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Looking towards Nazareth and the Domestic Church

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The irony of living in a world that does not want to recognize or include God in anything is that it is precisely God himself who makes all good things possible. Without God, everything seems hopeless and hopeless. All you have to do is read or watch the news online, listen to what’s going on: the conflicts, the arguments, the so-called discussions where no one wants to listen to anyone or whatever. other than his own voice. Nobody else makes sense except “me, myself and me”.

Now, to make this more interesting, let’s include children in the picture: impressionable, innocent children for whom we as parents are responsible. It certainly makes parenting in today’s world that much more difficult. Yet while it can be difficult to navigate these often turbulent social and cultural waters, it is certainly not impossible. With God’s help and grace, though it may be difficult, it is worth every effort and every prayer. The struggle to be a good parent is real but well worth it.

A common concern

In August of this year, our family attended a family camp near Port Burwell in Ontario, Canada. There were a total of 11 families at the camp, plus a cook and his team of teenage girls, and a priest who gave us the privilege of celebrating Holy Mass every day. For a week we ate together, swam, relaxed, played, chatted, laughed, talked and listened. We listened to each other’s hopes and fears as parents trying to raise our children in a world where many don’t seem to want God in their lives.

As different and unique as each family is, we parents shared the same concern to grow in our faith and to transmit this faith – strong and true – to our children. After all, we all knew how crucial our faith is in our lives – in everything we do and who we are as children of God. Yet when we are bombarded left, right, and center with messages, ideologies, and ideas that contradict the truth and God Himself, what are we to do? Where are we going to start? To begin, let’s look at those we are called to imitate: Joseph and Mary.

The example of Nazareth

The same dynamic that existed within the Holy Family is meant to exist within our own families even now. Fathers and mothers must teach their children to live the gospel way and thus experience the salvation of Jesus, the love of the Father, and new life in the Holy Spirit. How should Christian parents do this? They must follow the example of Joseph and Mary.

(“The Christian family and the evangelization of children”, Franciscan Capuchin Father Thomas G. Weinandy, Executive Director Secretariat for Doctrine and Pastoral Practices, USCCB, September 19, 2010)

Jesus was not a Christian. It probably seems like a silly thing to say, but I think it’s important to do. Jesus was a Jew – born of Jewish parents and brought up to be a good and upright man of the Jewish faith. God-made-Man was born of human parents and lived in a family home, formed by the faith of his mother and adoptive father.

I sincerely believe that their family home in Nazareth was filled with joy: peaceful but one would have heard the sound of laughter and familiar conversation as the family gathered. I believe this for the simple reason that Jesus himself was a very joyful, peaceful, and loving man who was always in connection with others around him. He was in conversations – big and small – asking, answering, listening thoughtfully, praying. There is almost nothing of his family life or his growing up years in the scriptures, but his behavior and actions reflect the kind of man he had been raised by his parents. The ordinaryness of her life belied the richness of a family life steeped in love, affection, and faith.

The mini me of the church

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no 2204We read:

The Christian family constitutes a specific revelation and realization of ecclesial communion, and this is why it can and must be qualified as domestic church.” It is a community of faith, hope and charity; it takes on a singular importance in the Church, as the New Testament shows. (bold text by me)

Community of faith, hope and charity: the family is a veritable nursery of vocations. Within a family, a person is meant to live for the first time and be changed significantly and forever by the kind of love that doesn’t matter. This is where you take your first steps, not only physically but also spiritually. It is within a family that one begins to know his Creator and Father God.

The first teachers

As parents, we are not simply called upon to teach our children the prayers as if they were memorizing additional facts or the alphabet. We are – by virtue of our fundamental role of primary educators of our children – called to

bear witness to this responsibility first of all by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity and selfless service are the rule. The house is well suited to education in the virtues. It requires learning self-sacrifice, good judgment and self-control – the prerequisites for all true freedom. Parents must teach their children to subordinate “the material and instinctive dimensions to the interior and spiritual dimensions”. Parents have a heavy responsibility to set a good example for their children. By knowing how to recognize their own failings in their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, period 2223)

While it may seem quite overwhelming – and frankly, it makes me want to sit still for a moment or two… or five – it all has to take place within our own families, in our own homes, with those we love. Although we already love our families, our personal flaws and imperfections, weaknesses and doubts can make it difficult to stay the course and persevere as the days go by. In order to make this a reality – overcoming what is humanly “impossible” – we must look to our Father God for the strength we don’t have, the grace we don’t deserve, and the faith that can only come from him.

Practice what we preach

In a articles from 2014 on Huffpost.com, we’re told that — according to studies — the number one reason teens keep the faith as young adults is because their parents practice their own faith:

The role of parents is even more critical today as trust in institutions declines and many children with more demanding schedules spend less time in congregations, Smith noted.

Yet, he said, there are powerful “cultural scripts” that discourage parents from taking an active role in the spiritual lives of their teens.

Among these scripts:

  • After 12 years, the role of parents fades and the influence of peers, media, music and social networks take over.
  • Cultural messages that encourage parents to entrust their children to “experts”.

Eight years later, the message of this article is still as valid as it was then. Parents were then crucial in the lives of their children; they continue to be so to this day – and they always will be so as long as there are families. The last lines of the article should be seen as a call to action for believing parents:

For their part, parents must realize that a hands-off approach to religion has consequences. “Parents, for better or for worse, are actually the most influential pastors … of their children,” Smith said. “Parents establish a kind of glass ceiling of religious commitment, above which their children rarely rise.”

How essential it is to truly educate ourselves in our faith and put it into practice, not only on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, but every day. Every moment is a gift from God to us – we each owe Him. There are no holidays for living our faith. Our children need to see us pray and have a relationship with our God. It’s not enough to tell them to pray – we need to pray with them and witness how our own faith helps us to be better people.

Entrusted souls

For us as parents, there is much more at stake than the physical well-being, financial security or professional goals of our children. Each child is a soul that God has entrusted to his parents. Our ultimate goal is to lead our children into the love of our Father God who is also their own Heavenly Father.

Parents teach their children primarily by their own conduct. What a son or a daughter looks for in a father or a mother is not only a certain knowledge or more or less effective advice, but above all something more important: proof of the value and meaning of life, manifested through the life of a specific person, and confirmed in the different situations and circumstances that occur over a period of time.

If I were to give advice to parents, I would say to them, above all, let your children see that you are trying to live according to your faith. Don’t be fooled: they see everything, from an early age, and they judge everything. Let them see that God is not only on your lips, but also in your deeds; that you’re trying to be loyal and sincere, and that you really love yourself and them too.

This is how you will best contribute to making your children true Christians, men and women of integrity, capable of facing all life’s situations with an open mind, of serving their fellowmen and of helping to solve the problems of humanity, to bear witness to Christ to the society of which they will be a part.

(Saint Josemaria Escriva, “Marriage: a Christian vocation”, Number 28, Christ passes by)