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”

Intentionality Requires Vision

I believe that being intentional is the key to having a thriving domestic church. Creating an authentic atmosphere of faith in our homes or living according to rhythms of the liturgical year don’t happen by accident. We must intend to do such things. But what if we are struggling with a concept of what that looks like in our families? Vision is imperative.

 If we lack vision for our domestic churches, then we will probably struggle to be intentional about building habits and culture in family life.

Scripture gives insight to this phenomenon in Proverbs 29:18:

Without a vision the people lose restraint; but happy is the one who follows instruction.” (NABRE)

The footnote in Bible Gateway reads: “‘Vision’ and ‘instruction’ mean authoritative guidance for the community.” We need authoritative guidance for our domestic churches; we can’t begin being intentional until we know what it is we are going for, what it should look like — both theoretically and practically. Thank goodness we have the Holy Spirit working through Church tradition, the Catechism, and a wealth of encyclicals to inspire vision within us!

But part of constructing a vision involves deconstructing old habits, patterns and norms. And sometimes we need both the Church’s inspirational and prophetic voice to help us in this process. The RSV translation of the above passage reads like this:

“Where there is no prophecy, the people cast off restraint, but happy are those who keep the law.”

We sometimes misunderstand this word “prophecy” to only mean “predicting the future.” While some of the prophets did foretell things in Scripture, that is not the complete purpose of the prophetic. An important role of the prophetic, both in individuals given the gift of prophecy and the Church’s prophetic voice, is to correct us when we lose our way. Continue reading “Intentionality Requires Vision”