Since January, Dr. Greg Popcak has devoted his column to exploring the Liturgy of Domestic…
A little help from our friends: Building up your domestic church
Every day, in the CatholicHŌM (Households on Mission) Facebook discussion group, Catholic families from around the world are supporting each other’s efforts to build dynamic domestic churches. It’s been wonderful to host such a diverse forum of families who can draw strength from each other’s experience to live the liturgy of domestic church life.
But as good as it is to get support from people who are walking the same road we are, there’s yet another group we can rely on for strength and inspiration — the saints!
The saints are our elder brothers and sisters in Christ. When we look to their example, we see people just like us who have “made it” with God’s grace. Here are some saints you can turn to for support and inspiration in building your domestic church.
The Holy Family
Of course, the Holy Family should be our go-to source for spiritual support in building our domestic churches. Unfortunately, many of us think of the Holy Family as so perfect, so ideal, that their example can seem more intimidating than inspiring. It shouldn’t be that way.
The Holy Family certainly received tremendous grace, but they also endured tremendous trials. The challenges they faced weren’t so different from those we experience in our families. Theologian Mary Shivanandan’s book “The Holy Family: Model Not Exception” shows how God intends the Holy Family to be an accessible model for all families. Their witness isn’t meant to make us feel inferior. Rather, they exemplify all the amazing things that are possible through God’s grace.
Besides, who better for Catholic moms and dads to turn to than the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph for help in becoming the parents God wants for all his children? Don’t be afraid to ask for the Holy Family’s intercession to help your family be everything God is calling you to be.
Sts. Louis and Zèlie Martin and St. Thérèse of Lisieux
Sts. Louis and Zèlie Martin are the first married couple to be canonized together. A watchmaker and a lace maker, respectively, they were passionately in love with God and each other. They had nine children together, but only five girls survived childhood. Inspired by their parents’ deep faith and the simple ways their parents helped them experience Christ’s love at home, each of their daughters eventually became religious sisters. In fact, one of their daughters became St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who was not only canonized, but was also declared a “Doctor of the Church.”
The title of “Doctor of the Church” is reserved for men and women whose insights made a particularly important contribution to our understanding of what it means to be Christian. In her writings, St. Thérèse articulated what she called the “little way of holiness,” a path toward sainthood that uses the little blessings and challenges of everyday life as opportunities to grow in grace and virtue.
Ask for the intercession of Sts. Louis and Zèlie — and their daughter, St. Thérèse — especially on those days where you’re feeling burned out by the everyday “stuff” of family life. Let them help you use those challenges to experience God’s love more deeply and share God’s love more effectively in your domestic church.
St. John Bosco
St. John Bosco wasn’t a parent. He was a priest, educator and the founder of the Salesian Order. But he developed a method of discipline he called “the Preventive Method.” In contrast to the heavy-handed childrearing approaches of his day, the Preventive Method is a remarkably gentle, effective means of correcting even the most unruly children using “reason, religion and lovingkindness.”
Not only does the Preventive Method offer a fully Catholic approach to childrearing, it also offers a system of spiritual growth for the parents employing it by encouraging them to model the prayerful spirit and virtues they hope to inspire in their children. The parenting approaches we advocate for in “Parenting With Grace: The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising Almost Perfect Kids” are based on his methods. Ask for St. John Bosco’s intercession, especially in those times your kids are “pushing your buttons.”
Venerable Patrick Peyton
Venerable Patrick Peyton, a priest with the Congregation of Holy Cross, is most famous for the saying, “the family that prays together, stays together.” Known as the “Rosary priest,” both for his devotion to the Blessed Mother and the huge “Rosary Rallies” he organized around the world, Father Peyton dedicated his life to promoting the importance of family prayer. A brand new film about his life and ministry, “Pray: The Story of Patrick Peyton” is coming to theaters this October (visit PrayTheFilm.com for more information). Ask for Venerable Peyton’s intercession for help with bringing your family to Christ and letting God’s love be the source of the warmth in your home.
These are just a few of the saints who are still busy in heaven working for the good of our domestic churches on earth. No doubt you can think of others. Just don’t forget that, as challenging as it can be to celebrate our faith at home, you’re not alone. Your older brothers and sisters in the Lord are praying and pulling for you.
Dr. Greg Popcak is the author of many books. He is the Executive Director of the Peyton Institute for Domestic Church Life (PeytonFamilyInstitute.org).