ARCHBISHOP DENNIS M. SCHNURR
It is almost impossible to exaggerate the devastating effect social isolation has had in recent months on our lives as citizens, as workers and as members of a faith community for whom communal worship is a defining practice. At the same time, however, it has been heartening to hear stories of families drawing closer together and sharing live-streamed Masses in their homes.
In these dark days, the light of Christ continued to burn brightly in what the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, calls “the domestic church” (LG 11), meaning the family – even though for months Catholics throughout the world could only virtually assemble at the Eucharistic table.
The Church is universal, crossing time and space, but most of us experience it first through our families: our parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters and extended family. Experiencing the Church through friends, neighbors, coworkers and classmates comes next. It has always been that way, reflecting Christianity’s roots in a Jewish religious tradition based largely on family rituals. The Holy Family was, in a sense, a domestic church before there was the Church.
Lumen Gentium notes that “parents, by word and example, are the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children.” Teacher-ministers in Catholic schools and Parish Schools of Religion offer crucial support for this task, but the primary responsibility belongs to parents. It is an obligation that can be shared with godparents and teachers, but not delegated away.
In my pastoral letter marking the upcoming 200th anniversary of the establishment of the Diocese of Cincinnati, I call upon the faithful of our local Church to join me in reflecting on how we can better radiate Christ. Clearly, the place to start is in our own families. That is where we are first called to seek the face of the Lord, convert to Him and allow Him to shine through us. No evangelistic efforts initiated from the pastoral center, parishes or schools of the archdiocese, no matter how well-planned or how well-executed, can be effective if the faith is not alive in the home.
The work of the domestic church is not primarily a matter of instruction, but of example. It has been wisely said that “faith is not so much taught as caught.” A joyful belief in the Lord who loves us is contagious. Thus, parents chiefly pass on the faith day-to-day by modeling it in their own loving actions, while also encouraging their children to pray frequently and to develop their own relationship with the Lord. Parents are the first and most important disciples and witnesses of Christ in the lives of their children.
It is my hope that all Catholics of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati will strive to become more effective, joyful witnesses to their families and to their broader communities. In my bicentennial pastoral letter, entitled “Radiate Christ,” I offer 12 reflection questions that I again urge you to spend some time with as part of nurturing your own faith. The letter appeared in the June issue of The Catholic Telegraph and is available online at thecatholictelegraph.com/radiate-christ.
Within this issue of the magazine, which is dedicated to the domestic church, you will find hopeful stories and faith resources to help you no matter what your stage in life or family situation. Each month The Catholic Telegraph connects the domestic church of your home to the local Church and the Church universal, providing inspiration and information for your faith journey. You do not walk that path alone.