Sunday, December 9, 2012

Ecclesia Domestica: A Reflection on the Last Seven Years of Living with in Our Domestic Church

As I first sat down to write today, Mike was out at a meeting.

Nina was bouncing and singing as she led Jack in constructing a fort out of stools, boxes, a chair, a cradle mattress, some Montessori work rugs and sundry other items that they had collected from our kitchen and living room.

Meanwhile, Luke had populated a foot stool with an elaborate “army guys” battle scene, which he then began to narrate and enact.

All three of my children were happily engaged in constructing play.  So, I decided to take advantage of the relative quiet of the moment in order to translate some thoughts that I was having about our domestic church into words to share here.

However, as my computer booted up, the focused intent of my children broke down.  No sooner did the computer screen indicate that all was ready for me to begin writing then did my children’s choices demand just the opposite.

So it was that my thoughts were redirected to my children’s needs and writing was put on pause....

Now, several hours later, I find myself sitting in the quiet of my living room after cuddling Nina into slumber and bidding goodnight to the boys, who Daddy is still trying to get to sleep.

Luke’s persistent voice chatters on to Daddy down the hall as my own inner voice tries to translate earlier thoughts into coherent words.

Those words don’t want to come though.

Instead, a patchwork of memories envelopes me, in gratitude:

Seven years ago at this moment, Mike and I were ogling our first born.  Exhausted after over 12 hours of labor, including four of pushing, we beamed at our five pound, nine ounce blessing who had let out his first cry just several hours prior.  We were filled with a new understanding of love.  We were overcome by an unequaled sense of awe at both the beauty and the responsibility that we held, quite literally, in our arms...

Five and a half years ago, we welcomed our second child into this world – a child who continues to shine with an incredible heart of compassion and charity, even in between her five-year-old tantrums.  A little girl who has taught me as much in her short life thus far as I think I have taught her...

Two and half years ago, our surprise third arrived.   Our youngest child, who is just beginning to test limits with his decided independence, but who has long since proven to Mike and me just how limitless God’s wisdom is.  We were not sure that we were ready for another child when we realized we had conceived one.  That child was ready for us though.  And what joy he has brought our family...

For seven years now, Mike and I have been given countless opportunities to create a home that is a quintessential “first school of Christian life”, a place of “prayer”, “thanksgiving”, “self-denial”, “active charity”, “endurance”, “joy of work”,” love”, and “generous – even repeated – forgiveness.” 

Tonight, as I reflect upon paragraphs 1657-8 of the Catechism, I realize how many times Mike and I have fallen short of our charge.

I can clearly recollect moments when I have not acted by “word and example” as a “first herald of faith”.  I have put business and busyness above prayer.  I have bemoaned challenges instead of counting blessings.  I have lashed out when disturbed as I went about self-centered activities.  I have acted unkindly.  I have lacked stamina.  I have grumbled through work.  I have held onto frustrations and expressed anger instead of releasing such destructive tendencies in order to embrace peace and forgiveness.  In short, I have fallen prey to vices.

Thankfully, I have also embraced countless moments or grace. 

I have received absolution, gratefully, more than once.

Together with Mike, I have intentionally sought to honor the privilege of parenting and, in doing so, have discovered the divine even in the everyday – the miraculous moments that stand still for their love and warmth.  The fabric of family life that is woven during times of connection – and even correction.   The power of charity extended to us and through us.  The coziness of hope and the security of promise that blanket us even when we are restless so that we might hunker down into peace.  

Tonight, as I  reflect upon the last seven years of living in our Ecclesia Domestica, I recognize that they have been wrought with the imperfection of my humanity.  Yet they have also been glorified by the gift of unconditional love.

I am not always a perfect conduit of  this love.  Thankfully, I am not expected to be.   I am simply invited to share it.

Oh, how glad I am!  And, how lucky that I have been able to extend that invitation to three young children who challenge me as much as they delight me, whose  being I am ever so grateful for.

As you look toward the celebration of Baby Jesus’ birth and recall that He chose to be born and brought up in the bosom of a family, what thoughts about your own family’s experience as a domestic church come to mind?  


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