“School” Retreat Day Seven: Marriage as a Domestic Church
Breaking Open the Theme
“In humble obedience then to her voice, let Christian husbands and wives be mindful of their vocation to the Christian life, a vocation which, deriving from their Baptism, has been confirmed anew and made more explicit by the Sacrament of Matrimony. For by this sacrament they are strengthened and, one might almost say, consecrated to the faithful fulfillment of their duties. Thus will they realize to the full their calling and bear witness as becomes them, to Christ before the world. For the Lord has entrusted to them the task of making visible to men and women the holiness and joy of the law which united inseparably their love for one another and the cooperation they give to God’s love, God who is the Author of human life.” (Humanae Vitae, no. 25)
The early Church understood the Christian family as an ecclesia domestica or domestic church. The domestic Church rests on the foundation of a baptized husband and wife. They establish a communion of love into which children are welcomed. By creating a home where love, care, and growth in the faith flourish among family members, married couples reflect the life of the Church in the world.
By the power of the Holy Spirit working in the married couple, they “are consecrated and by means of a special grace build up the Body of Christ and form a domestic church, so that the Church, in order fully to understand her mystery, looks to the Christian family, which manifests her in a real way” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 67).
By their reception of the sacrament of marriage, Christian parents “become ministers of their children’s education. In educating them, they build up the Church, and in so doing, they accept a God-given vocation” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 85). In the family, parents teach their children how to pray, how to embrace God’s loving commandments, and how to grow in virtue and holiness.
Family is the fundamental unit of society. Strong families lead to strong societies and nations. Without the family, our social, political, and cultural spheres would be deeply shaken to the core. Unfortunately, there are already signs of a weakened societal framework due to the breakdown of family structure. The Church also depends on the family, calling it to be a beacon, a reflection of God’s people. The family begins with the marriage between a man and a woman, united by God. Within their home, the couple nurtures the life of a domestic church by welcoming new life and fostering love in their midst. In this way, they give witness to Christ and build the Kingdom of God.
To Think About
(Choose one or more of the following questions to reflect on by yourself and/or with your spouse)
(1) List five ways your family or you and your spouse are striving to be a domestic church.
(2) How do you and your family live a sacramental life? Is that sacramental life reflected in your home? How could it be improved?
(3) Do you and your family give testimony to your faith by witnessing to friends and acquaintances?
Holy Couples – Saints Aquila and Priscilla
Prayer of Married Couples
Almighty and eternal God,
You blessed the union of husband and wife
so that we might reflect
the union of Christ with His Church:
look with kindness on us.
Renew our marriage covenant.
Increase your love in us,
and strengthen our bond of peace
so that, [with our children],
we may always rejoice in the gift of your blessing.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.