Monday, October 05, 2009

27th Sunday Reflection

Sunday was Respect Life Sunday in the Catholic Church, the opening of Respect Life Month. How appropriate that the Gospel reading from Mark should be about marriage and children! Check it out on the USCCB website and then continue reading below for this week's Following the Message Question.

Question: What steps might I take to strengthen my family life?

"God himself is the author of marriage ... Since God created (the human race) man and woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1603-04). Sadly, when sin came into the world, "as a break with God, (it) had for its first consequence the rupture of the original communion between man and woman" (CCC 1607). "To heal the wounds of sin, man and woman need the help" of God's grace. "Without his help, man and woman cannot achieve the union of their lives for which God created them in the beginning" (CCC, 1608). "By coming to restore the original order of creation disturbed by sin, (Jesus) himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God ... This grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ's cross, the source of all Christian life" (CCC, 1615). For more information, please visit For Your Marriage, an initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

All life begins in the family. Thus the church is one of the biggest supporters of marriage. Marriages within the church are so special. The priest doesn't marry us, we marry each other, the priest is only there as the official witness of the Church. That's pretty powerful when you think about it, a husband and wife are the ones performing the sacrament upon each other. I believe it is the only sacrament in the Church where this happens. In every other case, for the other six sacraments, the priest, bishop, or deacon is the one confirming the sacrament on the individual. That says a lot about marriage!!

Within our marriage we represent the Church. As husband and wife we are responsible for each other's souls. And if children become a part of that marriage we are responsible for their intellectual, spiritual, and physical well-being. We are, therefore, the Domestic Church.

I love that phrase!! The Domestic Church! Really evokes a powerful image of the family.

So as a Domestic Church we need to constantly work on our family. This week's question is asking us how we can strengthen our family. But why is this important?

Well, because it is up to us to ensure that our loved ones get to heaven. Yes, we're all responsible for ourselves, but if the family is the Domestic Church, than just as the priest's job is to lead us to Jesus and ultimately heaven, it is our job, as a priestly people, to lead our spouse and children to heaven as well.

That's a big job! And an important one.

Prayer is essential. I pray during my Holy Hour on Monday mornings. And I always try to pray for my husband and the souls of my two children. I also ask our children, who I believe are already in heaven, to pray for us as well. My husband and I also pray before each meal we have together. I like that we do that, but we always use the same prayer. I'm itching to add some free-form prayers at the end.

One day I'll get to that.

But that leads me to meals together. My husband and I always eat breakfast and dinner together when we're both home. That means dinner every night and breakfast on the five days a week when we're both there (two mornings one of us is at our Holy Hour). Some people have expressed surprise that we actually sit down at the table together for EVERY meal.

It would be so easy for us to not do this. We could use the TV trays and sit in the family room for meals. But I bet we'd get too comfortable with that. Also, we probably wouldn't talk as much. Often the TV is on, in the other room, but it's more background noise than anything else. And there are plenty of times that it is not on.

If we got overly comfortable not sitting down at the table together, how easy would it be to just continue the habit as children came along? We can make promises that we'll sit together as a family once we have children, but then ...

"Well, the baby doesn't know, we'll wait till he's older."

Well, we know where that's going! Habits are hard to break.

So we eat together. In the long run, our family will benefit from it. And we, as a family of two, benefit from it now.

How else can we strengthen our family life? Again I go back to prayer.

I want to pray as a family together more. We used to try and say a Rosary together daily, but have seriously fallen short of that goal. Just like the "potential" family meal, we want to make a daily Rosary part of our children's lives, but we're not in the habit now. It's a habit we need to get into now, so it comes easily later.

And why should we wait! We're still a family. Children do not make a family, two people coming together in marriage make a family. So we should be doing this more.

Now is a great time to start! Not only is it Respect Life Month, it's also the Month of the Rosary. I love how those two things coincide!!

Attending Mass together is also important as a family. I love sitting with my husband during Mass. I love that the liturgy is happening around us physically and around us spiritually as all the angels and saints in heaven celebrate the same liturgy. Heaven touches Earth and we're a part of that, as a family. It's such a beautiful coming together of the Church on Earth, the Kingdom of God, and the Domestic Church, all at the same time. And I feel closest to my children in heaven during those moments too, because I know they are a part of this with us.

Prayer, Mass, meals together where we share our days: these are the things that I think strengthen a family. I'm sure when the day comes that we have children for whom we are responsible for in this life I could add much more to this list. But for now, those are the things I need to continue building upon or working on.

Now I want to hear from you! What steps might you take to strengthen your family life?

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