ‘domestic church’ in which family life is completely centered on the lordship of Christ and the love of husband and wife mirrors the mystery of Christ’s love for the Church, his bride,” Pope Benedict XVI said in his Feb. 7, 2007, general audience remarks. 

Disclaimer: photo courtesy of pixabay

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