“The Domestic Church” is a phrase made popular by the Second Vatican Council and used often by Pope St. John Paul II. The idea is that the family is a “little Church,” because the members of the family are united in love through the grace of the Sacrament of Matrimony. They are, together, a symbol of God’s love for the Church. Here is what Vatican II had to say, “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; they should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each of them, fostering with special care vocation to a sacred state.”
God used the Church to spread the faith throughout the entire world. When He ascended into heaven, Jesus told the Apostles, “Go forth, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20). The apostles set out to spread the Gospel of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and they succeeded in bringing. The faith everywhere in the Middle East, in Greece, in Italy, and even as far as India. Throughout the centuries this mission has continued, so that now there are Christians on every continent and in every country. Christianity is the largest religion in the world.
Just like the Church is called to bring the faith into the world, so parents have the task to bring the faith to their children, “by their word and example.” The Church is centered around Jesus, and so every family should be centered around Jesus. One of the most important jobs of the Church is to worship God through prayer and the Sacraments. In your family, you can do this through going to Mass together, through family prayer, and through teaching your children the faith.
Is your family a domestic church? Do you make Sunday Mass a priority or do you let other things become more important? Do you pray grace before meals together? Do you ever pray together as a family? Do you try to learn the Bible and the teachings of the Church so you can explain them better to your children when they have questions, and so you can live them out better yourself? Do you go to confession regularly? Are you generous as a family by sharing the gifts that God has given you with those who are less fortunate?
The domestic church, like the entire Church, is made up of flawed and fallen people, and that is why we need to keep Christ in the center. He helps us to focus on what is truly important by staying focused on growing in love, not on acquiring the latest gadgets, the nicest clothes, and the best car. As the Bible says, “Where your treasure is, there also is your heart.” Our families are the greatest gifts that God has given us, so don’t act like acquaintances who happen to live together, but as a domestic church seeking to grow together in the love of Christ.
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Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.