Jessica Ptomey considers how intentionally living our purpose as a domestic church has repercussions far beyond our own family life.
I’m passionate about seeing Catholics thrive in family life.
Marriage and parenting can often be challenging vocations, because we come face-to-face with our own internal sin issues and a plethora of external challenges in our culture and other people. In order to thrive in marriage and parenting, in family life, I have found two things are crucial: (1) to understand your family’s purpose in this world, and thus in everyday life; and (2) to live that purpose with intention.
Understanding your family’s purpose requires you to think of your family as “a domestic church.” This is a term that not all Catholics are familiar with, but one that is plainly laid out for us in The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1666, 2205, 2685, 2207). In Home in the Church, I dedicated a whole chapter to discovering the domestic church, where I describe what embodied faith in family life looks like.
I begin that chapter with a quotation from Pope St. John Paul II; and I would like to share it here, as it provides wonderful inspiration for the powerful force that God intends your family, your domestic church, to be in this world. In Familiaris Consortio, St. John Paul II says:
The history of mankind, the history of salvation passes by way of the family … The family is placed at the center of the great struggle between good and evil, between life and death, between love and all that is opposed to love.
The reason Satan always attacks the family, in the same ways up and down the ages of human history, is because God created the family to be the main conduit of His love and goodness to His world; and that love and goodness are the weapons that will conquer evil. When we live our vocations faithfully, bringing love to the people within our homes, that love overflows to our local communities, larger Church community, and into the whole world. We are fighting evil with our faithfulness to love in the context of our domestic churches.
But grabbing hold of that purpose is just the first step. In my book and in various places on my blog I’ve tried to help provide inspiration for what this looks like in our families. We have to exercise our moral imaginations to map out a vision of what that purpose practically looks like in our own particular daily family life; and then, by extension, we have to grow a vision for our family’s daily/weekly participation in our local church communities.
This is where intention must meet purpose. If we don’t live out our God-ordained purpose with intention, then we will most certainly fall prey to the world’s false messages of “purpose”; and we will easily adopt the world’s rhythms if we don’t intentionally set our own distinct ones. So, we have to take the time to investigate what the Church tells us our purpose is as a family, as a domestic church. We have to read how The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the domestic church, giving us purpose for marriage and parenting. We need to realize that this purpose has to start with each of us as individuals, then as spouses, then as parents. We must intentionally practice and model the purpose of our domestic churches in each of these contexts: practicing virtue, praying together, serving each other.
We must ask: how are we living as individuals? Then we can ask: how is our family to live this purpose intentionally in our own home? And finally, we can ask: how is our family to live in community with other families in our parish and local Catholic community? In this way we are intentionally acting as the “body of Christ” in this world.
Living out our purpose is best accomplished in community; there is a knowledge that is intellectual, and then there is the knowing that comes from seeing something lived out and participating in it. I share in my book how I primarily discovered Catholicism by seeing the domestic church lived out, by catching a vision of the good life from others. The living out of our faith sanctifies us and brings the life of Christ into our communities and our world. In this way we truly are at the center of this great battle for love and salvation, as St. John Paul II has said.
Copyright 2021 Jessica Ptomey
About the Author
Jessica Ptomey, Ph.D., is a Catholic convert, wife, mom, writer, communications scholar and professor, and homeschooler. She blogs at JessicaPtomey.com. She is the author of Home in the Church: Living an Embodied Catholic Faith, and her research in inter-faith dialogue has been published in the Journal of Communication and Religion (JCR). She is also the co-host, with her husband Mike, of The Catholic Reading Challenge podcast.