The ‘ordinary’ vocation of the domestic church

God has a “magnificent plan for the family,” as Pope Francis says. In fact, from the time of creation, the human family has been at the center of God’s plan for the world.

The history of salvation that unfolds in the pages of the Scriptures is a family drama — from the wedding of Adam and Eve in the beginning, through the story of Noah’s family, to the wanderings of Abraham and his children, to the establishment of the Kingdom of David and his dynasty. Finally, in the “fullness of time,” God sends his only Son.

Jesus chose to be born from a mother’s womb and to be nurtured and raised in a human family with his mother, Mary, and Joseph, her spouse. He performed his first “sign” at a wedding. He did this for a reason — to show that the family is God’s way for humanity.

Jesus gave his Church the mission of creating what amounts to a worldwide family of families: commission the Church to proclaim his Gospel and men and women of every nation to live as children of God in his family, the Catholic Church.

And in the Scriptures’ final pages, we see revealed what God intended from the start — a great cosmic wedding feast and a vast family drawn from every nation, people and tongue, all worshipping before God’s heavenly throne.

The family of God is the Church’s identity and mission. The catechism says, “The Church is nothing other than the ‘family of God’” (No. 1655). And the Church’s mission is to grow God’s family — to create, from out of all the earth’s peoples, one single family. In God’s plan, the human family is rooted in the permanent and exclusive commitment of man and woman in marriage. And the individual family plays a crucial role in helping the Church in this mission.

The Church Fathers spoke of the family as the “domestic church.” It’s a powerful image of the family’s identity and mission in God’s plan for society and history. As the domestic church, every family has a great vocation and a transcendent purpose. Every family is a sign that points to the family that God wants to build in society. And every family is an instrument through which the family of God grows in society and history.

What’s beautiful about God’s plan is that the family fulfills its vocation and high purposes in humble settings and workings of ordinary daily life.

Our families are meant to be natural schools of love and virtue — places where Jesus is at the center and his values and teachings are lived and passed on in the simple rhythms of everyday life. In our families, we learn how to love and how to laugh, and how to share and sacrifice.

In the domestic church, the love of our parents — experienced in all the ordinary frustrations and joys of daily life — teaches us that we have a Father in heaven who loves us.

In the family, we learn that our Father has a loving purpose for our lives, and that each of us has a vocation — a calling to live for God — either in vocations to the priesthood or consecrated life or as lay faithful, serving our neighbors in the worlds of work and family.

This is the beautiful ideal of the domestic church that we need to strive for in our Catholic homes.

It’s not easy. We all know that. Human relationships can be hard. Weakness, sickness, the pressures that we face to make a living and to care for our loved ones — there are many forces and circumstances that make family life a challenge.

But we should be striving every day to make our Catholic homes places where God’s loving presence is felt and where we are following Jesus’ path for our lives.

Little things matter — taking our kids to church, praying with them and talking with them easily about Jesus and his teachings. We need to make the beautiful truths of our Catholic Faith and the habits of our devotion a natural part of our family routines.

family magnet

No family is perfect. We know that, too. But we want to keep getting better, to keep growing in closeness and tenderness, and in living the way God wants us to live.

Pope Francis suggests that every family needs to say three things to be healthy, happy and filled with love: please, thank you and sorry.

This is great advice. I think parents and children would see real differences in their lives if they practiced these three every day.

Saying “please” teaches us to respect our loved ones and not to be too demanding. “Thank you” teaches us gratitude and to see the others in our life as a gift.

“Sorry” is the most important word. Because it makes us sensitive to the ways we can offend one another and hurt one another’s feelings during the ordinary course of our daily life.

“Sorry” teaches us that we need to ask for the grace to admit when we do things wrong. And this is the one word that leads us to forgive one another, as our Father in heaven forgives us.

Gomez
Gomez

It takes love, patience, hard work and grace to live together as a family. But in our families, we have the assurance that we are making this journey together — with Jesus, Virgin Mary and Joseph — one day at a time.

And we need to remember that the domestic churches of our families share in the great vocation of the Holy Family. It is a vocation that is hidden, as the life of Jesus, Mary and Joseph was lived quietly and behind the scenes for nearly 30 years in Nazareth.

The hidden life of the Holy Family is a message to us, that in the ordinary realities of family life, God’s magnificent plan for history is brought down to earth.

The challenge for our families is to keep the right perspective. We need to have faith that the little things — taking the kids to church and to confession, saying prayers at bedtime, the humble everyday acts of kindness and sacrifice — are all vital to the Church’s mission, are all part of God’s plan.

In his loving plan, God wants every family to be a holy and happy family. And through the witness of our domestic church, he wants to bless all the peoples of the world and to make them into one holy and happy family in his Church.

Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles was elected by the U.S. bishops to attend the Synod of Bishops on “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World,” Oct. 4–25, 2015.

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