(Holy Family: Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14; 1 John 3:1-2, 21-24; Luke 2:1-52)
At the General Audience of August 11, 1976, Pope Paul VI addressed parents as follows: “Mothers, do you teach your children the Christian prayers? … And you, fathers, do you pray with your children?” We are reminded here of the question Mary asked at La Salette, “Do you say your prayers well, my children?”
True prayer is not a matter of words alone. It creates bonds between us and God; but let us not forget that it also deepens the sharing of faith among those who pray together. It is essential to the life of the Christian family, which St. Augustine and other Fathers of the Church called the “domestic Church.” Vatican II revived this expression, and several Church documents have used it since then. (Some are quoted or paraphrased below.)
In Jewish practice, the family is the primary place of worship. Through his incarnation, the Son of God “chose to be born and grow up in the bosom of the holy family.” Joseph and Mary taught him to pray, and to feel at home in the Temple—though they never anticipated the scene described in today’s Gospel!
Christian parents are described in recent documents as the first heralds of the faith. In the blessing of parents which concludes the rite of Baptism, we hear: “May God bless the father of this child. He and his wife will be the first teachers of their child in the ways of faith. May they be also the best of teachers, bearing witness to the faith by what they say and do.”
The Beautiful Lady continues to exercise this role, calling us to live as she and Joseph and Jesus did, honoring God, and obeying his will.
Like any family, the domestic Church is “a school for human enrichment,” where we learn precious family values. But it is different, too. A family that lives its faith, receiving the sacraments, praying and giving thanks, and demonstrating holiness of life through self-denial and charity, can be an “island of Christian life in an unbelieving world,”
The Psalmist exclaims, “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!” We are always welcome in our Father’s house. As a domestic Church, he in turn is always welcome in ours.
Fr. René Butler, M.S. and Wayne Vanasse