Strengthening the Domestic Church
By Rijo Philip
With the recent scandals involving some of the highest-ranking officials of the Church, it is worth asking, “how does the ‘domestic church’ of the family continue to stand firm when the universal Church takes such a hit? How do we spread the faith to others when the leaders of our Church fall short in practicing it themselves?” One answer is to have a personal relationship with God. If we listen directly to the voice of the Good Shepherd, we won’t as easily be led astray by misleading voices or actions of some appointed shepherds. Sadly, scandal among church leadership is not new to the Church, stretching back to her earliest centuries. But the strength of the domestic church does not reside in the impeccability of her leadership, but rather in the personal relationship we each develop with God through, with, and in the Catholic Church.
Throughout the entirety of Scripture, and even throughout Church history, there has been failure and scandal among the appointed leaders of God. As the prophet, Ezekiel, so pointedly reminded us in the readings of the Mass recently, God promises that He will tend His flock after the failures of His elected shepherds (Ezekiel 34:1-11). Even one of the original twelve apostles, whom Jesus Himself selected, betrayed Him. So, it will hopefully cause no crisis of faith when some of the apostles of today fall short of righteousness. The truth professed by the Church is not tarnished or corrupted even if the reputation and credibility of her leadership is lost. We trust in God and “not in princes and in men” (Psalm 118:8-9,146:3). But to trust in the Lord, hear His voice, and know the truth, we must know Him personally. We must ourselves know Him intimately.
As children of God, we know that God desires a personal loving relationship with each of us, and those who seek Him will find Him. Megan and I had both established a personal relationship with God before we met, but we’ve begun to foster an even deeper relationship with Him together in our domestic church. We incorporated praying together very early on in our relationship because we both knew that walking together with God is of utmost importance for how we love one another. Now as a married couple, we also understand that the primary responsibility we have is to help the other get to heaven. We couldn’t imagine the thought of entering heaven without each other.
Megan and I trust that our relationship with God together will help us get through the seasons of life together – the highs and the lows, the good times and the bad. We hope that our faith will be like seeds growing together in rich soil that endures through the trials and tribulations Jesus warned of in the parable of the Sower. We know that Christ fulfills His promise and that the gates of Hell will never prevail against His Church. Amid this scandal causing some Catholics to turn away from Christ and His Church, we might be tempted with the question Jesus asked His apostles when so many disciples were leaving His company, “Do you also want to leave?” Megan and I proclaim with Peter and the apostles, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that You are the Holy One of God” (John 6:69).
Through our own relationships with God, Megan and I create our personal memories with Him. We are no longer dependent on the Bible stories of God’s relationship with Israel, or the Church’s stories of saints. Rather, we have our own stories of God being faithful to us and experiencing His presence in our lives. God saves us today; His healing love is redeeming us today. This is the good news that our domestic church is called to share with the world. Sadly, the tragic news about our Church leadership may stifle some of our evangelization efforts, but regardless of what happens with the leadership of our Universal Church, Megan and I are the leaders of our domestic church, and “as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord,” (Joshua 24:15) and we will remain steadfast with the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church that Christ founded – the Catholic Church.