The Family as Domestic Church: How She Hands on Faith (Part IV of IV)

The Family as Domestic Church:
How She Hands on the Faith
(Part IV of IV)

Editor’s Note: In Part I, we examined how the four marks of the Church apply to the family. Part II considered our baptismal call to being priest, prophet and king by delving into what it means to be priest in the secular world and how parents carry that out within the family. Part III looked at what it means to be prophet and king. Today, we will briefly go over the holiness which we are all called to, and sum up what we’ve discussed in these four posts.

The Universal Call to Holiness

All Christians, no matter what their state in life, “are called to holiness, according to the apostle’s saying: ‘For this is the will of God, your sanctification’ (1 Th. 4:3).”[42] This means that we are all called to be saints, to find our eternal happiness with God in heaven. It also means there are as many different paths to sainthood as there are ways of living out a vocation. Building on the “call to holiness…rooted in Baptism and proposed anew in the other Sacraments, principally in the Eucharist,”[43] children, who receive this gift of holiness in baptism, must still be taught, encouraged and strengthened in virtue. The family, then, is the first place that children learn how to be holy. Parents, by the witness of their faith expressed in word and deed, must teach their children how to be holy, and how to live out their Christian baptismal character as priest, prophet and king.


The family is correctly called the domestic Church. As a reflection of the Church in miniature, it has many of the same attributes that the Church itself has and “stands…as a symbol, witness and participant of the Church’s motherhood.”[44] The family is the initial way faith gets passed on from one generation to the next by living out the baptismal office of priest, prophet and king, and responding to the call to holiness. It is the fertile ground for all vocations.

As one of the smallest parts of the Church, outside its individual members, it’s no wonder that the Christian family is under attack, just as the Church itself has been under attack almost since its inception. Many parents, while admitting to some responsibility for teaching their children the faith, may feel inadequate to the task or, alternately, may feel discouraged, overwhelmed, or under appreciated. Sadly, this gets transmitted to how some children are grounded in the faith, if at all. And, inadequate faith preparation for the realities of life in the world has repercussions not just for family life, but also for the Church and for the rest of humanity as well. What’s needed is an integrated approach that combines faith education, practical skill building and support by the faith community in all phases of family life beginning with marriage preparation and continuing through reception of the sacraments, and, indeed, throughout adult life. In this way, the family could perhaps be better celebrated within parishes, acknowledged more overtly for the role they play, served in their stresses and challenges, and shepherded and instructed where they may have gaps in their ability to complete their mission within the body of Christ and within the world.

[42] Lumen Gentium: Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents Vol. I (Northport, NY: Costello Publishing Company, Inc., 1998), 39.

[43] John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Christifideles Laici: “The Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People,” (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 1988), 16§5.

[44] John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris Consortio, “The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 1981), 49§4.

Art: Children Going to Church, André-Henri Dargelas, between 1828 and 1906, PD-US, Wikimedia Commons.

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