Renewing the Domestic Church – Part 1

By Kok Leng Yeo – https://www.flickr.com/photos/yeowatzup/314819829/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12535522

The domestic church—the Catholic family—is an essential part of the life of the Catholic Church as a whole. Recently, I have become increasingly aware of certain points of vulnerability within Catholic family culture, and these phenomena put our domestic churches at risk of failing to fulfill their vital role within the body of Christ. 

As I see it, there’s not one single issue at play here, but rather the interplay between a collection of growing cultural norms within the lives and rhythms of American Catholic families. In order to unpack and do justice to each of these related, yet distinct issues, I’m dedicating a summer blog series to examining the ways in which our domestic churches are vulnerable and discovering how we can renew them, in order that Catholic families may better serve Christ’s mission for His Church as a whole.

Before outlining some of the significant cultural issues at play here, we need to remind ourselves what the role of the domestic church actually is within the body of Christ. The Catechism tells us that the Catholic home is the “first school of Christian life,” the place where each individual within the family acquires the necessary virtues for the Christian life, “above all divine worship in prayer and the offering of one’s life” (CCC 1657). I am particularly moved by the Catechism‘s description of Catholic families as “islands of Christian life in an unbelieving world” (CCC 1655). 

What an image that paints for our imaginations. We see that Catholic families have a distinctly missional role within the greater Church. Our domestic churches are meant to form individuals (both parents and children), through the structure and rhythms of family life and being, into self-giving vessels that bring the hope of the gospel to the world. Here’s my question: do we Catholics walk out daily family life with this purpose in mind?

When I honestly examine the culture of many Catholic families, I have to say that I don’t see this end being sought after with intention. What I see more often than “islands of Christian life” easily accessible to their communities are islands that have been cloistered by impenetrable walls, islands of well-meaning families that have knowingly or unknowingly cut themselves off from the world outside their doors.

Is it possible that we have made family life into a self-serving culture? Do we perhaps elevate the life of the family above the mission of the Church, making the Church subservient to the family rather than placing the domestic church at the service of Christ’s mission for his Church?

These two questions get to the heart of what I see taking place within many Catholic families in American culture today; and I think the repercussions of failing to ask why and how this may be happing are too significant to overlook. Within this summer series, subsequent posts will focus individually on primary issues related to the larger question of whether our domestic churches are fulfilling their mission within the Church. Some of these topics include: the absence of deep friendships, the isolating nature of our technology, confusion about the sacrament of Confirmation, the lack of intention in family rhythms, and the role that fear plays in sabotaging our mission.

I hope you follow along with me on this series and contribute your constructive thoughts along the way. We need to consider these issues in earnest. We often discuss and decry the outside attacks on the family within the greater culture, but I wonder if we have been insufficiently introspective and ignored indications of how we have been thwarting our own mission from the inside.

Copyright 2019 Jessica Ptomey

Intending (and Attending) to Delight


delight: “a high degree of gratification or pleasure: joy.”


Do you delight? Would you say that the moments in your home are marked with “a high degree of gratification or pleasure”? Is it a joy-filled atmosphere? Maybe that’s an overwhelming question.

I find myself plugging along in family life sometimes without often enough taking stock of the overall atmosphere, how well we are doing at keeping the big picture in the foreground. But if you are like me, when we do stop to consider a question like this, we get in over our heads. We mentally sort through the plans we have in place. But it is so much simpler to ask: how was yesterday?

So let’s just take yesterday. Did your family experience delight yesterday? If so (or if not), was yesterday a “typical” day in the life of your family? I think asking these two questions can give us a lot of clarity on the atmosphere of our domestic churches and help us live with more intention. Yesterday can help us determine how intentionally we are living.

So if we find that our yesterdays haven’t been what they should be, then we have the gift of today. In fact, if we find that our mornings haven’t been what they should be, then we have the gift of the afternoons. We don’t yet have the gift of tomorrow or next week. We cannot live those days with intention until they are given us. Remember that we have only been given this day so far, and it is the present day alone that we are able to live with intention. The thing I like about only thinking about today is that its not so hard, not such an overwhelming task. I’m simply purposing to be faithful with the time I have in this moment and to make this small bit of time filled with delight.

How can we intentionally create an atmosphere of delight in our homes today? Perhaps the following verses from the Psalms give us some inspiration and the key to being people who delight: Continue reading “Intending (and Attending) to Delight”

My Reading Challenge Pick for “A Catholic Memoir or Autobiography”

If you’ve been reading along and following the 2017 Catholic Reading Challenge, then you know that I’ve been sharing what I’m reading for each category throughout the year. It helps keep me on track, and I hope it helps inspire you toward your reading goals for 2017! 

Category: A Catholic Memoir or Autobiography

My Pick: The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur

I’m going to tell you from the get-go that this might be the most impactful book on my spiritual life that I read this year, perhaps in the last few years. So, here’s the plug that made me want to read it in the first place: Elisabeth was the devoted wife of Felix Leseur, who was an adamant aetheist for their entire marriage. After her death, he discovered all of her journals (the contents of this book). In reading them, not only did he convert to Catholicism, but he became a Catholic priest! After his conversion, he compiled Elisabeth’s journals and various correspondence into this book, travelled around sharing her story, and had her cause opened for canonization.

I read this book with a group of ladies from my parish this summer, and I think we would all say that we were profoundly impacted by Elisabeth’s humble spirituality, profound love, and immense wisdom. There is so much that I could say about her writings, but I am just going to highlight for you some of the major themes along with corresponding quotes from her journals. Continue reading “My Reading Challenge Pick for “A Catholic Memoir or Autobiography””