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The Catechetical Mission of the Family: The Domestic Church

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The Catechetical Mission of the Family: The Domestic Church

St. John tells us that we can “love because [God] first loved us” ().
Still, it is in the family that such love is nourished and grows. The Swiss-Catholic theologian, Hans Urs von Balthasar illuminates this dynamic. Balthasar writes,
Love Alone Is Credible 5. Love Must Be Perceived

After a mother has smiled at her child for many days and weeks, she finally receives her child’s smile in response. She has awakened love in the heart of her child, and as the child awakens to love, it also awakens to knowledge

God creates us in a family:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27  So God created man in his own image,

in the image of God he created him;

male and female he created them.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness… So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them. –
Remember, this is the only place where God pauses in before creating man: man is the crown of creation, created in God’s image and likeness!
Aristotle says that that which is last in execution is first in intention. God blesses man and pours His Love into Adam and Eve, so much so that they reflect God’s own image and likeness.
“God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit”
“God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” –
God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit that God breathed into our mouths.
But, for what? For what purpose has God’s love been poured into our hearts?
God’s Blessing comes with a task:

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion

God’s blessing comes with the task of being fruitful and multiplying.
God pours His love into our hearts so we can do the same.
Be fruitful and multiply?
God is not calling us to replication. This isn’t a conveyer-belt sort of thing.
When God commands us to “be fruitful and multiply” (), he doesn’t just decree that the children should be only be facsimiles of our physical bodies. Rather, Only if we are able to pass on to them our “spiritual, intellectual and moral selves” will we have “reproduced [ourselves] in our children and discharged the duty of” .
Only if we are able to pass on to them our “spiritual, intellectual and moral selves” will we have “reproduced [ourselves] in our children and discharged the duty of” .
So when a couple gets married and promises to “accept children lovingly from God and to bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church,” they’re Promising to l;ive their marriage in such a way that they can bless their children with all that God has given them.
accept children lovingly from God
and to bring them up
according to the law of Christ and his Church?
Promising to live their marriage in such a way that they can bless their children with all that God has given them.

Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.

How does this happen? Three-fold Pattern:
How does this happen? Three things:
Gift & Reception
Giving & Receiving
Overflowing of the Gift
The man and the woman first need to receive all that the Lord has given. This is what we might call establishing a personal connection with God:
Give and Receive all that the spouses have to give to each other.
Freedom, Totality, and Faithfulness of the Gift overflows into...
Fruitfulness: the love of man and woman in children.
Christ is our model, as always in the Holy Family
Mary and Joseph receive who they are and who God calls them to be.
Mary and Joseph give their yes to each other and with total continence, receive each other in marriage.
This Gift of God overflows in their marriage superabundantly.
Christ Himself: in Christ we see this pattern revealed as the Paschal Mystery
Receives all that He is From the Father
Gives Himself entirely to His Bride, the Church on the Cross, to the point of death
New Life flows abundantly
The Family as Domestic Church: Living the Paschal Mystery
The Family is called to follow Christ the Head after the pattern of His Paschal Mystery
Man and Woman are reconstituted as Sons and Daughters of God through baptism into Christ. They know themselves to be His, to be Gifts of God.
Knowing themselves in God’s Gift of Salvation, they are free to give themselves to each other in that mutual submission where husband and wife lay down their lives to each other, after the pattern of Christ’s Cross.
New Life
Whenever the spouses lay down their lives in self-sacrificing love, new life flows in manifold ways.
What is this to me, a Catechist?
I want to encourage you to establish the rhythm of this Paschal Life in your household and then to invite others into it.
By Immitation:
“What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
2 Timothy 2:2 ESV
and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.
2 Timothy 2:2
Only if we are able to pass on our “spiritual, intellectual and moral selves” to our children will we have “reproduced [ourselves] in our children and discharged the duty of” .
If the Domestic Church is the living out of the Paschal Mystery within the conjugal love of spouses
Let’s go back to that image from Hans Urs von Balthasar:
Love Alone Is Credible 5. Love Must Be Perceived

