One of the hallmarks of the Church in our age is the renewed emphasis on the role of the laity. Drawing upon the rich, traditional teaching of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), the Church reminds the laity that all of us are called to holiness by virtue of our Baptism, and we are all called to play an active role in the apostolate, serving as leaven in the world.
All that’s well and good, but saying it doesn’t make it so. All Catholics–and not merely those who are called to the priesthood and/or religious life–need a sound Christian formation to be able to respond generously and well to their own personal vocation in Christ. We need ongoing catechesis. In short, we can’t expect the fruits of discipleship, such as growth in holiness, apostolic zeal, and so forth, unless we truly are disciples.
In recent decades the Church has called the family the “domestic Church.” This is a powerful image that suggests something more than a once-per-week catechism class and maybe a crucifix on the wall. Rather, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the family is called to be a “lay novitiate,” with the family home being the “motherhouse.”
I’ve been called many things–and more often than not I deserved it! But one accusation I’ve never really understood is the charge that my family is ”too religious” simply because we believe the faith should carry over into the way we live. When it comes to following Christ, we’re either “all in” or we’re not. The family, then, must be an incubator of faith, a school of virtue, and a training ground for prayer, always in a context of being a joyful, welcoming environment.
Over the weeks we will provide in this column some practical advice for building up and catechizing our own domestic Church. For today, however, I want to invite our readers to reflect on Catechism, no. 2225, which in my estimation calls us to see our homes as “lay novitiates.” As we read, let us ask the Lord how we might live this teaching more fully in our own families:
“Through the grace of the sacrament of marriage, parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children. Parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith of which they are the “first heralds” for their children. They should associate them from their tenderest years with the life of the Church. A wholesome family life can foster interior dispositions that are a genuine preparation for a living faith and remain a support for it throughout one’s life.”