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A domestic church begins with the Sacrament of Matrimony – man and woman become husband and wife. Pope John Paul II spoke of  a Catholic couple’s call to holiness within that sacrament when he said, “Marriage is an act of will that signifies and involves a mutual gift, which unites the spouses and binds them to their eventual souls, with whom they make up a sole family – a domestic church.”

He also explained the husband and wife’s   responsibility to recognize and to act upon  their role as “givers of life” in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life”): “As the domestic church, the family is summoned to proclaim, celebrate, and serve the Gospel of life. This is a responsibility which first concerns married couples, called to be givers of life, on the basis of an ever-greater awareness of the meaning of procreation as a unique event which clearly reveals that human life is a gift received in order then to be given as a gift. In giving origin to a new life, parents recognize that the child ‘as the fruit of their  mutual gift of love, is in turn, a gift for both of them, a gift flows from them’” (No. 92).

In a world often alien and even hostile to faith, believing families are of primary importance as centers of living, radiant faith. It is in the family that parents are “by word and example … the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children.” (CCC #1656)

As babies are born and families grow, the parents, considered the first and foremost educators by the Church, are called to pass on the Catholic faith to their children. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta explained this experience in the domestic church very simply. She said, “The best and surest way to learn the love of Jesus is through the family.”

To be continued …