My Visit to the Domestic Church
Guest Post: By Louise Merrie
One very positive development in the Catholic Church in recent years is that there are many families who are truly committed to living as faithful Catholics. They are open to having many children; they homeschool their children or send them to authentic Catholic schools, celebrate the Liturgical Year, and make their home a domestic church. I am blessed to be friends with some wonderful Catholic wives and mothers who live this way and in May, I visited two of my friends and their families. I want to share the good news about Catholic life that is being lived by my friends and many other Catholic families.
Both of my friends had new babies; one baby was born two months before my visit, and the other baby was born a week before. One friend has six children and the other friend has five. Both families homeschool and my friends are homemakers. The husbands and wives interact with each other with love and respect. The children get along well with each other, play together, and help their parents and younger siblings. During my visit, I was especially moved to see how much the older children love their baby siblings; all the children wanted to hold the babies and help look after them. The Catholic Faith is lived as part of the daily lives of the families, in a natural way, not as an academic subject (although they learn the Church’s teachings). They pray before meals; they talk about Jesus, Mary, and the saints; they help each other with their schoolwork, and encourage one another. The families live a real life, not a virtual life; they do real activities, rather than virtual reality activities. For example, during my visits, the children played outside and drew pictures, my friends made their own meals, and we went on walks with the children. The families still use computers and cell phones, but on a limited basis; their lives are not dominated by technology.
I stayed for half a week with one family and half a week with the other. I found my visits helped me to slow down, and take time to pray more and relax. In some ways, my trip was similar to a retreat. This comparison is not to say that the homes were quiet all the time, as that is not possible with young children, but the homes were peaceful, faith – filled, and joyful, and my times there brought me closer to God. We live in a society where you can be exposed to sinful ideologies, even in a library or grocery store. The homes of Catholic families provide a refuge from the negative influences of the world. The families put God first. They don’t let all the tasks and errands of family life distract them from God, who gave them their families and is taking care of them. They recognize their dependence on God and their need for prayer.
The family is part of a very large family: the Catholic Church, whose members live throughout the world, in Heaven, and in purgatory. It is good that my friends teach their children to pray for people who have died, get to know the saints, and develop friendships with other Catholic families. By doing so, they are reinforcing the idea that we are all part of the Mystical Body of Christ.
I am the godmother to one of the sons in each of my friend’s families. I visited my friends in May so I could attend the Mass in which one of my godsons received his First Holy Communion. That was a very joyful experience. The night before, my godson’s grandmother and I talked to him about receiving the Eucharist for the first time and it was wonderful to see that he was very well prepared; he knew and believed that he would be receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus and was excited about it. After the Mass, I was happy when he told me that he wanted to be an altar server. He recently wrote me a letter and told me that he had become an altar server and served his first Mass. Whenever I spend time with my godchildren, I like to attend Mass with them, as a way to encourage them in their faith. I went to a weekday morning Mass with my other godson, his mother, brothers, and sister during my visit. I had also been present when this godson received his First Holy Communion two years ago, and it made me happy when I noticed how attentive he was at Mass. Later that day, I went with my friend and her children to their church’s Adoration chapel, where we all prayed the Rosary together.
One priest I am friends with often says that the story of Catholic families is an important one that needs to be told. It is impossible to know the exact number of faithful Catholic families, as they live hidden lives, not public lives. Their stories are not well known. But whether they are a small minority or a large percentage of Catholics, they have a very important role in the Church. They are truly living the vocation God gave them and they are forming their children who will someday be the priests, sisters, monks, and lay members in our Church. Their prayers are helping all of us and their example can inspire other Catholic families to make their homes domestic churches as well. We can support, encourage, and pray for all the families in the Church that they may persevere in their family life and ask God to bless them and protect them from the dangers in this world.
It is easy for people to get discouraged about the problems in society and the problems in the Church. Just as it is helpful to visit monasteries and shrines, I think it is helpful to visit our friends and relatives whose homes are the domestic church. Spending time with joyful, faithful families enables us to see that there are still many good people of faith living virtuous lives.
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