After a mother has smiled at her child for many days and weeks, she finally receives her child’s smile in response. She has awakened love in the heart of her child, and as the child awakens to love, it also awakens to knowledge

What I’d like to do for the remainder of our time together is to suggest ways in which this love can be poured into our children.
As Pope Benedict wrote,
The family is the domestic Church and must be the first school of prayer. It is in the family that children, from the tenderest age, can learn to perceive the meaning of God, also thanks to the teaching and example of their parents: to live in an atmosphere marked by God’s presence.
An authentically Christian education cannot dispense with the experience of prayer. If one does not learn how to pray in the family it will later be difficult to bridge this gap. And so I would like to address to you the invitation to pray together as a family at the school of the Holy Family of Nazareth and thereby really to become of one heart and soul, a true family.

A Family Prayer Table, Icon Corner, “Little Oratory”

In my experience, one of the main helps in establishing regular patterns of prayer in family life is to establish a family prayer corner, a place in the home where everyone can gather together to pray.
The Catechism tells us that “choice of a favorable place is not a matter of indifference for true prayer” (CCC 2691). While a corner of one’s bedroom might be a great place for personal prayer, the Catechism puts forth the possibility of a “Little oratory,” that “fosters prayer in common” for the family (CCC 2691).
.
This place of prayer—known as a “prayer table, icon corner…isn’t only a physical place,” it’s a way of seeing and experiencing the activity that happens in your home: everything is ordered to the One who is adored there. David Clayton, author of a book I would recommend to you called The Little Oratory, remarks that the prayer table “in the home mirrors the ‘interior palace’ of our soul, as St. Teresa of Avila called it. At the same time, it allows us to live the liturgical life of the Church. If we get this right, it orders the rest and brings peace” in the home.[1]
[1] David Clayton, Leila Marie Lawler, The Little Oratory: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying in the Home (Sophia Institute Press, 2014), xv.
[1] David Clayton, Leila Marie Lawler, The Little Oratory: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying in the Home (Sophia Institute Press, 2014), xv.
This place can be a wall, a coffee table, a night stand, etc. Maybe the best scenario is having the table at a height where it’s accessible to kids, with more precious pictures or icons and a crucifix hung higher on a wall behind the table.

What might you put on the prayer table?

–a cloth matching the color of the liturgical season
–pictures/icons
–holy cards
–a Bible
–a candle for prayer times

This place becomes a focal point for the life of the home. It’s a place of beauty, a place of activity, a place of action. The prayer table…

–marks the liturgical year and so the daily liturgical calendar
–makes the faith visible in the home and is a constant reminder of God’s presence.
–reminds us that the home is meant to be a place of union and communion with God.
–reminds us to pray and invite God into every situation.
–is approachable and so allows for the very young to participate. This reminds us that God desires communion with all of us and is accessible to all of us.

Praying at the Prayer Table (and Other Times):

Regular prayer in the home can seem impossible, particularly when you have different members of the family who have different schedules and various needs.
Morning and Evening Prayer
That said, in justice, we need to offer God prayer in the morning after we wake and at night before we go to sleep. When better than not long after we wake to give thanks to God, the Author of all Life? And then to entrust ourselves to Him before we sleep.
Ritualized and Consistent Prayer
Prayers in the morning and in the evening don’t have to be arduous affairs, but they do need to be ritualized so that we can all have a sense of what’s going to happen and participate in it. You should set a basic time and place: perhaps before breakfast at the icon corner; after dinner at the prayer table.
What to Pray?
It should be short and easy to accomplish. You’ll have to experiment with it to see what works.
My wife lived with Dr. Scott Hahn’s family for a year when she was in college and tells me that after working hard at doing a five-decade Rosary every evening they settled on doing a decade after dinner at the dinner table.
In our domestic church, we pray a decade of the Rosary and listen to a brief meditation from Pope Benedict XVI in the morning. It’s short and simple.
Our evening prayers have gotten a bit more complex as our oldest son has grown: we gather at the prayer corner before bed, sing a song, briefly give thanks for the blessings of the day, ask forgiveness for our sins, pray the Our Father, sing a Marian antiphon, pray a litany of our patron saints, then give blessings with Holy Water—but all this only takes about 5 minutes and is within the attention span of a 2-year-old.
Be consistent with it. Be simple at first. Allow for change over time.

