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Father Nicholas Nelson: Building the domestic church: What we can influence in life

Recently, I have been considering the distinction between our “Circle of Influence” and our “Circle of our Concern.” Our circle of influence is that which we can influence, control, or change. My circle of concern is that which I am conscious of and concerned about, but really can’t do much about. The closer to myself something is, the higher degree of influence I have over it, while the further away it is, the less influence I have. 

Father Nick Nelson
Handing on the Faith

The important thing is to focus on our circle of influence and not our circle of concern. Everything in the circle of concern is important, but most of it we cannot influence immediately. 

As incompetent as governments can be, as frustrating as the economy and inflation is, as confusing and as scandalous as some of the things are in the church, most of us have very little control over it. 

On the other hand, we all can control our own spiritual growth and formation of virtue. We all can improve our marriages. As parents, we can build our families, and to a lesser extent, we can build our parishes and local communities. It’s important that we focus on these. 

I especially want us to consider the reality of the family as place where we can get the most “bang for our buck,” so to speak. The family is where we can really make a difference! 

Pope St. John Paul II said, “As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live.” 

Sister Lucia, to whom Our Lady of Fatima appeared, said, “The final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and the family.” 

The family is considered the domestic church: “From the wedlock of Christians there comes the family, in which new citizens of human society are born, who by the grace of the Holy Spirit received in baptism are made children of God, thus perpetuating the people of God through the centuries. The family is, so to speak, the domestic church” (Lumen Gentium, 11). 

The domestic church is SO important! We can consider the church on earth being made up of three parts: 1) The hierarchy (pope and bishops and priests), 2) the parish (liturgy and communal life), and 3) the domestic church (the family). Family life is essential to the life of the church. Whatever form your home takes, God is present and desires to be a bigger and bigger part of it! 

St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) said, “The best and surest way to learn the love of Jesus is through the family.” 

Pope Benedict said, “Every home is called to become a ‘domestic church’ in which family life is completely centered on the lordship of Christ and the love of husband and wife mirrors the mystery of Christ’s love for the Church, his bride.” 

It begins with every house, every family submitting to the Lordship of Christ. (Here I will make another plug for doing an enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary in your house.) By doing so you are consecrating, you are setting yourselves apart to belong to Christ and to have him as your King and Lord. 

Our Catechism emphasizes the important role of parents: 

“Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment and self-mastery — the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the ‘material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones’” (2223). 

Here are a few ideas for making your home even more the domestic church it is called to be: 

  • Begin praying as a family and reading from Scripture daily, certainly before meals, but also first thing in the morning or before bed. Find a time that works for your family. 
  • Pray a family rosary. Start with just a decade. Allow each member to share an intention. 
  • Have a crucifix in a prominent place in the home, and in every bedroom. Put up other images of saints too. 
  • Make the sacraments a regular celebration – take the whole family to confession and Mass. 
  • Begin family traditions based on the seasons and feast days celebrated in the liturgical calendar. Celebrate baptismal anniversaries and namesake days. 
  • Make your vacation a holy pilgrimage by visiting the shrines and beautiful churches. 
  • Make worshiping God a priority. Never miss Mass, even while traveling. 
  • Teach stewardship and charity to your children, through word and example. 
  • Demonstrate love for your spouse, your children, your neighbors, and the world. Remind the children that they are loved by God and have been given gifts to serve others. 
  • Talk freely about the presence of God in the joys and sorrows of your life. 
  • Welcome into your home and support priests and sisters. 
  • Allow your children to witness you in private prayer. Encourage your children to pray daily on their own. 

It does seem like a high calling, but it’s what you can influence and you and your family deserve it. Just one step at a time! But take the first step! Build the domestic church! 

Father Nick Nelson is pastor of Queen of Peace and Holy Family parishes in Cloquet. He studied at The Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Rome. Reach him at [email protected].