God wants to use your family to change the world. That might sound like a big job, but one simple tool — the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life — will allow God to make your family into a light to the world.
“Liturgy” is the way we participate in God’s plan to heal the damage sin does to our relationships with him and each other. The Liturgy of the Eucharist restores communion with God and makes communion with others possible. In turn, the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life allows us to bring this Eucharistic grace home so God can heal the damage that sin does to our families and the world.
The Liturgy of Domestic Church Life is made up of three building blocks, or rites: the rite of Christian relationships helps families live out the priestly mission of their baptism by teaching them to love each other with Christ’s sacrificial love; the rite of family rituals helps families live out the prophetic mission of their baptism by helping them model how Christians relate to work, play, relationships and prayer; last, the rite of reaching out helps families live out the royal mission of baptism by learning to use their gifts to bless others.
In previous columns, I’ve explored each of these rites in detail. This time, I want to illustrate how these three rites work together using the three words: spark, kindle and blaze.
The rite of Christian relationships ignites the spark of God’s love in your home. Christian love is different from the world’s vision of love. The world tells us that “love” doesn’t think twice of taking advantage or taking others for granted. The world’s vision of love is like a wind that is constantly trying to blow out the spark of God’s love. The rite of Christian relationships allows us to protect that spark with four practices.
When we 1) prioritize our family relationships over other activities, 2) share generous and appropriate affection in our homes, 3) respond to each other’s needs promptly, generously, consistently and cheerfully, and 4) use gentle discipline approaches rooted in encouragement, support and love rather than anger, shame and punishment, we strike the match of God’s love in our homes and protect the flame from the wind that would blow it out.
Striking a match starts a fire, but it doesn’t keep it going. For that, you need kindling. That’s where the rite of family rituals comes in. Strong rituals for working, playing, talking and praying together remind families that they need to keep showing up for each other every day. Like a person building a bonfire knows that they need to stack the wood just so, family rituals for working, playing, talking and praying together build a structure that lets the spark of God’s love grow into a bonfire.
That said, without the rite of Christian relationships, family rituals can become a stack of dry wood. Lots of Christian families experience this. They have lots of rituals. They go to Mass. They have regular family meals. They pray. But in their homes, they don’t treat each other any differently than worldly families do. Neglecting to light the match that let’s them experience God’s love in the first place, they keep piling up dry wood in the hopes that the fire will start itself. When this happens, family rituals become one more thing to fight about.
But when the rite of family rituals is united with the rite of Christian relationships, the spark of God’s love causes family rituals to catch and warm the hearts of those who participate in them.
When a spark ignites the kindling, it becomes a blazing fire that produces light and heat and draws others in. This is the rite of reaching out. Lots of Christian families do service of one kind or another, but unless that service grows organically out of the godly love they cultivate at home and the rituals that make them a real team, parish and community service becomes just one more activity that pulls families apart.
By contrast, when the spark of godly love is tended in the home with strong, relationship-building rituals, God helps families discover simple ways they can make a difference while drawing closer together. Though hospitality, little acts of kindness and simple charitable works, the family works together to shine God’s light in the world.
God wants to transform the world through your family. The Liturgy of Domestic Church Life enables your family to light the spark of God’s love and kindle that spark until it becomes a blazing fire that draws others to Christ.
Dr. Greg Popcak is the director of the Peyton Institute for Domestic Church Life (peytonfamilyinstitute.org) and the author of many books including, “Discovering God Together” (Sophia Institute Press, $18.95).