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“Domestic Church” Day!

Matthew Harrison

Monday, February 18, 2008

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." (21)- John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio
hf-icon.jpgToday in Ontario we celebrate "Family Day." It's a new civic holiday that was part of the Ontario Liberals' election campaign. Political jockeying aside, it certainly can't hurt to have a day which is to call to mind the importance of the family!
The family is something that is so crucial to society -- yet so taken for granted. For decades we've focussed on "me," and getting what 'I' want, how 'I' want it, when 'I' want it. I think we often forget the selflessness and the sacrifices that must be made for a family. We often forget what a blessing each member of a family is -- no matter how 'broken' that person may be. Each person is a gift from God; loved totally, completely and fully, regardless of their faults and failings.
Perhaps it's our duty as Catholics to remind people of these things -- to remind people of the value of the family and its members. Salt + Light Television's Mothering, Full of Grace is a new series that captures the beauty and importance of families. Yes, it is a series about the vocation of motherhood, but an integral part to this vocation is the family! Besides providing a beautiful witness for Catholic families, the series also provides practical advice.
We can all use more knowledge, to better instill the spirit of Nazareth and the Holy Family into our homes. For those in the Toronto area, one opportunity to do this comes on Saturday February 23rd. There is a free one day conference that explores the Church and natural family planning. Its aim is to debunk contraception, which our society has so willingly accepted -- an acceptance which has had many harmful consequences. The Church's position on contraception will be explained, the medical perspective on contraception will be explored, and couples who practice natural family planning will provide testimonials to the difference NFP has made in their lives. Check out St. Timothy's Parish for more information on the conference.
I recently interviewed a priest for an upcoming March Focus episode on contraception and natural family planning. I asked him if married Catholic couples who practice natural family planning have a responsibility to spread the word about it. He replied we as Christians have a responsibility to spread the Good News, period! If this is Good News, something that will help us to grow closer to God, to draw closer to how we were made in his image and likeness, then we certainly should shout it from the rooftops!
In fact, in the conclusion of his apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio, John Paul II wrote:
I feel that I must ask for a particular effort in this field from the sons and daughters of the Church. Faith gives them full knowledge of God's wonderful plan: they therefore have an extra reason for caring for the reality that is the family in this time of trial and of grace.
What a noble challenge by our then Holy Father!
He understood the importance of family. In his 1994 Letter to Families during the Year of the Family, Pope John Paul II even described the family as a mystery and as an experience of love:
The family itself is the great mystery of God. As the "domestic church", it is the bride of Christ. The universal Church, and every particular Church in her, is most immediately revealed as the bride of Christ in the "domestic church" and in its experience of love: conjugal love, paternal and maternal love, fraternal love, the love of a community of persons and of generations. (19)
It's interesting that he chose the words 'mystery' and 'love' to describe a family -- two words that we could just as easily use to describe God Himself. And curiously, like the love between a husband and wife mirroring that of the love between the members of the Trinity, we may even say the love between family members mirrors that of God's love for us.
A family is holy. God even chose to live in a family, and live most of his life hidden in a family setting! Regardless of how we rate our own family experience, the family is an irreplaceable treasure in our society. A domestic church. A mystery. Love.
... just something to think about this family day.

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