As we begin the new year and make a new start, many look to this time as a source of hope and revitalization. It certainly is part of our belief in the beauty and wonder of the Incarnation, and it is fitting for us to consider the year ahead with renewed vigor and resolve. God entered our humanity by way of the family, and He is ready for all families to answer His call to Holiness.
The Church is nothing other than “the family of God.” From the beginning, the core of the Church was often constituted by those who had become believers “together with all [their] household.” When they were converted, they desired that “their whole household” should also be saved. These families who become believers were islands of Christian life in an unbelieving world. (CCC #1655)
As time went on, the Faith was passed on through family life in close and personal ways. The domestic Church, the Christ-centered family routine, sustained many generations of believers and gave us much to be proud of.
In our own time, in a world often alien and even hostile to faith, believing families are of primary importance as centers of living, radiant faith. For this reason, the Second Vatican Council, using an ancient expression, calls the family the Ecclesia domestica. It is in the bosom of the family that parents are “by word and example … the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children. They should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each child, fostering with special care any religious vocation.” (CCC #1656)
The Church is the Body of Christ and we are baptized into the family of God, adopted children of God’s grace and love. All families should take time to consider how they are making the Faith visible by their deeds and actions. I know many families who are intentional with the gift of their Catholic Faith, making real their love for the Gospels through the love they have for each other. Great things can happen when God’s grace is a part of family decisions.
The home is the first school of Christian life and “a school for human enrichment.” Here one learns endurance and the joy of work, fraternal love, generous—even repeated—forgiveness, and above all divine worship in prayer and the offering of one’s life. (CCC #1657)
Those who profess a belief in Jesus Christ must be signs of the Light; how else will people come to see clearly in a world filled with shadows and half-truths? Our belief in Christ becomes verifiable by our lives—people see goodness in our actions and give honor and glory to God. Making well-chosen and honestly followed resolutions can give witness to us hoping that things can change for the better.
Pope Francis, restating Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, said “Today’s world stands in great need of witnesses, not so much of teachers but rather of witnesses. It’s not so much about speaking, but rather speaking with our whole lives: living consistently, the very consistency of our lives!” When we teach with our lives, our Faith will become infectious and the witness we give will cause others to take notice. When we conform our lives to the life of Jesus, realizing that He will guide us to the truth, we will experience the peace that only He can provide.
Most Reverend William Patrick Callahan
Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of La Crosse
Published in the Jan./Feb. 2023 issue of Catholic Life Magazine
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