As Christianity Falls, the Domestic Church Must Rise – BC Catholic
“In a Christian culture, the type of person who is proposed to lead the Church is often the administrator who avoids conflict rather than the apostle. The Church is moving from a movement of spirit embodied in institutions to a set of ossified institutions that have lost their inner spirit” (Of Christianity in the apostolic mission).
The quote above offers a penetrating analysis of some Catholic institutions and the fate of those institutions if run by “conflict-avoiding administrators” in a post-Christian environment. It might be easy to point an accusing finger at specific bishops, priests and doctors who have ceased to operate as evangelists and prophets. However, a more fundamental institution deserves our attention: the Christian family.
Parents are the first evangelizers
Parents can no longer delegate their responsibility as primary evangelizers and formators to secondary institutions, even if these institutions bear a Catholic name. As Christianity falls, the Christian family must rise, and for this parents must be the first apostles and witnesses of the faith.
Saint John Paul II said that the future of the Church and of humanity passes through the family. For 2000 years the Church has affirmed the dignity of the Christian home, calling it the domestic Church. If we are to navigate the troubled waters of the transition from a Christian mode to an apostolic mode, the vitality of Christian family life is of the utmost importance.
As Christianity continues to fade, the space the Church and believing Christians are allowed to occupy is shrinking, says Archbishop of Los Angeles Jose Lopez. The Christian family can become both a cell of resistance to a post-modern society and an evangelistic outpost capable of transforming culture, says the author Rod Dreher in his book Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents.
Gone are the days when Christian families could live like everyone else: go to church on Sundays and expect children to embrace a Christian worldview strong enough to resist post-Christian culture. The cultural narrative in 2022 is just too strong to think going with the flow will point kids to a good place. Parents must become much more intentional in evangelizing their children and forming them in a full and mature Christian faith capable of living fruitfully in a new world order.
Some data points from a recent article in Newsweek:
- A growing number of people no longer see the point of getting married. Nearly half of the adult population in North America is single, up from just 28% of the adult population in the 1960s.
- 55% of first-time mothers are unmarried.
- Eight times more children are born to unmarried parents today than in 1960.
- Researchers find that the rise in anxiety among children today is a symptom of a more fundamental problem: family breakdown.
Unfortunately, the Church has not sufficiently strengthened family life. Instead, many churches are investing in downstream issues. Recent research of 19,000 Christian churches with a weekly attendance of more than 500 revealed that these churches spend a total of $855 million annually on youth ministry.
When you add in the financial investments given to ministries like NET, CCO, Teen Life, Athletes in Action, Young Life, and FOCUS, the number is closer to $2 billion annually invested in youth and young adult ministry. Conversely, a staggering 94% of these same churches report spending zero percent of their budget on marriage and family ministry.
These statistics do not mean that youth ministry, young adult ministry and campus evangelism are not important. These ministries are very important, but they are downstream from point zero: the breakdown of the family.
Young people who abandon the faith are a symptom of a deeper problem. It is the smoke signaling the fire, but it is not the fire itself. The real issue is family life, committed marriages and committed parents.
Cultural tendencies against family life
The world is changing and there are many emerging cultural trends that oppose traditional marriage and family life. We live in the information age, but people are so confused. What makes this more troubling than ironic is that we are confused about the things that matter most – the dignity of the human person, the meaning of human sexuality, the sacramentality of marriage and the role that parents should play in the education of their children. .
Every day the pace of change is accelerating and we are encouraged, some would say compelled, to accept and defend the issues we discovered yesterday. Many of these “problems” are rooted not just in secular paradigms, but in an aggressive de-Christianization of all traditional institutions, including the family.
This is why the missionary dimension of the family has never been so important as today. Today more than ever, we need a strong ministry of marriage and family in the Church to preserve the sacred institution and help families become a spiritual force capable of transforming the culture.
Families reveal what is good, beautiful and true
For a world that has forgotten how to blush, Christian families model modesty and preserve the sanctity of sexuality, keeping it hidden in the sacrament of marriage.
For a world that has lost the meaning of love as a sincere gift of self, Christian families are a school of sacrificial service, where the willingness of wives and husbands, mothers and fathers, to suffer so that others may have an abundant life is a new form of martyrdom, seed of the Church.
In a world that promotes self-esteem, committed Christian parents offer their children so much more, namely a strong sense of security, knowing that their story of youth is caught up in a much bigger story – the story of love from their mom and dad. This knowledge gives children a deep sense of security that is much deeper, stronger and more permanent than self-esteem.
To a world that has lost the art of visiting, when you have to book months in advance to dine with friends, Christian families offer an alternative. “Come when you can” and “you are always welcome here” is the attitude that guides their schedule.
The homes of Christian families are an oasis of evangelical hospitality. These families sit on crates of apples if necessary, but everyone is welcome at their table, everyone’s story is revered and cherished.
In a world that has lost its ability to hold attention, when a four-minute video on YouTube is deemed too long to watch until the end, Christian families inspire us to resist the tyranny of unrest and to hasten to embrace a life lived at the pace of the soul.
More than anything else, Christian families remind us of our evangelical nature. Rather than recluse, Christian families look at the world around them with their heads held high and their chests bulging. Christian families fear little, observe everything, and are open to the good things of culture because their moral, intellectual, and spiritual life is going well within the four walls of their home.
Saint John Paul II said: “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live. With the demise of Christianity, Christian families may be the primary institution through which Christianity remains strong in the West.
Brett Powell is the Archbishop’s Delegate for Development and Ministries in the Archdiocese of Vancouver. From its website Lead where it matters most.
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