Catholic Dads and the Domestic Church
Editor’s note: Today, we welcome Eric Neubauer as our newest contributor here at CatholicMom.com. I have to say that it’s exciting to be adding a new dad to our team! Find Eric blogging at www.21centurypilgrim.com and please join me in welcoming him and his family to our community. LMH
First, let me begin my thoughts with this important statement. Catholic Moms rock! There is just no better way to begin a discussion about Catholic Dads & the Domestic Church than to recognize the influence of our Moms. They are meeting together at our parishes and in homes providing support for one another as they seek to raise the children. In addition, Catholic Moms have a strong presence & influential role throughout the sphere of Social Media. Finally, they are trying hard to encourage their husbands to engage – at home & in parish life.
Dads, its time to catch up and take our place of influence at home, in parish life & throughout the blogosphere – as dynamic & faithful Catholic Dads!
I write today in response to the lament I often hear from my parent’s generation reflecting on the state of their children’s (my generation) Catholic faith. The lament that I hear comes from the fact that grandchildren, visiting their grandparents, don’t know their Catholic prayers & are often confused or distracted at mass. Of course, some of this is age related but I propose that some of it is connected to this truth. Many Dads have abdicated their own faith development and are unable to properly communicate that faith to their children. Hence, Dads are not fulfilling the promises made at their children’s baptism. This can and needs to change. Let’s review:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: (1655 – 1656)
“Christ chose to be born & grow up in the bosom of the holy family of Joseph & Mary. The Church is NOTHING more than ‘the family of God.’”
Talking about the early believers (& significant to our culture / society today) it states, “These families who became believers were islands of Christian life in an unbelieving world.”
In addition the CCC states, “For this reason the Second Vatican Council, using an ancient expression, calls the family the Ecclesia domestica (Domestic Church).
It is in example that parents are…”the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children.” And finally, the “…home is the first school of Christian life…”
The implications of the Catechism & the Second Vatican Council’s statements are clear – the home is that beginning point from which our children are exposed to and learn about their Catholic faith. The parents, not the local parish, have the initial responsibility to teach & train their children “in the way they should go and when they are old they will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) The parish and its educational resources are there to build upon that foundation the parents have laid in the formation of their children. Therefore, the idea of identifying the home as the domestic church implies that both Moms and Dads will take active responsibility in the spiritual development of their children which includes encouraging the exploration of religious / clerical vocations.
Let’s just admit it Dads, we have grown rusty in our personal faith development. We haven’t been as serious in the embrace of our Bishops’ call towards life long faith formation as we should have been. In the hustle and bustle of work, extracurricular activities, and rest – our personal faith development was shifted to the “back burner”. This has been the cause of a little “interior” embarrassment and because of it we have become inactive as spiritual guides to our children. We happily gave that responsibility to “hardworking and intelligent” Moms and the staff of our local parish.
You know the truth – the staff at our parishes has been happy to develop programs that can make a lasting impact in the lives of our children. They have given them much of what they need to understand the faith. However, it is frustrating when the spiritual formation of children feels “outsourced” to the parish alone with little reinforcement from Dad. Remember it is only in the development of a firm foundation & regular reinforcement in the home that our children become well formed, faithful Catholic adults. Without the domestic church acting as it should we simply set our children up to fail in the development of their faith and the many moral decisions they will make throughout their lives. We would never allow this in relation to our children’s academic education!
The truth: Our children are looking to their fathers to participate alongside their faithful mothers as the domestic church. In this we give our children a fighting chance to truly embrace the faith ensuring a life of wholeness, fulfillment and moral clarity. This is a task we were created for and a task that is just waiting for our embrace.
Here are some simple suggestions for those of us who feel a bit rusty and would like to be more involved:
- Attend Mass regularly. Grab the book and follow along in active participation. In this you familiarize yourself with some of the fundamentals of the faith & sacramental life.
- Eliminate one extra, non-religious activity and give yourself a bit more time for your own faith development.
- Sign up for a faith formation class and attend it regularly. Take notes, ask questions and do the “homework.” You will GROW!
- Meet with your parish priest. Find a confessor that will also double as a Spiritual Director. Bouncing the challenges of life off another who has been faithful for a number of years yields tremendous results
- When you get home – close the laptop and turn off the phone. Give your undivided attention to your children, read them a story from Sacred Scripture or the Saints and close the night in prayer.
- Finally, tell your wife how much you love and appreciate who she is and what she does.
The results will be an invigorating reorientation of your faith to the person of Christ enabling you to become the man and father you have always dreamed of becoming.
Join me on the journey. Catholic Dads Unite – we can become cool too!
Copyright 2012 Eric Neubauer