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Is our domestic church a towering cathedral or a roadside marker?

MILANO

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Fr. Patrick Briscoe, OP - published on 05/07/20

Let us turn again and again to the cornerstone, so that we can build to the heights we are called.

“Let yourselves be built into a spiritual house.” 1 Peter 2:5

Throughout the United States, our quarantine continues. Some states are beginning to open, and some dioceses are beginning to hold public Masses once more. In most places, however, we’re still home.

Our homes are our churches. Families are the smallest distinct unit of the Universal Church. John Paul II taught us, “Catholic parents must learn to form their family as a ‘domestic church,’ a church in the home as it were, where God is honored, his law is respected, prayer is a normal event, virtue is transmit­ted by word and example, and everyone shares the hopes, the problems and sufferings of everyone else. All this is not to advocate a return to some outdated style of living: It is to return to the roots of human development and human happiness!”  The family, “the domestic church,” has to be nourished by every shared joy and sorrow, every act of love, every natural and honorable part of family life.

Right now, in quarantine, this building up of our family religious life has received particular attention. But now, as we’re looking forward to opening up, we must reflect on our experiences of prayer and closeness of life. There have been some graces. There have been ways the Lord has inspired deeper prayer, more time together, more attention paid to joys and sorrows. And it is this project of building up the domestic church which cannot ever cease. 

Christ must be the foundation stone of our living house. The prophet Isaiah foresaw this stone, recording the promise of the Lord, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a foundation stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation” (Is. 28:16). To call Christ the cornerstone means that He is the one we can rely on. He is the rock that keeps the foundation strong. 

The Psalms foretold that this cornerstone would be refused: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Psalm 118:22). This line of Scripture reminds us that we too can reject the foundation stone of Christ. Are there not moments in our lives when we would rather rely on other things? Do we always turn to Christ for comfort and assurance?

Building up the spiritual house is not the project of one day or one retreat, or one Lent… building the spiritual house is the project of a lifetime with Christ. Believing is not the sort of act that can be made once for all and then left unnourished. Faith in Christ is an act of the will and must be nourished.

Christ must be set as the cornerstone, then other actions must be undertaken to nourish that profession of faith. I hope these weeks that you have been gathering around crucifixes and holy images for family prayer. To do so is a profession of faith in the cornerstone. But such faith must be nourished by continued prayer, study, and charity. Do not allow new practices that you’ve begun in your quarantine to languish.

But maybe your quarantine hasn’t been great. Maybe it’s been a real struggle. Today, this Fifth Sunday of Easter, is the day to renew your faith and recommit yourself to the project of building your heart into a fitting dwelling place for the Lord. Christ the cornerstone is not a dead stone! He is alive! In our baptism we came to life with Him, never to die again. Living water washed our rock-hearts and turned us to living stones.

Let us build the spiritual edifice! With spiritual sacrifices: every confession, every prayer, every hour of study, every rosary, every novena, every work of love for the family, every deed done for the sick and the poor, may our hearts be built up and be fashioned more perfectly after Christ’s own heart!

One last word this Sunday: Pope Paul VI once asked, “Mothers, do you teach your children the Christian prayers? Do you prepare them, in conjunction with the priests, for the sacraments that they receive when they are young: Confession, Communion and Confirmation? Do you encourage them when they are sick to think of Christ suffering to invoke the aid of the Blessed Virgin and the saints? Do you say the family rosary together?”

As we begin this month of May, a month when we celebrate our Blessed Mother and our own mothers alike, let us thank God for the gifts handed on to us by our mothers. And if you are one such mother, do not fail to hand on these precious gifts to your own children. They are the keys to the cornerstone.

Even this time of quarantine can be a time for building. We must build up the life of faith in our families. We must build our hearts into spiritual edifices. Let us not aspire to be mere chapels or roadside markers of devotion … let us be built into towering cathedrals which proclaim the power and love of God!

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