The missionary domestic church: The family fully alive
We are very happy to announce that Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades will be celebrating two special Masses for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. As previously announced, he will be celebrating Mass at St. John the Evangelist Church on Saturday, Sept. 26, at 8:30 a.m. He will also be celebrating Mass for those with disabilities and their caregivers on Friday, Sept. 25, at the historic Shrine of St. John Neumann. This Mass will be celebrated at 5 p.m. and will be followed by a reception. All are welcome.
You can find more information on the WMF official website (www.worldmeeting2015.org).
Catechesis: Part 10
Saint John Paul II exhorted, “Family, become what you are,” and his words have lost nothing of their vibrancy; their urgency has only intensified in the face of the many challenges that families experience today. John Paul’s insight was that the mission of the family flows from its identity in God’s plan. “And since in God’s plan it has been established as an ‘intimate community of life and love,’ the family has the mission to become more and more what it is, that is to say, a community of life and love in an effort that will find fulfillment … in the kingdom of God.”
In the words of John Paul II, the fundamental mission of the family therefore is “to guard, reveal and communicate love,” a mission that is “a living reflection of and a real sharing in God’s love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the Church, His Bride.” When the family embraces its missionary identity, the family becomes what it was always meant to become. This mission is not reserved for the few or for the extraordinary. Nor does it mean that families somehow have to stop being themselves or seek after some impossible perfection in order to witness to the Gospel. The Christian family is called to deepen, reflect upon and witness to the love and life that are already basic to being a family.
The family is a communion of love, founded upon the gift of self in the two-in-one-flesh communion of persons of husband and wife. It is this indissoluble communion of husband and wife that sets the stage for the entire family as a true community of persons. It is in the family that love is learned as a gift of self, a gift first received by the child from the father and mother and then given back and shared with others. The family is the place where the value of community is learned, forming the basis for communion in society. In this way, marriages and families that strive to love in unity and fidelity offer a vital witness in their homes, neighborhoods, parishes, local communities and wherever they go, whether in service, work or play.
The Church has never been far from the family home. Christ Himself was born, raised and formed “in the bosom of the holy family of Joseph and Mary.” Mary, as virgin and as mother, uniquely and beautifully recapitulates both the vocation to celibacy and the vocation to motherhood. In their life together, the Holy Family of Nazareth is an example and intercessor for all families. During His own public ministry, Jesus would frequently visit or stay in the homes of families, especially the family of St. Peter in Capernaum. St. Paul, in his greetings, would also acknowledge particular disciples, especially the couple Prisca and Aquila, and the “church at their house.” As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
“From the beginning, the core of the Church was often constituted by those who had become believers ‘together with all (their) household.’ When they were converted, they desired that ‘their whole household’ should also be saved. These families who became believers were islands of Christian life in an unbelieving world.”
To speak of the family as a domestic church means that what is said of the Church herself can often be said analogously of the Christian family, and that the Christian family therefore plays a key role within the Church and the world. Pope John Paul II spoke of the “specific and original ecclesial role” of the Christian family: “The Christian family is called upon to take part actively and responsibly in the mission of the Church in a way that is original and specific by placing itself in what it is and what it does as an ‘intimate community of life and love’ at the service of the Church and of society.”
The “Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church” describes the Sacrament of Marriage, along with that of Holy Orders, as “at the service of communion and mission.” Marriage and the family serve and build the communion of the Church and contribute to and advance her mission to proclaim the Gospel and to love as Christ has loved. Sometimes there can be a tendency to think solely of how the Church (and how one’s particular diocese and parish) serves marriages and families. Indeed this is a vital part of the Church’s pastoral outreach. But just as important, and perhaps even more urgent, is to think of how the Christian family loves and serves the parish, the diocese, the universal Church and the world. Ministry aimed to assist families should help them in turn become missionaries themselves. This is, in a certain sense, a paradigm shift that awaits full flowering in the Church: the unleashing of the Christian family for the work of advancing the Gospel. At the root of this is nothing other than a rediscovery of the vocation of marriage as a vocation to become a domestic church.