Building A Domestic Church
Updated: Sep 18, 2019
(A guest post by Masha Goepel)
Home: The Domestic Church
When I was young, I wanted to be a hermit. I dreamed of a little cell made of stone beside a lake in northern Michigan. I would have an herb garden and a hive of silvery bees. My days would be quiet and simple: read, write, pray.
Instead I married, and build a bustling, domestic hermitage in the woods of western Maine. A tiny house beside a tiny stream, with a tiny family inside. I have an herb garden and a hive of silvery bees, but also goats, sheep, poultry, and an unreflective, disobedient dog. Our days are simple, but rarely quiet.
The life that is owes a lot to the life that might have been. I haven’t given up my eremitical dream entirely, I’ve merely entrusted it to God. He makes of it what He will.
Holiness is our universal calling. God made each and every individual for sainthood. Sainthood is not a far-off, distant ideal. It’s a daily thing: a mystery born in the quotidian acts of love and care. Washing cups, wiping tears, telling stories, and sharing meals.
Home as The School of Holiness
Home is where all learning begins. As tiny, new Catholics, each baby is introduced to Christ through his parents. The atmosphere in our homes is more formative than anything else. Parents are “the first preachers of the faith to their children”.
This is why the Church calls the home a “Domestic church”. A tiny, or not-so-tiny congregation of believers living out their vocations together. Parents forming their children in the faith; spouses encouraging each other to live lives of holiness.
But not all churches look the same. Your domestic church won’t look like mine, mine won’t look like anyone else’s. Think of all the churches you’ve seen: grand cathedrals, whitewashed country parishes, bustling city churches, monasteries, and everything in between.
My family falls close to my eremitic ideal. It’s not perfect – no church, domestic or otherwise, is. My little hermitage should have more children and fewer bits of junk. We should pray more, and keep to our routines better.
Your domestic church may be more like a bustling parish. You may have places to go each day and dishes piling up beside the sink. You may be constantly struggling to find the balance between prayer and service and family life.
Or, maybe your domestic church is crumbling. Maybe you’re waiting for children with hearts that hardly hope anymore. Maybe the children you had have grown and left you and their faith behind. Maybe your church is missing a mother or father. It’s hard to read about the family as domestic church when your family life is full of pain.
But remember, the Church herself is full of pain. The Church herself has been left bereft time and time again. Your family – as broken or incomplete as it may be – is also a domestic church.
Seeing with New Eyes
When we look at our families with the eyes of faith and see the home for what it is: a tiny church all its own; then the little things become meaningful. For me, it’s helped guide my choices in everything from books and music to food and hospitality.
Each little, daily choice becomes a way to love and form the lives entrusted to me. I have the opportunity to give more of myself and receive more as well. Grace builds upon nature until something uniquely sacred grow up in the quiet, hidden home-life of the Catholic family.
[Masha writes from the woods of western Maine. She spends her time chasing chickens, raising saints, and putting off 'til tomorrow what ought to be done today. You can find her writing at www.yisforhome.com]