In his Letter to Families, Saint John Paul II referred to the family as the
“domestic Church.” It is a phrase the Second Vatican Council brought forth
from the writings of the early Church fathers. It was a phrase the pope used
often, and describes family life as the center of Catholic spirituality and faith.
Those of us who live in a modern family, though, can attest to the incredible
challenges of creating a family life that fully lives up to that image of
Busy schedules can make family members feel as though they live as ships
passing in the night. Job demands, class schedules, school events, church
groups, business trips, commute times, sports – the list goes on. Experts tell us
the family dinner, a nightly event years ago, is an increasingly rare occurrence,
and even when families are together under one roof, computers, televisions,
and every imaginable screen demanding their attention keep them isolated
from each other in the same house, even the same room.
What can we do to make sacred the “domestic Church” within our homes?
What can we do to exercise better stewardship of our families? How about
starting with the family meal? Schedule a big breakfast or brunch on Sunday
after Mass. The table celebration could include everyone’s favorite food.
Make it a family event from beginning through clean-up. Keep a large, visible
calendar on which everyone’s schedule is noted, so that a family dinner can be planned and prioritized. That meal
should be a social occasion, not the
time to check if Bobby passed his
science test or scold Suzy because
she wouldn’t get out of bed that
morning. It is a time for pleasant
conversation, no electronic devices
permitted. And don’t worry if it’s not
roast beef – pizza out of a box and a
salad can be just as fun.
Then, create a plan to work on
family prayer time. Besides going
to Sunday Mass together, how
about a time in the evening when
everyone stops what they’re doing
and gathers for just a few moments
before bedtime for prayer? Perhaps
use commute times – the trip to the
soccer field or the morning drive to
school – to share a brief and heartfelt
prayer with your children. Do your
children see you pray with Scripture?
Let children see you make prayer
a priority. John Paul II stressed the
importance of prayer as a family.
“Prayer makes the Son of God present
among us,” he wrote.
What else might you do to
elevate the sacredness of your own
domestic Church? Do your children
see you honor special time with your
spouse? Do you make quality time
with each child individually? Do you
listen to them when they speak, or are
you checking your cell phone texts
as they talk? Communicate the idea
that family comes first and they will
catch on. As a steward, prioritize your
own sense of family stewardship. If
our children grow up with the idea
that “church” is indelibly linked to
“family,” their faith will grow stronger.