As a Catholic, you may have heard of the phrase “domestic church,” which is a term found in Lumen Gentium, art. 9, of the documents of the Second Vatican Council. The expression was used by Pope Paul VI in an audience when he explained the importance of the family as the Church of the Home. According to Jesuit priest Father Eminyan, the domestic church “cannot be overestimated. It establishes a foundation for the development of a whole theological understanding of the family as one of tremendous significance.” Father Eminyan explains that the Catholic Christian family has an outstanding calling to help renew our culture.
Saint John Paul the Great wrote about the concept of the family as a domestic church in his encyclical Familiaris Consortio in 1981, when he explained, “the little domestic Church, like the greater Church, needs to be constantly and intensely evangelized: hence its duty regarding permanent education in the faith.” Permanent education refers to the continual preparation and participation in learning more about our faith, Scripture, and the sacraments: the Eucharist, Reconciliation, as well as the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Matrimony, Holy Orders, and the Last Rites. We are called to live a truly present, sacramental life, one in which everything we encounter is sacred and dedicated to the goodness of God.
But how do we DO this? We have so many requirements put on us each day, where and when is there time and energy to include God, participate in the sacraments, and the permanent education in our faith? We have children to raise and get them to all the lessons and sports they participate in. We have teenagers to raise and daily discussions (or are those more appropriately referred to as arguments?) about their use of the Internet, the clothes they wear, and the friends they hang out with. We have a spouse we are trying to stay connected to as we hustle through our careers, advanced degrees, housework, a healthy diet, regular exercise, and a reason for living. Creating a domestic church? That not only sounds fanciful, like the theme of a 1950s ‘Leave It To Beaver’ episode, but also next to impossible. Like it’s just one more thing to do that makes us feel like we don’t measure up.
As Catholic Christians, is that really what we believe God wants of us: to measure up? According to all the early Church Fathers, the Evangelists, and Jesus Himself, it is not. Rather, our good and loving God invites us to lean into His goodness and mercy, especially when we feel overwhelmed, imperfect, or ashamed. His deep desire is to heal all the places that hurt in us, due to the impossibly high standards we put on ourselves, will completely overtake us when we turn to Him.
We are encouraged to remember our identity as a cherished child of God and that God created us to be in relationship with Him and with others in our lives, in a loving and right relationship. Please remember the Hebrew Testament Scripture verse: “The fruit of righteousness is peace, quietness and trust forever.” Ask God for the grace today to create a sense of righteousness in your life and your home, and remember how much you are loved! Ask Him for His grace to enter into the sacred, healing relationship He is inviting you to. Allow yourself to be immersed in His goodness. Our willingness to actively participate in a loving relationship with God is the beginning of domestic church. Rest there. Breathe there. Be there.