Last December, Pope Francis announced two special yearlong observances: one celebrating St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus, and the other focusing on the family to mark the fifth anniversary of the pope’s apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”).
The year of St. Joseph, commemorating the 150th anniversary of his being named the patron of the Universal Church, ends on Dec. 8, 2021. The family year runs from March 19 — the feast of St. Joseph — until June 26, 2022, during the World Meeting of Families in Rome. While they are two distinct celebrations, they both are opportunities to pray and reflect more deeply on the faith we live in our own homes: the “domestic Church.”
The Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (“Lumen Gentium”) uses this phrase to describe the family. Parents, it says, through their words and actions, are “the first preachers of the faith to their children.” The domestic Church is the place where daily prayer should be cultivated, where all family members are supported in their hopes and struggles, where living Gospel values is encouraged.
Joseph, Mary and Jesus — the Holy Family — are models of how our own domestic churches should operate. Three aspects of their witness are especially worth reflecting on during Lent and over the course of the next year:
Humility: Families that practice humility place God at their center. Like Joseph and Mary, they put what God wants ahead of their own desires. They strive to do his will, even in the face of fear, challenges and uncertainties. Family members foster humility when they pray together and show kindness, generosity, compassion and empathy to others. How can you further cultivate the virtue of humility in your family this Lent?
Sacrifice: Families can only thrive when members are willing to make sacrifices for one another, just as Mary and Joseph did in giving birth to and caring for Jesus. “Family communion can only be preserved and perfected through a great spirit of sacrifice,” Pope Francis wrote in “Amoris Laetitia.” “It requires, in fact, a ready and generous openness of each and all to understanding, to forbearance, to pardon, to reconciliation.” What can you do, or fast from, this Lent as a sacrificial gift to your family?
Service: Joseph and Mary were dedicated servants of God’s plan of redemption. The Gospel tells us, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35). This is true for our domestic Church as well. This Lent, what acts of service or charity can you undertake as a family that will help your parish or community, especially those most in need?
Joseph and Mary were dedicated servants of God’s plan of redemption. The Gospel tells us, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35). This is true for our domestic Church as well. This Lent, what acts of service or charity can you undertake as a family that will help your parish or community, especially those most in need?
A deeper reflection on the life of St. Joseph, the Holy Family and the Church’s teaching about marriage and family life can enrich how we live the call to discipleship in our own domestic churches. Let’s not miss the opportunity.
Joe Towalski is the editor and the director of communications for the Diocese of St. Cloud.