Blessings

Because God has commanded us to “be fruitful and multiply,” he faithfully gives us the graces of the Sacrament of Matrimony to enables parents to impart blessings on our children for the purpose of assisting them in living out their vocation as son or daughter, brother or sister within the family.
As parents, you have participated with God in authoring the lives of your children, and part of that authority is to see your children live fully the vocation that God has called them to. In Genesis, to bless “means ‘to bestow with a dynamism to increase.’” Blessings in the context of the family are meant to speak words of goodness and truth into the lives of your children. In many ways, the blessings given by parents are meant to help the graces of baptism to be fully actualized.
I speak the following blessing over my sons at night: “May the Lord bless you and keep you and hold you in His arms. Sleep well all night long. May you come to know yourself as a gift of God.”

The Family Meal

We’ve all heard that families that regularly eat dinner together ___________
[1] Claus Westermann, A Continental Commentary: (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994), 88.
Sitting down for dinner as a family can be a challenge. Let’s face it, it’s a place of conflict sometimes. That said, if we’re not spending intentional time together as a family each day, then we’re little more than housemates who happen to be blood-relatives.
The family table is a logical place for connecting together as a family. Our temptation today is to treat eating as though we’re just refueling a machine or recharging a battery. This is to make the same mistake as treating catechesis as information intake. A meal cannot be reduced to eating. We are doing more than eating when we sit down to a meal. A meal is a place of union and communion.
The family table is where we connect, it’s where we have to wait for each other, prepare for each other, plan for each other. The family table is a school of virtue where we listen to each other, where we wait for the youngest to pass the potatoes, where we learn to say please and thank you, where we hear about each other’s day and rejoice in each other. The family table is a place of union and communion.
A few do’s and don’ts:
–Prepare: have a meal plan for the week that begins with the great Sunday dinner.
–See the food items being prepared for dinner as gifts to be given and received.
–Participate: give each person a job for dinner: whether it’s preparing the food or putting plates on the table, giving each person a way to contribute will help all to see and experience the family dinner as a place of union and communion.
–Leave digital media out of it: if I’m communing with what’s on TV or my iPhone, then I’m not communing with my family.
–Good Things: around our table we share one “good thing,” from our day: this allows the youngest or quietest to share something good from their day and opens the way for union and communion among the whole family.
The Biblical images we’re given of communion with God are images of union and communion around a feast where each of us has a place at the table. If this is an image of the Church in heaven, how much more should it be an image of the domestic church.

Hospitality:

The family is a place from which to evangelize. As you’re creating the culture of your family, realize that you’re creating something to invite others into so that they too can experience the union and communion of Christ in your family.
When you do invite people into your home, invite them share a table experience that is more than just refueling or good food. Invite them to share “good things” at your table. When we celebrate a birthday, for example, we go around the table and share “loves,” what we love about the person. Don’t be shy about inviting people to pray with you. Read a short passage from Scripture, say, where Jesus invites us to take His yoke upon us and learn from Him. Ask: What burdens has Christ made easy this week? What things has Christ made light this week?

Reading Aloud

Reading aloud to the family is a great way to fill the imagination of children with ways to incarnate the Gospel in new and exciting ways.
Selected Literary Essays Chapter 18: Bluspels and Flalansferes: A Semantic Nightmare

For me, reason is the natural organ of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning. Imagination, producing new metaphors or revivifying old, is not the cause of truth, but its condition.

Sunday

What will heaven be like?
“I think it will be like Sunday every day!”
Su
Many other topics could be discussed
Service
Entertaining Self vs. Being Entertained
Sacred Art
Nature / God’s First Book
Space for Family
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