August 24, 2015
The Domestic Church
This month Pope Francis will arrive in the United States for his apostolic visit. He will go to Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia. He will give some important addresses during his time here— especially to a joint session of Congress and the United Nations. In Philadelphia, the Holy Father will preside over the World Meeting of Families. It will be a wonderful chance for us to deepen our appreciation for the great gift of family life.
The family has often been called “The Domestic Church.” For it is within the context of the family that the gospel is first preached. In the blessing over the parents during the Rite of Baptism the Church states that parents will be the first teachers of the their child in the ways of faith and prays that they “be also the best of teachers, bearing witness to the faith by what they say and do.” Children are first formed in the Domestic Church so that they may live out their faith in the context of the larger Church.
However, we all know that family life can be a lot of work. It can be hard. I am one of 4 kids and we grew up living very simply. I can recall the struggles of my parents trying to make ends meet while putting us all through Catholic School. Many families struggle with things like unemployment, trying to balance work and family life and children who seem to do nothing but annoy one another. Parents of teenagers face a host of issues: trying to keep them connected to church and faith, worrying about the influences of our culture, and hoping that they will make the right decisions in life.
Yes, family life can be difficult, but we know there can also be times of great joy and happiness. Pope Francis recently spoke about how rest and celebrations are essential to family life. He said:
"Celebrations are God's invention," pointing to the description in the Book of Genesis of how, after creating the world, God took a day of rest and contemplated all he had created. Life becomes truly human when people take the time to do the same
, the Pope said.
"A celebration is above all a loving and grateful gaze at work done well," whether it's a wedding celebration of a relationship that has matured or birthdays and graduations when people "look at their children or grandchildren who are growing and think, 'How beautiful.'"
The Pope also reminded us:
Days of rest, especially Sunday celebrations of Mass and time with the family, are important reminders that every human being is made in the image and likeness of God and is not a "slave to work."
As the Successor to Peter comes to our nation this month let us use this as a time to examine the holiness of our own family life. How does “The Domestic Church” look in your home? Do you have religious symbols adorning your house? Do you pray regularly as a family? Do you try to keep the Sabbath holy? Do you make time for regular family meals and those important celebrations the Pope mentioned? Are you aware of the needs of various members of your family? Perhaps you can take time as a family to watch the coverage of the Holy Father’s visit this month.
Family life is so important to the Church. We need good, holy and good families. I love the following from the Pope in a homily he gave on Oct. 23, 2013:
Dear families, you know very well that the true joy which we experience in the family is not superficial; it does not come from material objects, from the fact that everything seems to be going well… True joy comes from a profound harmony between persons, something which we all feel in our hearts and which makes us experience the beauty of togetherness, of mutual support along life’s journey. But the basis of this feeling of deep joy is the presence of God, the presence of God in the family and his love, which is welcoming, merciful, and respectful towards all. And above all, a love which is patient: patience is a virtue of God and he teaches us how to cultivate it in family life, how to be patient, and lovingly so, with each other. To be patient among ourselves. A patient love. God alone knows how to create harmony from differences. But if God’s love is lacking, the family loses its harmony, self-centredness prevails and joy fades. But the family which experiences the joy of faith communicates it naturally. That family is the salt of the earth and the light of the world, it is the leaven of society as a whole.
Our land will be greatly blessed by the presence of Pope Francis this month. May we pray that our nation, our Church and our families will truly be renewed as the Vicar of Christ walks among us.
You can read more about what the Holy Father said about how celebrations are essential to family life at: