Families often are where we first learn about God

Marian Christiana

Marian Christiana

The Catholic Church has referred to the family as the “domestic church” ever since Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, was published during the Second Vatican Council.

The term domestic church means that it is within our families that we first learn about God and the Catholic Church. In my next few articles I want to explore the concept of the “domestic church” and the role parents play as the first teachers of our faith.

Think back to your family of origin, when you were first learning about the Church. No doubt there were rituals and traditions in your family that helped you feel closer to your Catholic faith and the larger Church community.

When I think about this myself, the first tradition that comes to mind is how my parents used our family nativity scene to help us prepare for the birth of Jesus. The baby would be removed from the crib, hidden until Christmas morning, and if we behaved during the day, we were allowed to add straw to the crib each night during Advent.

As we added the straw, our parents would tell us the Christmas story narrative. Through this simple ritual my parents taught us that Advent was a time to prepare for the birth of Jesus. The whole idea of preparing for the birth of Jesus was fully reinforced when we attended Sunday Masses at our parish church during Advent.

Our church set up the Nativity scene minus the Christ child for the entire season as our entire parish prepared for Christmas morning. This is a simple example and just one of many that show how parents can effectively be the first instructors of the faith for their children.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website is a great resource to explore different aspects of building a domestic church. I particularly like the Tools for Building a Domestic Church link, where there are 14 simple suggestions that can help you start intentionally building your domestic church.

Marian Christiana is coordinator of the diocesan Marriage Preparation and Enrichment Office.

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