The domestic church is like an enclosed garden; a planned space
for the cultivation, nurture and care of the family.
The present is the only chance to build our family as a domestic church.
The union of a baptized man and a baptized woman in Holy Matrimony is the beginning of a domestic church, which is the smallest unit of the universal Catholic Church. The love of a husband and a wife is a love between them; there are not two loves but one love that unites them (from “Love and Responsibility” by St. Pope John Paul II). There is a third element between spouses, yet that element makes them one. Does that remind us of another mystery?
Once a month in our parish – at Mass before the final blessing, married couples with wedding anniversaries on that particular month are asked to stand up. The celebrating priest gives them a blessing and the whole congregation joins in the prayer. This gesture not only shows the Church thanking these couples for their witness of married love, but it also shows the vocation of marriage as belonging to the greater Church. In our domestic church, the celebration of wedding anniversaries must include a spiritual component, perhaps by going to Mass or voicing a prayer of thanksgiving and renewal of the commitment to love. This not only reminds us that our vocation of marriage is our call from God, but also to communicate to our children that they are part of God’s call for our family. Most importantly, we ask God for the grace to continue to live out our marriage vows.
In Holy Matrimony, the Holy Spirit transforms a natural man-woman love relationship to mirror the love and life of the Blessed Trinity. A marriage open to the work of the Holy Spirit is foundational to the domestic church - just as it is the Holy Spirit Who animates the life of the universal Church.
A Missionary Marriage
The vital center both in a Christian marriage and the Church is Jesus Christ, Who through His passion, death and resurrection opened for us the power of God that transforms the natural into supernatural. United together in Christ, the Christian marriage is a missionary marriage because as leaders of our families, we - parents are the “first heralds of the Good News to our children.” Spouses must be united in mind and heart to build the family as a domestic church. Marital unity is essential to our vocation as parents.
The unity of husbands and wives face many challenges today and obstacles may seem insurmountable. Many resources available for Christian couples are certainly helpful and effective. Lest we forget, it is sin that undermines, breaks, and destroys loving relationships. Sin, not only affronts God’s love, but in many instances, offends married love and unity because the spousal relationship is a primary relationship in the day-to-day living. Sin separates, weakens, even kills the relationship with God and with a spouse. As Catholics, we know that when we go to the confessional with a repentant heart, the priest - in the Person of Jesus and in the name of the Church, absolves sins. Reconciliation restores unity – with God and with others.
The Eucharist - Source of Unity
The most efficacious source of unity for husbands and wives is the Holy Eucharist because this union is brought about by our union in Jesus. Spouses not only have the one-flesh union in conjugal love, a union of minds in our shared Catholic Faith, a union of hearts in the intimate sharing of inner lives, but also a spiritual union forged by the Holy Spirit. To meet the full demands of true marital love, we receive grace to follow Jesus in His self-sacrificial love so that our spouses and our children may have abundant life.
As Catholic couples and parents, we remain deeply grateful to the Church for the source of grace to faithfully live out our vocation. The building of our family as a domestic church in turn comes as a significant service to strengthen the universal Church today. Only in holy marriages and holy families centered on Jesus and united with the Church can we take up the Church’s identity and mission to go out and evangelize in the power of the Holy Spirit. This mission is Jesus’ mission - to bring all people to union with God, the Father, "so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us." (John 17:21)
The unity of Christian husbands and wives begins as a small seed, then grows to bear spiritual fruit in our children in the domestic church, It grows even bigger so that many birds come to build nests on the branches as we unite to the mission of the greater Church. When the heat comes, the leaves stay green as the sacraments provide grace to sustain us in our vocation. In the year of drought, we need not be anxious for we remain in Jesus and He remains in us.