Designing a Domestic Church 

COVID-19 triggered innovative ways to interpret the Roman church’s common liturgical dismissal. "Go in peace" or in other words, once commissioned by the bishop, priest, or deacon's "sending forth", communicants are to return to their homes and places of daily life. These are the places that hold tangible scenarios and where the church expects ministry and Christian life will be animated. Most people can be reverent for an hour a week inside a beautiful worship space, listening to lovely music, with friendly people. However, the real secular apostolate begins when people exit their church, synagogue, temple, or mosque. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes, the vital lay apostolate’s central theme, in this way.

          The Christian family constitutes a specific revelation and realizations of ecclesial communion.                For this reason, it can and should be called a "domestic church" It is a communion of faith, hope,            and charity; it assumes singular importance in the Church, as evident in the New Testament [1]             

The "domestic church," planted within a sacred marriage, knows God as its Author. In the second Genesis creation account, the scribe communicates that no suitable partner for the man was forthcoming until the Lord created a woman. The scripture verses, further show, that God blessed and presided over the inaugural marriage.[2] Jesus' first miracle occurred at a public wedding banquet when his mother notified him of an impending social predicament. Jewish weddings without fine wine are unfathomable. Jesus, is merely a casual guest at the event and hardly responsible for any miscalculation, still, mercy and compassion fill his heart. Running out of wine can represent a public and social humiliation. Mary brought the potential awkwardness to her Son's attention, advising the stewards to await instructions.[3] The desire to unite is a powerful force in every culture, and from from marriage, family life buds.[4] 

Therapists suggest that today's family structure experiences all the distractions of past generations. Economic uncertainty, family redefinition, and now pandemics influence how this social cell, modeled on the Trinity, approaches sacramental praxis. According to D. Thomas and M. Cornwall (1990), who write in the Journal of Marriage and Family, seventy-eight percent of the articles published on family dynamics, appear in family or religion journals.[5] The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion and Review of Religious Research, accounts for 85 (20%) of all family related articles. Only 2% of articles appear in psychology and therapy journals. Trends across each decade shows that spiritual and family journals with 56% and 57%, respectively, represent the highest research domains, relative to humankind's sense of belonging and marriage. D. Thomas and M. Cornwall's quantitative study of religion and family draws several disturbing conclusions, from changing secular views on abortion, to drug use, and other social breakdowns.[6]

Exploring sacramental marriage begins with the central premise of God's familial construct. To this objective, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says,

          The Father is blessed and adored as the source of all the blessings of creation and salvation in                the liturgy. The Father is blessed in his Son to give us the Spirit of filial adoption.[7]

          Christ's work in the liturgy endures sacramentally. The mystery of salvation made present by the            power of his Holy Spirit is like a sacrament (sign and instrument) in which the Holy Spirit                              dispenses the mystery of salvation through His body, which is the Church. Moreover, because                  through her liturgical actions, the pilgrim Church already participates, as by a foretaste, in the                heavenly liturgy.[8] 

 

          The mission of the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of the Church is to prepare the assembly                            to encounter Christ; to recall and manifest Christ to the faith of the congregation; to make                        to make the saving work of Christ present and active by his transforming power; to make                          the gift of communion bear fruit in the Church.[9]

The Divorce Act, assented to in 1986, declared that permanent marriage breakdown must meet three criteria.

  1. Spouses have lived separate and apart for at least one year before the commencement of proceedings.

  2. The spouse against whom the divorce is served has committed adultery since the celebration of the marriage.

  3. A spouse has treated the other spouse with physical or mental cruelty rendering their cohabitation intolerable.[10]  

 

How is this COVID-19 pandemic impacting the stability of marriage, already pushed to the brink? Weakened unions fall easy prey to underdeveloped resolution skills. God's design for marriage remains the most effective means of establishing and nurturing new family cells. Single people and same-sex unions warrant the love and affection of a family. Still, only sacred marriage rises to the Creator's side to participate in acts of procreation. Stewart, (2020) CEO of Fairway Divorce Solutions in Calgary, said, "There's no question it has (the pandemic) put a lot of marriages that were already stressful under additional stress."[11]  Economic uncertainty and large household debt appear to be the leading causes of a 30% increase in the divorce rate across Southern Alberta. This rate of marriage breakdown should alarm sacramental practitioners of all denominations and secular persuasions.  Still, the Divorce Act makes no mention of economics as criterion for validating divorce. Jesus acknowledged divorce procedures but teaches that there are grave societal consequences associated with endorsing easy separation.[12] Relational development, healing, and if possible, reconciliation are always the preferred Christian options.

          The Creator made the married state the beginning and foundation of human society; by his                    grace, he has made it too, a great mystery of Christ and in the Church (see Eph 5:32), and so the            apostolate of married persons and families has particular importance for the Church and civil                society.[13]

 

Gathering restrictions currently reduce the number of people allowed to attend joyous matrimonial events. While some couples desire these smaller weddings, sacraments are never private. Deferring marriage celebrations to a later date, also becomes problematic.  Each wedding and anniversary manifest God's love and beauty. The sacrament acknowledges a new and solemn public reality into which husband and wife commit. Marriage feasts and large social celebrations have many scriptural references.[14] Couples seeking traditional weddings, during in these pandemic times, must now find creative ways to share that day's unity, beauty, truth, and goodness. The sense of sacredness believed compromised, when marriages occurred beyond familiar church settings, might need rethinking in these trying days. God is One, True, Good, and Beautiful, and so perhaps an exception allowing outdoor marriages would satisfy the physical distancing and ventilation demands, with which both secular and religious gatherings, must adhere.[15]

 

 

[1] See article 2204 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. (CCC).

[2] See Gen, 2:24-25. That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife and the two of them become on body. The pre-fall of humankind condition.

[3] Mary, as she always does, directs humankind’s attention to her son.

[4] Science introduced “in vitro-fertilization” reproduction to humankind but man; woman and Creator remain the key element.

[5] Lumen Gentium, (1964) refers to the family as a “domestic church.” “In what might be regarded as the domestic church, the parents are to be the first preachers of the faith for their children by word and example.” Article 11.

[6] From Thomas and Cornwall, (1990) The Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol 52, no 4, p. 984.

[7] From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part II, Section I, Chapter One, Article 1110.

[8] From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part II, Section I, Chapter One, Article 1111.

[9] From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part II, Section I, Chapter One, Article 1112.

[10] See Section 8-2, breakdown of marriage, Canada Divorce Act, (1986).

[11] See B. Kaufman (2020) COVID-19 infecting marriages, driving up divorce numbers. Published August 14, 2020.

[12] The church goes to great lengths in her preparation to ensure that couples seeking marriage are free to do so. See Mat 5:31-32.

[13] See Apostolicam actuostitatem (1965) Vatican II Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People. Ch 3 article 11.

[14] See the Wedding Feast at Cana, Jn, 2:12, Wedding Feast of the Lam, Rev 19:7-9, The books of Ruth, Tobit, and Song of Songs.

[15] See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Section 1, Ch 1. Man’s Capacity for God.