Here in the Diocese of Providence, the spring confirmation season has just concluded. Bishop Tobin, Bishop Evans and I have been traveling across the diocese since April for the conferral of this beautiful sacrament. It has given me the opportunity to join some 25 communities and see how each in their own way celebrates and rejoices. I always strive to express my own joy for the confirmed and my gratitude to their parents and families. At this time of the year, when we also honor mothers and fathers, I have been thinking of and praying for “the domestic church.”
The domestic church or “the little church” is the church in the home. Pope Saint John Paul II was especially prone to recalling this teaching of the ancient pastors of the Church. It is an image that cuts both ways. The Church offers to families an image of Christian family life — one steeped in the wisdom of the Scriptures and the depth of prayer. At the same time, good Christian families are the building blocks of an authentic Church and offer witness to concretely lived discipleship.
As bishop, I rely heavily on the priests of this diocese who serve as fathers to their parish families. And the priests and I together rely on good mothers and fathers who shepherd their little flocks with such care and devotion. In the sacramental bond of holy matrimony, a man and a woman have a unique and privileged calling to participate in the life-giving power of the Creator. When granted the gift of children, their love overflows into a precious new life. While this child or these children demand much of their parents, God’s plan for humankind calls parents to a Christ-like surrender of the self — a surrender that brings meaning and joy beyond any other human experience.
When parents bring their child to the Church for baptism and incorporation into the Body of Christ, they make sacred promises concerning their child — promises that they will raise their child to the light and in the knowledge and love of the Lord Jesus. In that same sacramental moment, parents are accompanied by godparents, their wider family, and the communion of the Church. At every confirmation I remind parents of that moment and thank them for keeping the faith and accompanying their child on the journey of faith.
Family life is essential to the life of the Church and to God’s plan for humanity. I realize that it is increasingly difficult for parents to live that calling as they are tested and stressed by a culture that has grown so hostile to faith and family. I am sure that many grandparents grieve that their grandchildren may not be raised in the faith.
So, permit me to issue a challenge and a promise. I challenge every Catholic family to make a simple commitment — to attend Sunday Mass, to pray grace before meals and to pray as a family at least once each day. I promise that this simple effort to open your family life to the grace of Jesus Christ will bear fruit and bring blessings. I do not know what the blessings will be — only that there will be blessings. And please know that your bishop and your priests will be praying with you and for you, always!
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