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The Domestic Church: A Basic Monastery, a School of Love, and the Wellspring of Vocations

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By Joel de Loera 

Togetherness is the key that unleashes the wealth of family life 

What does family life look like from a Catholic perspective? I like using the image of a monastery or a convent to help me understand the vocation of the domestic church. There are many similarities. Convents and monasteries are communities of faith where monks and nuns, brothers and sisters, live under the guidance and servant leadership of a superior, abbot or abbess. They pray, eat, work, and have leisure time together. They learn to be patient with one another, practice forgiveness and grow in their love for God and each other. In the domestic church, parents are the “spiritual guides” providing leadership and guidance to their children. And just like those monks and nuns, families are encouraged to eat, pray, do chores, have fun, and grow in their knowledge and love for God together. Families in quarantine have an opportunity to relate in some ways to cloistered monks and nuns, since we can’t leave our homes unless it is for essentials. This is a time to rediscover how “togetherness” unleashes the inexhaustible wealth of family life.       

Unfortunately, it’s a lot harder for the modern family to enjoy their time together and grow spiritually. There are many obstacles preventing the modern family from realizing its full potential and fulfilling its mission. Some of these obstacles – such as work and caring for a sick family member – are difficult to overcome, while others relate to behaviors and attitudes that need to change. For many families, this time of quarantine can be a time of reflection, conversion, and hope. After all, quarantine and “Cuaresma” (Lent) come from the same root word in Latin, which means “forty,” and forty is a biblical number that invites us to a deeper relationship with God during a period of temptation and trial. Just as Jesus went into the desert for forty days to prepare for his mission through prayer and fasting, families can use this time to pray and fast from behaviors and attitudes that prevent them from growing in love. The key is to begin spending more time together: praying, playing, sharing a meal, talking about vocations, and just holding each other in God’s loving embrace.   

The School of Love and the Wellspring of Vocations 

The Christian home is a school of love: it is where its students should first experience the palpable love of God the Father, foster an intimate relationship with Jesus, and learn to call upon the Holy Spirit throughout their lives. There are many ways children may experience God’s unconditional love for them, but the main one should be the love their parents embody and radiate through their example. The domestic church is also a school of discernment. Parents have a duty to help their children discern their vocation, not decide for them. Through their example and living witness of their faith, they become their children’s spiritual guides. Many families don’t realize that home is the wellspring of vocations. Home is where it all starts. I dare to say that if we all had a stronger family life, we would see a surge in fruitful vocations.  

Since this time of quarantine provides an opportunity for families to live a monastic lifestyle and a family retreat like no other, let us make the most of it! May each member of the domestic church, guided by the Holy Spirit, grow in faith, hope, and love for God and one another.