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What if the “domestic church” had its own liturgy?

family, parents, children

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Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 06/24/22

The Liturgy of Domestic Church Life is a new and family-based approach to Catholic spirituality.

It’s not every day you see a genuinely new spiritual idea in the 2,000-year-old tradition of the Catholic Church. So when I recently came across the “Liturgy of the Domestic Church,” my curiosity was piqued.

The idea is that the “domestic church” — the Church’s name for the family — has its own liturgy, that is, public acts of worship. Crucially, this liturgy is distinct to the family home and lifestyle. 

The idea comes from Dr. Gregory K. Popcak, a nationally recognized psychotherapist, speaker, and author of five books on marriage and family issues. He is an expert on the practical applications of Pope John Paul the Great’s Theology of the Body. Greg and his wife, Lisa, host More2Life Radio, a call-in advice program heard M-F at 10 a.m. E/ 9 a.m. C on almost 400 stations affiliated with the EWTN radio network and SiriusXM Satellite Radio Channel 130.

So when I had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Popcak, I jumped at the chance to learn more about the “Liturgy of the Domestic Church” model. Here’s what he shared with me. You can learn more over at Catholic Households on Mission

Aleteia: How would you describe the Liturgy of the Domestic Church to someone who has never heard of it before?

Dr. Greg Popcak: Most of what we think of as “Catholic spirituality” is rooted in the monastic and clerical traditions of the Church.  Those practices are beautiful, but they can be hard to fit into busy family life.

The Liturgy of Domestic Church Life is a completely family-based approach to Catholic spirituality.

It helps Catholic families learn to love and cherish each other with Christ’s love, connect more meaningfully around simple ways to help each other lead godly lives, and help each other learn to care more generously for each other and the world.

When we live the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life, God’s grace transforms our normal, everyday, struggling families into dynamic churches.

How is it different from other family ministries, charisms, etc.?

This represents a completely different approach to family spirituality and family ministry. Historically, family ministry primarily revolved around doing marriage prep and then—to a much lesser extent—helping struggling couples.

The Liturgy of Domestic Church Life gives pastors and pastoral ministers a way to build strong Catholic families from the ground up and support them in living their mission at every stage of life and through all the trials families go through.

That said, the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life isn’t another program. We believe it is an actual liturgy of the Church.

A “liturgy” is a special way to worship God that was created by God, like the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Just like Christ instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper, God created families at the beginning of time.

When he did, he wove certain practices into his design of the family to help them be healthy and holy. We call those collective practices the “Liturgy of Domestic Church Life.” 

Social science research shows that healthy, happy families throughout history and across every culture live those practices at least implicitly. United with sacramental grace, those practices become a way to worship God that was actually created by God. 

What inspired you to propose this new way of thinking about the role of families in the Church?

In 2019, our organization, in association with the OSV Institute, Holy Cross Family Ministries, and the McGrath Institute for Church Life at Notre Dame, sponsored the Symposium on Catholic Family Life and Spirituality. It was a gathering of over 50 theologians, social scientists, Church leaders, and pastoral ministry professionals. 

Participants shared research related to their specialties in family spirituality, faith transmission, family well-being, and a host of other topics related to establishing healthy, faithful families. The Liturgy of Domestic Church Life is founded on this research and articulated as a way the Church could more effectively and practically communicate what was unique about the Catholic vision of family life.

Why is it important to think about the role of Catholic families in this new and different way?

The Liturgy of Domestic Church Life is a new way of speaking of an idea as old as time, but it’s important for two reasons. 

First, as a society, we have forgotten what healthy family life looks like.  Even intact households struggle to have any kind of meaningful family life. We’ve become groups of individuals living under the same roof and sharing a data plan. 

The Liturgy of Domestic Church Life teaches the basic structure required to be a healthy family.

And, by the way, it doesn’t just apply to so-called “ideal families.” We’ve taught this model to all types of families in online trainings that included participants in 30 countries on 5 continents. In every case, participants told us that the model could help families everywhere become stronger, healthier, holier families.

Second, 60 years after Vatican II proclaimed the “universal call to holiness,” we still haven’t been given any truly family-friendly ways to fulfill our mission to be holy. Families still struggle to see how family life isn’t an obstacle to leading a holy life.

We need a framework that can show us that we don’t have to leave home to encounter Christ. The Liturgy of Domestic Church Life gives every family simple, practical ways they can encounter Christ more meaningfully at home and experience the faith as the source of the warmth in their home.

These two reasons are why the Vatican has asked us to present the opening keynote at the Rome World Meeting of Families and why the USCCB has asked us to develop a training program and certificate in the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life for diocesan and parish-based family life ministers. This model has garnered the enthusiastic support of the Church at every level.

Practically speaking, what would it look like for a family to embrace this new model?

The Liturgy of Domestic Church Life has three parts based on the three-fold baptismal mission. Each part of the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life helps families discover little ways to love and cherish each other the way Christ loves and cherishes them.

Families create rituals for working, playing, talking, and praying together every day that enable them to support each other in developing Christian attitudes toward all the things humans do, and looking for little ways they can serve each other and the world more generously. 

The Liturgy of Domestic Church Life is made up of all the healthy things a family is already doing. It just helps them do those things more intentionally and in a manner that allows them to draw closer to Christ while they do it. Think of it as a “little way of holiness” for families.

What is the most important thing to know about the Liturgy of the Domestic Church?

It’s simple, practical, and universally adaptable. Just like religious orders around the world take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience but live those vows very differently based on their specific mission, charism, and rule of life, the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life gives Catholic families a universal framework they can adapt to their specific circumstance, culture,  traditions, and needs. 

If people would like to learn more about what the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life is and how to live it in their homes, I hope they’ll join us at CatholicHOM.com. It stands for “Households on Mission.” 

We’ve created a community where Catholic families can support each other in becoming dynamic domestic churches through the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life.

They can learn more at CatholicHOM.com or by downloading the CatholicHOM app from Google Play or the Apple store.  The basic version of the app has tons of resources and is totally free, and the premium version offers even more concrete and personalized support for families who are serious about taking their faith and family life to the next level. We hope your readers will join us at our growing CatholicHOM community.

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