Catholic “Family Missional Living”

shopping-cart-136803-mLast month, I posed a question to our Catholic Mom community, asking how you and your families serve God as a family with young children. We received great responses and suggestions that have inspired me and hopefully others to look for and find more opportunities to serve God together as a family. Here are a few ideas:

  • Bring a meal, healthy snacks, fresh fruits and veggies or even just a carry-out gift card to a mom who is either pregnant or has recently had a baby or to a family who has welcomed a new child into their home through adoption. This could also be done for those who are struggling through a crisis or mourning the loss of a loved one. Prepare the food together with your children or have the younger kids color or paint some cards for the new child and the other children in the house.
  • Open your home to others: Invite other families, priests, engaged and newly married couples, single friends, or neighbors for dinner or a simple dessert.
  • Organize a prayer group, bible study, or “lawn chair catechism” group with other families and enlist the help of older children to care for the younger ones so the adults can have some (mostly) uninterrupted prayer and discussion time. Keep it simple or make it a pot-luck to enjoy after the prayer and let the discussion continue in between bites and spills.
  • Call the local Catholic Charities, Respect Life or Social Justice Offices and inquire about their volunteer opportunities, especially ones best suited for families with younger children.
  • Bring a bag of groceries, especially fresh fruit and veggies, for homeless or crisis shelters.
  • In lieu of or along with gifts at family birthday parties, ask your child to pick an organization the party guests can bring donations for. For example: diapers for a local pregnancy crisis center, canned goods and non perishable for a local food pantry, clothes or toiletries for men and women shelters. Deliver these items as a family so your kids see where their donations go.
  • Perform other random acts of charity such as bringing a neighbor a bouquet of wildflowers from the garden or from the grocery store’s florist department. Go with your younger children and deliver these or set them on their doorstep with a nice note or some special “artwork”.
  • Adopt a mission or missionary and pray for and correspond with them as a family.
  • Live life simply on purpose so your family can share more with others, even if your financial situation doesn’t necessarily require it.

Interestingly (in a God-incidence sort of way), shortly after sharing that article last month, I ran into an old friend, a non-Catholic Christian, who told me a little about their family’s new “family missional living” way of life here in our own Midwestern budding metropolis and surrounding suburbia. I was immediately intrigued as this was exactly what I’ve been interested in learning more about. She briefly summarized this way of living by explaining that her church sets up “communities” from within their own church within the town or city they live in; they all live relatively close together, supporting one and other and “spreading the Gospel.”

It sounded wonderful so when I got home I started researching this “family missional living” phrase.  To my surprise, I only came up with a few results when I searched with the words “family missional living” and “Catholic”.

From what I’ve read so far*, the phrase “Family Missional Living” is a fairly new and popular trend amongst evangelical Christians. According to Wikipedia, “missional living” is “the adoption of the posture, thinking, behaviors, and practices of a missionary in order to engage others with the gospel message. The missional church movement, a church renewal movement predicated on the necessity of missional living by Christians…Advocates contrast missional living with the concept of a select group of “professional” missionaries, emphasizing that all Christians should be involved in the Great Commission of Jesus Christ.”

This included quote from Thomas Hale sums this idea of “missional living” nicely:

“No one can say: ‘Since I’m not called to be a missionary, I do not have to evangelize my friends and neighbors.’ There is no difference, in spiritual terms, between a missionary witnessing in his home town and a missionary witnessing in Katmandu, Nepal. We are all called to go—even if it is only to the next room, or the next block.”

At first glance, this idea of “missional living” sounds new however, in reality, this is exactly what Jesus invited his followers to do and in turn, His Church – you and me. In fact, “The Church on earth is by her nature missionary since, according to the plan of the Father, she has as her origin the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit.” The ultimate purpose of mission is none other than to make men share in the communion between the Father and the Son in their Spirit of love… Because she believes in God’s universal plan of salvation, the Church must be missionary. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 848 – 856).

The family is an integral part of the Church’s mission. “The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. In the procreation and education of children it reflects the Father’s work of creation. It is called to partake of the prayer and sacrifice of Christ. Daily prayer and the reading of the Word of God strengthen it in charity. The Christian family has an evangelizing and missionary task.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Article 4 2201 – 2243) The family in Society 2207

“As the domestic church, the family is summoned to proclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of life… It is above all in raising children that the family fulfils its mission to proclaim the Gospel of life. By word and example, in the daily round of relations and choices, and through concrete actions and signs, parents lead their children to authentic freedom, actualized in the sincere gift of self, and they cultivate in them respect for others, a sense of justice, cordial openness, dialogue, generous service, solidarity and all the other values which help people to live life as a gift. In raising children Christian parents must be concerned about their children’s faith and help them to fulfill the vocation God has given them. The parents’ mission as educators also includes teaching and giving their children an example of the true meaning of suffering and death. They will be able to do this if they are sensitive to all kinds of suffering around them and, even more, if they succeed in fostering attitudes of closeness, assistance and sharing towards sick or elderly members of the family.”  (Evangelium Vitae, no. 92)

As Catholics and as families how can we adopt this “missional living” into our everyday lives? How can we take Christ’s love and grace that we receive through the Sacraments and ministers out of our parishes and into our homes, work, school, and communities? How can we focus on GIVING more than receiving?

Here are a few other related articles I found about “Family Missional Living”. Note that not all these sources are Catholic but the ideas can be applied within our own Catholic theology and mission.

Copyright 2013 Erika Marie

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