Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Baptism and the Domestic Church

The routine and ritual of the Sunday mornings of my childhood are forever etched into my memory. My siblings and I looked forward to Saturday night sleepovers at my Italian-immigrant Grandmother’s house and on Sunday morning we awoke to the smell of frying meatballs and simmering sauce. Hand in hand, we walked with my Grandmother to 10:30 Mass and the remainder of Sunday was spent with my parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins lazily feasting on my Grandmother’s food. Mass was the focal point of our Sundays and the shared family meal was a way to extend the celebration. Little did I know it at the time, but the catechesis of those Sunday mornings was slowly forming me into a disciple and a missionary.

In a weekly audience on January 15, 2015 Pope Francis reflected on the Sacrament of  Baptism,  stressing “an important fruit of this Sacrament: it makes us members of the Body of Christ and of the People of God.” He went on to elaborate that “the People of God is a disciple People — because it receives the faith — and a missionary People — because it transmits the faith.”

For the vast majority of lay Catholics, our formation as disciples of Christ does not happen in a seminary or theological library.  Instead most Catholics are formed in the faith through a  "joint venture" between the local parish and the family - the Domestic Church. Likewise, our participation in the missionary activity of the church happens not in distant, foreign lands, but in the day to day experiences of ordinary family life.

The Holy Father confirmed this saying “Such is the grace of God and such is our faith, which we must transmit to our sons and daughters, transmit to children, so that once adults, they can do the same for their children. This is what Baptism is.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in article 1657, explains the connection between Baptism and the Domestic Church in these words: “it is here that the father of the family, the mother, children and all members of the family exercise the priesthood of the baptized in a privileged way by the reception of the sacraments, prayer and thanksgiving, the witness of a holy life, and self-denial and active charity.” It is within the walls of the Domestic Church that we first experience the community that we are baptized into. In this community, the Pope says, we “share the beauty of the experience of a love that precedes us all, but that at the same time calls us to be “channels” of grace for one another, despite our limitations and our sins.”

We first discover the riches of our Baptism and the call to discipleship in the context of Catholic family life. Here every generation can participate, according to their age and abilities, in the missionary life of the church. Even the youngest child can take part in the mission of the Church as an intercessor for those in need. The elderly and infirm can be sources of great spiritual wisdom for all members of the family.  All family members can find in the ups and downs of family life a fertile ground to practice the virtues.  Finally, the struggles and difficulties which all families face at one time or another can be great moments of grace - leading us to rely more deeply on the Lord. 

As a child, I had little interest and even less maturity to reflect on my Grandmother’s role as disciple and missionary. It is only as an adult that I can appreciate her lived-out witness of a simple, humble, yet steadfast faith – a faith which has shaped my own and continues to do so.

Nearly twelve years ago, my then 90 year old Grandmother beamed with pride at my infant daughter on the day of her Baptism. My daughter, wearing the dress which my Grandmother had hand-sewn for this special occasion, had no idea that she was about to be Baptized into the People of God. She is only now learning what it means to be a disciple and missionary in her small world of play dates, home school groups and family dinners. I pray that I may be able to transmit the faith to her the way my Grandmother did to me. For that I will rely on the Holy Spirit and the intercession of my Grandmother, whose role in the People of God continues now from the other side of eternity.

My Grandmother, my daughter and I a few minutes after my daughter's Baptism.

Check out these related posts:
Home to Me
The Angelus: Domestic Church Style
I Live in a Factory


  1. How lovely! I am an adult convert and so I ask lots of questions about how to raise my children in the Catholic tradition. We're trying to set Sundays apart but I think your article made me realize we can doa better job!

    1. Thanks Sterling! What a great gift to be a concert! Some if the most "on-fire" Catholics I know are converts! We cradle Catholics can learn so much from you about seeing our faith with fresh eyes!!! God bless your journey!