On 19 September, Erin Lewis, a member of the Catholic Identity SubCommittee, spoke to the General Meeting of the school’s PTO. Erin is the mother of 4 gentlemen: Robert (3rd grade), Daniel (1st grade), Cullen (K5), and two-year old Andrew. The subcommittee includes 7 women: Erin Lewis, Sara Hinson, Catherine Johanning, Angela Calabro, Stephanie Lassiter, Maria Rippon, and Andrea Suarez. Its purpose is to support the Catholic Identify of Prince of Peace students and families.
Erin’s heartfelt and inspiring talk below was accompanied by this handout.
“I am not here tonight because I was the best candidate to speak on the topic of establishing and growing a domestic church! And, this is not false humility – for any of you that have seen me struggle to manage my four very active boys during every school function, you know what I am talking about! So, in an effort to give you my best, I did a lot of research and spoke to many incredible families and organizations that do an amazing job in this area.
I would like to simplify this vast topic tonight by breaking it down into an explanation, resources and some ideas.
- The concept of a domestic church is ancient and quite simple: our families are the place in which we (meaning the adults) witness to and share with one another our faith and then teach and grow that faith with our children. Our homes are the first place in which our children will learn of the love of God and the love of neighbor. There are thousands upon thousands of different ways to enact this meaningful experience, and it is not intended to be done all at once, but instead to be built upon little upon little.
- We are all at different points in the journey of faith, but please keep in mind that we all began in the same place and we all hope to end in the same place. It is so important to me that there is no discouragement, shame, judgement or sense of superiority. Each person in our Prince of Peace community is valid and needed, just as scripture describes the Body of Christ in 1 Corinthians chapter 12. My hope is that we come along aside one another to offer practical support and encouragement.
These are a few of the ideas of how to practice the domestic church. I have a more exhaustive list with resources listed on the handouts.
- Begin with prayer – pray as individuals, as couples and as a family. Allow your children to witness you praying alone and encourage them to have their own personal prayer time. In some families one spouse may not be ready for this, which is absolutely understanding, so allow that spouse to witness you sharing prayer with the children – and pray nicely for the spouse that is not participating in a loving way. For example: “Dear Jesus please be with Mommy today as she goes to work, help her with her big meeting that all goes well.”
- Add scripture reading. In my family we find it easier to pull up the daily readings on an electronic device and read one reading at each meal. The most important one that I try to do every day is the gospel before dinner – is this done consistently and perfectly in my home, no not yet, but we will get there. The point is that we try! One family also sings hymns at each meal!
- Create a devotion/prayer area in your home. We recently received a kneeler from Frank Kucinic (teacher and coach at St. Joe’s). Above it we hung pictures of the sacred heart of Jesus and Mary as well as a crucifix. This has been a huge help for me to consistently achieve family prayer time, which we do at night just before bed.
- Put up one, or preferably more, crucifix in your home as well as religious art. Have the family kneel in prayer before it.
- Add holy water fonts near your doorway and begin the habit of blessing yourselves as you come and go.
- Kipp from St. Benedict’s Catholic Store recently encouraged me to improve family dinner time by viewing meal time as a crucial family prayer time and the purpose of gathering at the table is to read scripture and pray and the meal is the celebration of that family prayer time – a good way to start this concept is to begin only once a week, maybe Sunday evening dinner.
- Evening prayer time – say an act of contrition, the St. Michael prayer, a Hail Mary or any number of personal prayers.
- Family Rosary – many families are praying a rosary together – either daily or once a week. My family is not quite there yet, although I would like to be! We pray a decade every morning in the car on the way to school. As one friend put it, regardless of how much chaos happened to get into the car – morning prayers in the car on the way to school resets each member of the family!
- Experience the Sacraments together – never miss mass and go to confession together as a family. Go to adoration, even with young children – this idea came from the Suarez family who is brave enough to take their young children in!
- Celebrate the liturgical year together – there are hundreds of exciting ways to do this. But some ideas are to celebrate with special dinner and cake the patron saints of each family member. Also you can celebrate feasts and holidays of the church with fun activities, meals and prayers. My family has not been very consistent with this – but many families are and it has brought a real richness to their homes.
- Welcome into your home and support the priests of our parish. Please do not stress over the meal – Fr. Smith is a gourmet chef so none of us can compete! A simple meal will do!
- Visit St. Benedict’s Catholic Store – if you are looking for handheld, step by step guidance on all things Catholic please visit St. Benedict’s Catholic store where you will get handcrafted Catechesis!
- And at last I come to Marriage – in my very limited and humble opinion, it is the most crucial aspect of our domestic church. If I do not get this vocation right, then our family suffers. I put the most effort into this because to be honest I need to. I am so naturally bad at being a good wife that I actually have set reminders on my phone to praise my husband. He figured out what I was doing and now really teases me about it, but I will continue to do it because as I understand it praise to a man is like hugs to a woman – it is a crucial need. Many times we do not want to share with others that we are struggling in our marriages. Trust me, I have been there. But after going through our difficulties, I have learned that I need to pursue this vocation with ferocity. And so, I strongly encourage you to read as many books or listen to as many cd’s as you can to help you succeed in this vocation. I have many recommendations but in the interest of time I will tell you two – and you can always ask me for more later. The first is the Christian, but protestant, book Wife School: Where Women Learn the Secrets of Making Husbands Happy. You heard that right husbands – you might want to get this as a stocking stuffer for your wife, but keep in mind they have a husband’s version as well! If you are a feminist the Wife School book may hurt a little but it is by far the best book I have read on marriage and putting the authors suggestions into practice completely improved how I felt about my marriage as well as the practices transformed my marriage. The second suggestion that I have is to read any book written by Catholic counselor Dr. Gregory and Lisa Popcak.
What I would like to close on this evening is this: any little bit that you do will make a tremendous difference not only in the lives of the members of your family, but in your community as well. It can feel very overwhelming to establish and grow your domestic church, but refuse to let that lie sink in. I strongly suggest that you allow The Holy Spirit to be your guide. With an eager heart learn to understand how the Holy Spirit communicates with you and follow with your own “fiat” as Mary did at the annunciation and again at the foot of the cross.
And I would like to leave you with the words of scripture from Revelation chapter 3 versus 15 – 16: “I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” Let us allow ourselves the opportunity to be hot on fire with love and passion of our Lord and of one another. Thank you.