Catholic family is a domestic church

Through this mutual gift of love, a Catholic family has to become an apostle to preach Christ and build the Church. When other families look at such a family, they spontaneously feel the need to enthrone Jesus in their hearts and build the Church within themselves, which is the call of the family.

Catholic family is a domestic church

By Joe Palathunkal
Today when families are being broken up at the drop of a hat, the Catholic theological view that family is a domestic church in itself is gratifying and galvanizing. Thoughts and outlook of individual humans have undergone drastic changes due to scientific developments, blossoming of social sciences, awareness of human rights, economic independence and the global interconnectedness.

The way a person looks at self, God, others and the world has undergone such a change that if a person from 11th century AD looks at the people of today, he or she may think, we in the 21st century are aliens from another planet.

It is in this context that this concept bears significance. Vatican II looks at the Church this way: “By her relationship with Christ, the Church is a kind of sacrament or sign of intimate union with God, and of the unity of all mankind.” Every Catholic family must reflect this sacramental aspect of the Church in their own lives to qualify themselves to be called a Catholic. Every family is to be unified in Christ, and when it is forgotten, the troubles in the family begin.

A lack of awareness of this fact leads to struggles in a family and finally leading to its break up. Husband and wife must see their union as Jesus envisaged – one body and one heart. Or in other words, an intimate union of mind and heart. French thinker Rene Descartes said: “cogito ergo sum – I think, therefore, I am.”

A good family as the domestic church must be able to say: we are one in mind and heart, and therefore, we are. That is why the Vatican Second said: “All the members ought to be moulded into Christ’s image until He is formed in them.”

When the members of a family become one in Christ’s image, the family itself becomes Christ’s image. This is the urgent need of the time when families are turned into domestic battlegrounds. That is why Pope Benedict XVI exhorts us: “Every home is called to become a ‘domestic church’ in which family life is completely centred on the lordship of Christ and the love of husband and wife mirrors the mystery of Christ’s love for the Church, his bride.”

When Christ is reflected in a Catholic family, it becomes apostolic in its very nature. That is what the Church wants of every family, to take Christ to other families. This is a sacramental duty imposed on every Catholic wife and husband, at the time of marriage: “an act of will that signifies and involves a mutual gift” to “make up a sole family – a domestic church”(Pope John Paul II).

Through this mutual gift of love, a Catholic family has to become an apostle to preach Christ and build the Church. When other families look at such a family, they spontaneously feel the need to enthrone Jesus in their hearts and build the Church within themselves, which is the call of the family.

When families become apostles, they become Lumen Gentium, Light of Nations, as Jesus is! Vatican II in its document under the same title gives us the reason for calling family as a “domestic Church because it is the first place where young baptized Christians learn about their faith.” When this faith turns into truth in every family, it becomes a light of nations.

(Joe Palathunkal is Associate Editor, Living in Faith)

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