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Family as “domestic Church”

by Mark Etling on March 16, 2014

One of the images for the family adopted by the bishops at the Second Vatican Council was the phrase “domestic Church.” This terms is rich with meaning, and was intended to draw attention to the dignity and importance of the family. First, it draws a parallel between the Church as a whole and the family. The Church views the family unit as a Church “in miniature” – whose mission is to evangelize the world by drawing it into closer union with God and the human race.

Second, the values and behaviors learned and modeled in the family unit are those which are to be imitated by the Church as a whole – love, sacrifice, compassion, forgiveness, equality. Third, the “domestic Church” image highlights one of the most profound truths of the Christian faith – that love of God and love of neighbor – in this case, the family – are one and the same. To love the members of our family IS to love God – and vice versa. This is what the Gospel of Matthew refers to as “righteousness” – right relationship with God is achieved only when there is right relationship with our fellow human beings, including our families. A great gift – and a great challenge.

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