Because of The Ecclesia Domestica (Domestic Church)

Something remarkable happened this summer. Our home became a gathering spot for neighbors and friends. The ability of my husband and me to welcome them and the joy our visitors bring to us are gifts from the Holy Spirit and signs of Christ’s welcoming grace.

I last remember folks stopping by like this when our two boys were toddlers – generally the visitors were stay-at-home moms or dads would drop by for a play date, adult conversation or a simple meal.

That was a decade ago; both our boys now are adolescents. The people dropping by now are my sons’ preteen or teen friends, as well as young adults in their twenties who I have met through church or CL. They are older neighbors looking for companionship and young mothers whose children like our puppy.

Nothing on the surface is special about our home. It is one of the smallest in our neighborhood. Our glassed-in front porch has a table with chairs that I bought on clearance. Our younger son plays cards at the table with his friends. Our family room has two large and comfy sofas and an enormous TV friends gave us when they moved out of town. Our former dining room is now a music room for my son’s basses (one upright and one electric) as well as the family computer, which is currently on the fritz. The mother of a son’s friends loaned me the boy’s laptop while the boy vacations so I can use it to continue my job search (and blog). Another friend is teaching our teen how to fix the home computer. Our kitchen table is tiny, with just three stools.

Little is particularly Catholic about the way our home looks. Yes, every room has at least one cross or crucifix. But we don’t have a holy water font by the front door, or a cellar of blessed salt, or a family altar.

Still, our home is the heart of our family: we pray here, we cook meals together, we welcome friends of all faiths and no faith, we bicker with one another and we try to forgive one another before the sun sets. We deal with the “concreteness of (our) daily existence.”

Recognizing the centrality of family life to spiritual life, our Church calls our homes “ecclesia domestica,” or domestic churches. John Paul the Great understood their value. “The family finds in the plan of God the Creator and Redeemer not only its identity, what it is, but also its mission.”

This is the reason people stop by. And this is yet another reason why I am Catholic.

  • Sarah Harkins

    What Fun! I often wish more people we know would take time out of their busy lives to just hang out and enjoy one another's company. It seems most people are too busy to do this any more. maybe that's why the younger and the older generations are able to gather at your house. Sounds like they picked the right house in the neighborhood! God Bless your home.

  • Allison

    Sarah: Yours too. Yes, people are very busy these days with jobs and outside activities. I feel so blessed we are able to enjoy these times with our neighbors.

  • Hypatia

    Our chuch operates a 'ministry of welcome' where regular (and more importantly) irregular attenders and visitors are greeted and made to feel at home. Like you, we try to extend this ministry into our home – particularly where our teenage children's friends are concerned. We often end up setting another place at the table and last Friday ended up feeding ten people! I often find myself in conversations with our guests about faith and religion, always at their instigation (I don't proselytise),and usually because they notice a crucifix or some other image, and I am very happy to do so. If these young people remember or gain anything from the time they spend in our home, I hope that somewhere deep in their minds they link the Catholic symbols with a feeling of warmth and acceptance

  • Allison

    @Hypatia: Your parish sounds very welcoming. Not all parishes are. It can be a struggle. I would love to stop by your home. I do not proselytize either, but if someone asks me a direct question, I am very open. And I agree: we do not know what seeds we plant or when and how they will bear fruit.