Mary Mary and Martha

The Domestic Church


 This past Lent I read “The Story of a Soul”one thing that drew my attention was the home life of the young St. Therese of Lisieux. Her family lived and breathed the Catholic faith. It wasn’t something kept for Sunday, tucked into the closet like best shoes or a frilly dress, beautiful, loved and safe but not for everyday wear. It was the first and only option. So many times families let so many competing voices into their homes that the faith, Christ’s quiet voice, is all but drowned out. Over scheduled activities, must have sports, classes and play-dates, the incessant din of the television and the glow of the computer monitor all vie for our attention, and worse our children’s attention, leaving little time for prayer, family fun time, or even a meal together.

The Catechism calls the homes of the faithful “the Domestic Church” and “ islands of Christian life in an unbelieving world”. We are that. A muddy, boggy little island at times, but an island. I will confess that I have an ideal in mind. A home where life rotates around the faith and the education of all members of the family. A home that is orderly in environment and schedule, quiet and peaceful, yet plenty of laughter and fun. Something like an abbey meets a retreat house meets a vibrant school. The past week it has felt more like an asylum meets a sick house meets prison laundry. And thus runs life. We take a couple hard won steps forward and slide back another one or more.

I suppose I take great comfort in the fact that I am working toward an eternal goal. I guess in ways it takes the pressure off doing everything at once. I am a convert to the Catholic faith and was not raised in a religious home myself. So I have a lot to learn and a long ways to go. One thing I have discovered repetitively is that it is ok if not everyone is totally on board with the program to start with. While I think it would be rather more difficult to create a change in the atmosphere of a home with one or more members being actively hostile to the change I don’t think it impossible. Especially not if the changes are gentle, well thought out and conducive to greater peace and happiness.

The Catholic family is a religious community. The term Abby I think particularly is suited to the Catholic household. In a linguistic borrowing back, Abby came from Abba, a community lead by a spiritual father or mother, the term is very fitting. The Catholic family is led by a father and mother who have been granted by God by natural and divine law the leadership role over their children. The children are learning and growing within a community, the community of the family.

What makes Catholic homemaking different isn’t some magic checklist or some decorating style. It isn’t saying a rosary every afternoon or attending Adoration twice a week. It is living as the Domestic church, the island in the river of the world that provides a higher ground for us to grow in faith and wisdom together. It is being a religious community.