“Your family and your friends, your colleagues and your competitors, and all the people you may meet on your journey through life are all searching for more than survival. Your presence among them as the one who is sent will allow them to catch a glimpse of the real life.”
Henri Nouwen, “Life of the Beloved”
Dear domestic Church,
We hope you’ve found these letters to be a source of encouragement during these challenging months. We hope you’ve uncovered some real-world ways to rest in God’s love for you and to continue growing in your faith in a way that helps you share it with your family. You’ve likely gathered by now that the place and time in which we experience being taken, blessed, broken and given is at Mass.
Mass is an opportunity for our broken yet blessed selves to receive nourishment, reassurance, connection and the reminder that we are taken, beloved children of God. We give of ourselves when we take time out of our busy schedules to be present at Mass virtually or in-person, even with our noisy toddlers, crying babies or eye-rolling teenagers sitting with us. We’re nourished by the word of God, by participating in Mass as part of a community of believers and most importantly, by receiving the Eucharist. The thing is, we don’t just stay at Mass all week long. Jesus is taken, blessed, broken and given to us so that when we leave, we are sent out, bringing him with us into our homes and the world.
The family is called the domestic Church because we do what the larger Church does, just in our own way within the rhythms of everyday family life. Archbishop Vigneron reminds us of this in “Unleash the Gospel:” For the members of a Christian family, discipleship is lived out concretely in the rhythms of their day-to-day interaction. Family life is a daily ‘liturgy’ of prayers, sacrifices, acts of love, service, forbearance and forgiveness—all nourished and transformed by participation in the sacraments” (Guidepost 7). We “reclaim the sacrament of reconciliation as a lived reality” when we forgive our children, ask for their forgiveness or help settle sibling disputes. When we pray together and share a meal as a family, we reflect the Eucharistic feast in our own homes. We bless our children and our spouses before sending them into the world, much like the blessing we receive at the end of Mass.
Take some time to pray and reflect on what it means for your domestic Church to be taken, blessed, broken and given right now:
- What are ways that you affirm and remind each other that you each have been chosen by God as His beloved? Do you take time to let God speak that truth to you personally? Do you speak in kindness to each other? Do you respect each other’s space?
- How do you help each other know you are blessed? Do you bless your children and spouse as they start the day or go to sleep at night? Do you offer prayers of thanksgiving before meals or during family prayer time?
- What can you do to claim and bless your brokenness? It may be as simple as acknowledging your house may never be as clean as you want it, but that you can take a moment to thank God for the mess when cleaning what you can. It can be recognizing the disconnect you feel from your family and planning something fun to do together.
- Where can you give of yourself, even in small ways? This could be taking a few minutes at the end of the day for cuddle time with the kids, scheduling a date night with your spouse to reconnect or finding time to make and share a meal together.
These are just some small ways to live out our lives as beloved children of God. Some things you may already be doing and others may be new to your family. Just remember, that you aren’t doing this within a bubble (although we understand how it might feel like that at times– especially this last year). Our families are part of the larger communities we live in too: our parishes, schools, neighborhoods, extended families and workplaces. Being taken, blessed, broken and given calls us to live our lives with deep inner joy and peace in all of these places.
“The witness of a joyful family life rooted in the Gospel can be a spiritual oasis for people in contemporary society. How many have never experienced a family life characterized by warmth, mutual affection, honor, forgiveness, and peace? […] I encourage families who are living the Gospel to exercise radical generosity in inviting others to share in your family life, even if you are well aware that it is not perfect” (“Unleash the Gospel” Marker 7.3).
This is where the challenge lies: the life of the beloved is a life lived in a world that is constantly trying to convince us that we must prove we are worthy of love, life and presence. It’s easy to see your own family’s imperfections, but as you live as a beloved child of God you know that those aren’t what define your family. While the world tells us that our worth is defined by how productive we can be at work, how much money we have in the bank, how well behaved our children are, how many likes we can get on social media or how good we look in a swimsuit, we need to remember who we are in the eyes of the Lord and keep our eyes fixed on him.
Know that you are God’s beloved son or daughter in all your brokenness and struggles. Remember that you’ve been given the power to bless others, to give of your very self just as you are, and that you’ve been sent forth to share God’s love with the world personally and through your family.
Don’t forget the key practices we’ve mentioned that can help us remain rooted as God’s beloved:
- Make time each day to read and reflect on sacred Scripture. Join one of our Scripture Challenges if you’re looking for a way to dive deeper into the Word of God.
- Call on St. Michael the Archangel and ask for protection from the lies of the evil one and the lies of the world.
- Connect, find encouragement and support from your spouse, like-minded friends, family members or within a small group.
- Practice quiet prayer by sitting in silence, even if only for a minute or two to start, to allow yourself an opportunity to hear God speaking to you.
- Befriend and bless your brokenness asking the Lord to come to you in your moments of struggle.
- Seek out the sacraments. The Eucharist and reconciliation call upon the full experience of being taken, blessed, broken and given and strengthen us as we are sent.
The challenges you’ve faced over the last year coupled with the everyday stress that comes with being part of a family may leave you feeling like there’s not much left for you to give the world, or that you’re the last person the Lord needs to be sending anywhere. Just as we are sent from Mass, God is sending you and your family to share him with the world. Henri Nouwen reminds us to “think of it as a mission into time, a mission that is very exhilarating and even exciting, mostly because the One who sent [you] on the mission is waiting for [you] to come home and tell the story of what [you] have learned.”
This series aims to communicate to parents that they are not alone, that God is working in their lives, and that He speaks to wherever they are at right now. Looking at the themes outlined in Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen, there will be 5 articles that stress that everything we go through draws us closer to Christ and that he is always seeking us. The themes that will be explored are: Taken (being claimed by Christ), Blessed (seeing God’s blessings even in difficult circumstances), Broken (God meets us in our brokenness), Given (giving of ourselves), and Mass (where we are taken, blessed, broken, and given).
Read the other articles in this series: