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The Domestic Church

Fr. Amado L. Picardal, CSsR, STD

Along the Way

THE Christian Family is the domestic church. This is the assertion of Vatican II in Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. In his post-synodal exhortation, Familiaris Consortio, written 34 years ago, Pope (now Saint) John Paul II, spelt out what this ecclesiological vision on the family means. What follows is my own summary and  interpretation of John  Paul II’s vision of the domestic church.

What I find significant is that he applied the Vatican II vision of the Church as communion and as people of God that participates in Christ’s prophetic, priestly and kingly mission to the family. Accordingly, the Christian family as domestic church is a community – a communion of persons bound by love. The Christian family is a community that participates in Christ’s prophetic, priestly and kingly mission.

Communion describes the relationship among the members of the family – between husband and wife and between parents and children and among siblings and other members of the extended family. Communion, which is a translation of the Greek word Koinonia, connotes loving union (one in heart and mind), fellowship, solidarity, partnership, friendship and participation. The Tagalog words like kapuso, kapamilya, kapatid, kaibigan and kaugnay can aptly apply to communion. This communion is concretely expressed in table-fellowship (common meals and celebration). The communion of the table is an expression and a means of communion. A family that eats together stays together.

Communion is also expressed in the sharing of material and spiritual goods and resources (time, talent and treasure). This is called the communion of goods. Communion does not only describe the relationship between the members of the family. It also applied to the relationship between the family and other Christian families in the neighborhood and community (BECs), and with the wider Church (parish, diocese, universal).

As a prophetic community, the family is called to be a believing and evangelizing community. The home is the first venue for the proclamation of the Gospel and the transmission of faith. The parents are the first evangelizers and catechists. They do this not only by words but by their good example and witness. The Christian values and morality are first taught and imbibed within the family. Parents have the right and duty that the children are educated in the faith at home and outside the home. The family can also join other families in neighborhood/BECs gospel sharing and occasional seminars.

As priestly community, the family is a community in dialogue with God—a praying and worshipping community. The family that prays together stays together. The family must set aside time for family prayer – praying the rosary or other forms of prayer. Active participation of the family in the liturgical celebration in the parish church and the BECs is a concrete expression of this.

As a kingly/servant community the family is a community in the service of humanity. It is called to concretely express loving service and charity at home, in the wider community and in society. The parents should teach the children to become men and women for others and use their talents and gifts not only in caring for each other and their parents but also in the service of the poor and the needy. Thus, they grow up aware of their responsibility to work for justice and peace, to care for the environment and eradicate poverty.

The vision of the Christian family as a domestic church is indeed a lofty vision – an ideal that seems unattainable. After 34 years since John Paul II came out with his post-synodal exhortation and as the Synod of Bishops once again focuses on the family, I wonder how many are aware of this vision and its meaning and implication. I wonder how many families are really living according to this ideal.

It would appear that through all these years, there has been little effort to promote this vision of the Christian family and consequently the number of families that are trying to make this vision a reality is not that many. The year 2016 has been declared by the CBCP as the year of the Family and the Eucharist. I hope that more effort will be given to promoting the beautiful vision of the Christian family as the domestic Church.

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