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Family Praying Catholic Church

The love between husband and wife…is the foundation and soul of the community of marriage and the family.[1]

As the journey toward Bethlehem continues, we shift our focus to making Christ the center of our families. We began the journey by focusing on the importance of making Jesus the center of our lives. Last week, we discussed making Jesus the center of our marriages.

Pope St. John Paul II in his epic work Familiaris Consortio (The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World), states that “the family finds in the plan of God the Creator and Redeemer not only its identity, what it is, but also its mission, what it can and should do…family, become what you are.”[2]

And what is the family to become? John Paul eloquently says, “the family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love, and this 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.”[3]

One of the principal documents of the Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium (The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church), described the important role of parents in raising their children…

Since parents have conferred life on their children, they have a most solemn obligation to educate their offspring. Hence, parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children…[creating] a family atmosphere so animated with love and reverence for God and others that a well-rounded personal and social development will be fostered among the children. Hence, the family is the first school of those social virtues which society needs.[4]

Husbands and wives, as the primary educators of their children, need to evangelize their children, inviting them into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Parents, “by word and example, are the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children”[5]. John Paul II said “the Christian family constitutes a specific revelation and realization of ecclesial communion, and for this reason too it can and should be called the domestic Church.”[6] The family receives its life from the Church and in miniature reflects the life and communion of the larger Church. In the family, children first learn about God, love, and forgiveness. Mothers and fathers are indispensable in sharing the faith with their children. When parents practice and live their Catholic faith, children receive a sure foundation to assist them in difficult life choices. Parents and their children are nourished by the sacraments.

Evangelization in the family is does not have to be complicated. It can be age appropriate and begin with simply teaching children the Sign of the Cross, the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be. When children see their parents committed to the Lord and actively involved in His Church, they are much more likely to do so themselves. Research has shown that fathers attending Mass with their families is the greatest factor in their children continuing in the faith as adults.[7]

In the document Marriage and Family: The Home of the New Evangelization, the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, offers some tips on how parents can put Christ at the center of their family:

  • Pray daily (individually and as a family).
  • Read Scripture. Children love to hear the stories of the Bible.
  • Regularly celebrate the sacraments, especially in Sunday Mass each week as a family.
  • Trust in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives married couples the grace you need to share your faith with your children.
  • Study the faith through the Catechism of the Catholic Church and faith formation programs. Discuss the faith over dinner.
  • Participate in service opportunities as a family.[8]

St. Francis de Sales in his classic work Introduction to the Devout Life, describes the holiness and mission of a couple’s vocation to marriage: “It is the nursery of Christianity, which supplies the earth with faithful souls to fill up the number of the elect in heaven.” [9] Have you ever thought of your marriage in this way? The love that that husbands and wives share in marriage is producing holy little souls for heaven! Oh, how we pray that couples would understand that their faithfulness to living out marriage according to God’s plan bears eternal fruit and blessings.

Next week, we will conclude this series by discussing the role of the family in evangelizing the culture.

[1] John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, §18, November 22, 1981; internet: http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_19811122_familiaris-consortio.html (accessed December 13, 2018).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., §17.

[4] Paul VI, Vatican II Council, Lumen Gentium, §36, November 21, 1964; http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html (accessed December 14, 2018).

[5] Ibid., §11.

[6] Familiaris Consortio, §21.

[7] “If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers.”, The demographic characteristics of the linguistic and religious groups in Switzerland, Werner Haug and Phillipe Warner, Volume 2 of Population Studies No. 31, published in the book The Demographic Characteristics of National Minorities in Certain European States, edited by Werner Haug and others, published by the Council of Europe Directorate General III, Social Cohesion, Strasbourg, January 2000, internet: https://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=16-05-024-v (accessed December 14, 2018).

[8] USCCB, Marriage and Family: The Home of the New Evangelization, http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/new-evangelization/toolkit/marriage-family-home-new-evangelization.cfm (accessed December 14, 2018).

[9] Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, pt. III, chap. 38, pp. 219-20.