JONES: Catechetical Sunday: Reviewing our role as Domestic Church

September 8, 2020

This year, the Church will celebrate Catechetical Sunday on Sept. 20 with the theme of “I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you.” On this day, the parishioners who answered the call to serve as catechists are usually called forth to be commissioned for their ministry. In addition to this commissioning, Catechetical Sunday is a wonderful opportunity for all of us to reflect on the role that each baptized person plays in handing on the faith and being a witness to the Gospel.

Due to the current coronavirus pandemic, our traditional drop-off student classroom style of echoing the faith to our children has had to change. Because of social distancing, many parents have had to reclaim their role as primary educators of their children’s faith. They had to be the spiritual leader of what the Catholic Church calls the family, the “Domestic Church.”

So, what is this Domestic Church? The Domestic Church was defined by the Second Vatican Council document, Lumen Gentium: “The family is, so to speak, the domestic Church. In it parents should, by their word and example, be the first preachers of the faith to their children; they should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each of them, fostering with the special care vocation to a sacred state.” (LG 11)

Again, in St. John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, he describes the role of the Christian family in the modern world: “The Christian family constitutes a specific revelation and realization of ecclesial communion, and for this reason too it can and should be called ‘the domestic Church.’”

Each family household is considered its own Domestic Church and has a role in the mission of the Catholic Church; “Every particular task of the family is an expressive and concrete actuation of that fundamental mission... four general tasks for the family: 1) Forming a community of persons; 2) Serving life; 3) Participating in the development of society; and 4) Sharing in the life and mission of the Church.” (FC 17)

How do we do this? First, we have had to adjust our way of thinking. It is helpful to realize that catechesis is a Greek word, which means to “echo the faith.” A catechist is one who “echoes” the Good News, thereby proclaiming and sharing their faith. Therefore, we are each called to be catechists, spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ by the very virtue of our Baptism.

The early Church we read about in Acts did not have brick and mortar buildings. The “Church” consisted of the people, the body of Christ. There were no textbooks, no computers, no parish halls and no grand church structures. Yet, that did not stop the Church from spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Nor did it prevent the people from gathering as Church and sharing their faith with friends and strangers alike.

These bold heralds of the faith were our first catechists. What they received from the Lord, they handed to others.

In addition, we need to update our conception of what a family is. Family households take on different looks: There’s the traditional family consisting of a mother, father and multiple children. There are also couples without children such as empty nesters, newlyweds, single parents, blended families, etc. All are called to be the Domestic Church. Just as the Church is the people — not the brick and mortar structure — so the family is not limited to adults with children.

Once we change our perspective, the question remains. How do we carry out our role as Domestic Church?

Returning to the document Familiaris Consortio, we form a community of persons... our faith family.

We work on being a true community.

We play together, we pray together and we treat each other with dignity and respect. As a family, together, we serve others. We give of our time, talents and treasure. Together, we share in the mission of the Church. We spread the Good News found in the Gospel by our thoughts, words and actions.

There is a saying that “Faith is caught, not taught.” Sharing your faith happens more accidentally than intentionally. When you pray, do so with your children or faith community. When you work the soup kitchen showing God’s love for others, no words are necessary; your actions reveal that you are your “brother’s keeper.” Always share a smile of encouragement to those you meet. Life is full of such catechetical moments. Take advantage of the opportunity to reveal your membership in the Body of Christ.
This year, why not make Catechetical Sunday an opportunity for you to rededicate yourself to this mission of echoing the faith as a community of faith, as the Domestic Church. Let us hand onto others what was handed down to us, keeping in mind this year’s theme: “I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you.”

Deborah Jones is an associate director with the Archdiocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.