Our families are meant to be “domestic churches”, “schools of love” as St. John Paul II expressed it.
However, our families are imperfect (and very much so) – a mosaic of so many different ages, stages in faith, and everyday needs to accommodate. How can we get there?
In this article, I’ve shared some relatively easy yet fruitful things to do – activities that may help your family not just grow in faith but also live out your faith together. Hopefully these ideas move you and your loved ones ever closer to the “little church at home” each family is meant to be!
*It should be noted that in some families only one or two members practise their faith. This list is also meant for these families, as many suggestions only need two people to share in the experience. However, wherever possible try to include the whole family!
1. Pray together
This means so much more than saying grace before meals!
In his Letter to Families
, St. John Paul II wrote, “Prayer increases the strength and spiritual unity of the family, helping the family to partake of God's own 'strength'.”
Pray together before a big decision, ahead of a difficult day, a presentation at school, or when a family member feels under the weather in any form. Cultivate an atmosphere of prayer in the face of life’s challenges, whatever they may look like and however they may be experienced by each member. For example, when I was growing up, my mother would always say a prayer for me before I left for the school bus. This always moved me as through her desire to pray I felt that she was compassionate for the joys and trials experienced during my days at school.
Pray together, yet also be sure to pray for each other during moments alone. This type of prayer is equally as important.
to find out what family prayer looks like in the Yasinski house and how they get through (or try to get through) the rosary!
2. Watch Catholic movies
Watching Catholic movies is an entertaining way to further your faith, and that of the whole family! Grab your loved ones and some delicious snacks and cozy up with a good Catholic movie. Learn about the lives of the saints, Marian apparitions, or key moments in our faith in a tangible, profound, and modern way.
Not sure what movie to watch? Click here
for some suggestions!
3. Talk about it
This is so important in the life of the “little church” that is the family. Talk about the faith openly and with each other – as you cook, as you eat, while in the car on the way to the store. Freely share the ways that God has worked in each of your lives, things you’ve learned or that have inspired you, and the spiritual challenges you are living currently.
Encourage each other onward, and always without judgement, hear and share in the other’s joys, doubts, and pains.
Looking to live as Jesus called us? And embark on a bit of an adventure? Consider volunteering as a family at a food bank, nursing home, community garden, or an animal shelter (to name a few ideas). Inclined to try something smaller first? Get together with the shared goal of donating extra clothes to the needy, collecting and giving away non-perishable food items, or visiting someone who needs company. By doing actions like these, our families can become witnesses of the Gospel to the world – wherever and with whoever they find themselves.
5. Attend Mass and confession
Just like prayer, Mass is a renewing source in the life of the family. In my own family, I find Mass helps us recharge, reflect, and sometimes start again. In addition to the graces and mysteries present during the celebration, Mass enables us to return to the Source of familial love. Try to celebrate Sunday Mass as a family as much as possible. Struggling to find the “oomph'' to go to Mass? Check out this video from Jackie and Bobby Angel
That’s not the only sacrament you can experience together – there’s also confession! Plan to go? Invite a child, parent, grandparent, or sibling to go with you!
6. Welcome someone new into your home
Invite a new person over for dinner – perhaps your parish priest, an elderly neighbour, a refugee family, or someone who struggles with loneliness. This is a great way to “open wide the doors” and welcome Jesus himself (in the face of a new person) into your home. Making our family tables longer, so to speak, challenges us to go beyond ourselves and break free from the comfortable routines of our day-to-day life.
Vince and Maria, a wonderful Catholic couple I’m so grateful to know and who have been married for over 40 years, shared with me these words:
“Evangelical love should not stop with our family, instead it should open towards other neighbours that God places next to us. Christian love takes in everyone.”
7. Become a “school of love”
However difficult it may be, go out of your way to love one another. Do the dishes even when it’s not your day. Offer to run an errand for your sibling. Help your mother cook if she’s too tired after work. Ease the burden of a grandparent with mobility issues. Don’t wait for another to do it; be the first to nurture this type of love in your family.
St. John Paul II's vision of the family as a “school of love” shines the most in these moments. On this topic the saint further illustrates
, “All members of the family, each according to his or her own gift, have the grace and responsibility of building day by day the communion of persons, making the family ‘a school of deeper humanity’: this happens where there is care and love for the little ones, the sick, the aged; where there is mutual service every day; when there is a sharing of goods, of joys and of sorrows.”
May all of our families become authentic “schools of love” – domestic or little churches where a communion of persons is lived and fully experienced.