National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Put the Holy Family at the Heart of Your Family

How to Live as a Domestic Church

BY Joseph Pronechen

Register staff writer

December 18-31, 2011 Issue | Posted 12/8/11 at 8:24 PM

 

Every family has the perfect model in the Christmas story’s family. During the Christmas season, we celebrate the Holy Family’s feast day, which is Dec. 30 this year.

Indeed, Blessed John Paul II called the Holy Family of Nazareth “the prototype and example for all Christian families.”

In November, on his trip to Benin, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about forming families according to God’s design and “in fidelity to his plan for Christian marriage” so they grow to be “true domestic churches.”

Back in 1981, in Familiaris Consortio (On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World), John Paul II discussed “establishing the family as a ‘Church in miniature’ (Ecclesia domestica)” because “in its own way the family is a living image and historical representation of the mystery of the Church.”

And as the Catechism states, “The Christian family is the first place of education in prayer. Based on the sacrament of marriage, the family is the ‘domestic church’ where God’s children learn to pray ‘as the Church’ and to persevere in prayer. For young children in particular, daily family prayer is the first witness of the Church’s living memory, as awakened patiently by the Holy Spirit” (2685).

Today it’s so necessary to recover this teaching in light of tremendous attacks on the family, according to Joseph Atkinson, associate professor at the John Paul II Pontifical Institute in Washington and host of The Domestic Church series on EWTN (TheDomesticChurch.com).

Atkinson details how God always brings salvation through the family: “The family is the means, by and large, of how God is going to save the world. We baptize our children, bringing them into the covenant of Christ. Because of the power of baptism, Christ lives in us. So parents are the first heralds of the Gospel, by bringing their child into baptism and then teaching and forming their child in the Lord. The (baptized) family is carrying out the Church’s mission in a concrete way and is designed by God specifically to carry out this mission.”

Recapturing this vision of marriage and the family begins with the Holy Family because “Christ is the center of the Holy Family, literally present in the Holy Family,” notes Atkinson.

Evangelist Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers (DeaconHarold.com) stresses that Mass and the Eucharist must be the heart of family life. “When the Blessed Mother becomes pregnant with the Eucharist, her first action is to evangelize: She brings Jesus — salvation — out to the world,” he says. “We bring the Eucharist from Mass to the home, and it’s at the home and in family life that children fall in love with Jesus. If they will have a deep, lasting faith, they have to be in love with Jesus.”

In Folsom, La., Carlos and Emily Gamundi are consciously building a domestic church with their four young children.

As they attend daily Mass together, Carlos and Emily remind their children that this is the most important thing they can do each day.

On the way to Mass they pray together for special intentions. When the children voice their intentions, Carlos and Emily tell them to make sure they pray for them too, so “they can see we’re not perfect, and that’s why we turn to Jesus and Mary as our perfect models,” explains Carlos. “We are who we are because of the Holy Family.”

Read more at NCRegister.com (on Dec. 30).

Register staff writer

Joseph Pronechen is based in Trumbull, Connecticut.