Dear Parents, In the Catholic faith, the family is referred to as the “domestic Church”, where sacramentally married couples with or without children, or with an extended family live in the same home. In our modern world, religious families are extremely important centres for transmitting and living the faith. They are the “domestic Church” where parents are the first heralds of the faith. In the home, father, mother, and the children exercise their baptismal priesthood in a privileged way. Thus, the home is the first school of the Christian life where all learn love, forgiveness, respect and prayerful worship. It is the first place where the children learn and receive the faith. The question is: Do parents really understand the implications of this part of their vocation? How successful are they with this responsibility?
THE CHURCH’S EXPECTATIONS OF THE FAMILY (THE DOMESTIC CHURCH)
Being a parent can be a daunting task, even in the best of situations. In the current era, parents deal with a lot of challenges especially with the current national economic crises, the effect of the coronavirus pandemic and so on. As parents, they are responsible for the moral and faith formation of their children. But the challenge is that a lot of parents are unaware of this part of their responsibility or simply don’t bother; as teachers and models of faith within the family set up, the HOME. Some believe they play their role by taking the children to the Church for the preparatory classes- ‘Catechism classes’. So the faith formation of the children is left solely in the hands of the priest, the religious sister, and the catechists who instruct the children on the doctrines of the Church. And of course, such parents also believe that the faith formation ends with the sacrament of Confirmation. This negates the Church’s teaching, which describes the Christian family as the domestic church where the child first encounters Jesus Christ. A careful reading of the documents of the Catholic Church reveals the Church’s great expectations of the family. “The right and duty of parents to give education is essential…original and primary…and it is irreplaceable and incapable of being entirely delegated to others” (FamiliarisConsortio, 36). Christ and His Church calls on parents to be “the first and foremost educators of their children” (GravissimumEducationis, 3) The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. Their home is the place in which, from childhood, the child learns moral values, begin to honour God. St. John Paul II further affirms that “family catechesis precedes, accompanies and enriches all other forms of catechesis”.In other words, if families become dysfunctional in terms of making their homes centres for transmitting or delivering catechesis, then its negative impact on the Christian life of the children is better imagined because as St. John Paul II reiterates, the home is an important and unique locus where authentic catechesis can take place. Therefore, the home is a veritable classroom for transmitting catechesis where parents are the ‘catechists’ who pass on the faith, arouse a desire for God and reflect the beauty of the gospel and its way of life to their children, who are the ‘catechumens’. It is obvious that the family and by extension Christian parents have pivotal roles to play in the faith formation oftheir children.
DEEPENING FAITH FORMATION DURING THIS COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Families are the core unit of society in which people are supported and cared for and where social values are developed and imbibed. How well families function is a key factor in their ability to nurture personal wellbeing, which serves as the basis for a cohesive society. As a parent, you know the vital role you play in the education of your children, but unfortunately, you may not have considered how important you are to their religious education, as well as their spiritual wellbeing. Unfortunately, we live in a busy world where all that matters is daily bread and the temporal things of life. In these business of acquiring the temporal things of life, many parents’ have gotten so busy to the point of shirking their responsibilities to their families and children particularly in the area of faith formation. But like every other thing, there is always a good side to a bad situation or circumstance. When Coronavirus hit the world like a thunderbolt, we thought the end had come. For fear of the unknown, we had to lockdown or shut down every activity including the search for daily bread just to safeguard our lives. But see how what seemed so dreadful has now provided an opportunity for families to mend broken family ties and to strengthen the once weakened family bonds. And for many families, these uncertain times became a time to catch up on the good old days, and more importantly, a time topray and sing together and a time to rekindle the fire of faith that was already dying. Indeed, it became a time for family faith formation and family catechesis to take firmer root.
WHY IS FAITH FORMATION SO IMPORTANT IN THE FAMILY?
“Hear O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord and you shall love the Lord your God with all your soul and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart and you shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise” – Deut. 6:4-7 • Because faith is best taught and lived out in the family, the Church calls on parents to be the first and foremost educators of their children • Children are more likely to put into practice the faith they see lived out day-to-day at home. • There is receptivity and vulnerability to faith which happens only in the early years of the child’s development and only in the family, does this happens. You as parents are indispensable to the future faith life of your child. You must take the driver’s seat to shape your children’s religious future in a positive way. You must have heard the saying that the family is the fundamental ‘building block’ of society. Similarly, families provide a foundation for the continuation and strengthening of the Church among the lay faithful. Lumen Gentium further explains that the family has a role and responsibility in leading souls to heaven: “they are preachers of the faith to their children, they should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each of them…”
(LG II) HELPFUL WAYS/HINTS TO DEEPEN THE FAITH OF THE FAMILY
Listed below are some helpful ways/ hints by which families can deepen the faith of their children and live out their vocation as the domestic church especially during the covid-19 lockdown: • Praying as a family daily • Teach the children to observe quiet time • Faith sharing- Scripture reading (Sunday homily) • Encourage your children to memorize some Bible quotations each day/week • Studying of the Church’s documents • Keeping physical reminders of faith in the house (such as Crucifix, statutes/images, Altar) • Sharing stories of the heroic lives of the Saints • Pray the Family Rosary (especially during this month of May) • Each family member should have their own Rosary • Set a time that is comfortable for the family • Create a space. Set the tone for prayer so the children understand this is different from other family activities. Light a candle, and play a soft, background, instrumental music. • Keep it simple, the Rosary is a great way for young children to learn the Hail Mary, Our Father and Apostle’s Creed, and to learn about the lives of Jesus and his Mother Mary. • Involve all family members. If the children have a role, they will participate more fully and be more attentive. Allow them lead a reflection or the prayers depending on their age. • Use the Rosary as an opportunity to teach children about other aspects of their faith. • You can start now: There is no time like the present and no place like home. The Catholic Church recognizes that grace builds upon nature. Family is one of the most basic, yet important gifts that God gave us. Through a firm marital commitment between man and the woman, and through their own active participation in the faith, and their pledge to raise their children with a love for Christ and his Church, the family is the first place a young Catholic must experience the light of the faith in their own lives. Therefore, I encourage you to make concerted efforts to make your families centres of faith formation for our children. In doing this, we shall be guaranteeing a happy and secure future for the family, for the Church and for the society as a whole. I sincerely appreciate you for all that you do. The hardest job in the world, but the most rewardable. May Our Mother Mary, in this special month, continually intercede and help you to build a happy and holy family. Amen.
With you in prayers, Rev. Sr. Judith Madueke, EHJ, Director of Catechetics/Religious Education