Domestic Church During a Pandemic
2020 - the year we planned to be awesome, to have that "2020 vision". Little did we know or expect what was to come, A PANDEMIC. I think it's fair to say none of us could have ever been prepared for this. I remember feeling some anxiety before the literal "lock down", before any of my family and friends really noticed the Covid news. I would go to mass, sanitize my hands constantly, especially since I was helping with collections and serving as an Extraordinary Minister. My cleanliness at work really had not changed, because if you work with kids, you know you'll be sanitizing your office and toys quite often. Though I was keeping up with Covid news and being cautious, in my mind I thought we would just be living our normal lives with some extra precautions, and that by summer "it would be over". I never expected a lock down. I never expected to know loved ones to get Covid. I never thought I would go months without going to mass and serving in my community. I never thought I would give birth during a pandemic. I never thought we would still be in it today, November of 2020. I'm sure this is the same for many of us, and that is okay. We could have never been prepared for all that has happened.
With all the changes that have happened, and changes that happened overnight, we are left with so many mixed feelings. We are left to grieve the lives we once had. We are left with stress and anxiety around the constantly changing world of Covid-19. We are left putting the pieces back together to a new way of living. Whatever you are feeling, in response to this pandemic, is completely valid! After all, the rug was pulled right from under our feet and we had no time to prepare emotionally, socially, financially, physically and spiritually. All of us have been adjusting to a new normal, and if you're a parent, you were adjusting while trying to maintain a sense of "normal" for your children at home. If you have not already, give yourself some recognition for all you have done this year because it has been one trying year.
There's so much to say in how to cope during this time, but one particular aspect I wanted to focus on was caring for our spiritual lives and the spiritual life of our family, our Domestic Church. I have heard from many Catholics who have struggled during this time because of not having access to mass, access to the sacraments and access to their community. This is completely understandable and I can totally relate as well. Our spiritual health is so important and plays a crucial role in our overall well-being, as well as in our social relationships, which is why it is important to take care of our spiritual health. This pandemic posed many challenges in doing so, but just as we did with work, school and other aspects of life, we can find a way to attend to our spiritual life as well.
The Domestic Church
The "Domestic Church" is your family at home, and it is referred to this because it is at home that we first learn about God, and where the foundation is set for discipleship, sanctification and holiness (CCC #1655-1658).
The Domestic Church is first formed through husband and wife, when you unite as one and establish your little church at home. Yes, we are called to our individual relationship with God, but we are also called to a prayer life with our spouse, especially having made the commitment to lead our spouse to heaven. Establishing a prayer life, and our little church at home, paves the road for our children to follow. Once a husband and wife become parents, it is their duty to lead their children to know God. The Domestic Church is a beautiful gift we have and can bear many fruit for this world if we allow it. For this reason, it is crucial that we maintain spiritually strong. Especially for the parents out there, if you are struggling spiritually, address it right away because it will trickle down to the spirituality of your children. Just like we should care for ourselves before caring for others, we must take care of our spiritual lives before leading out children to follow Christ.
How to keep your family strong in faith
As we form our Domestic Church, we form our own routines and ways of strengthening our spirituality. Every Domestic Church is unique to each family, but at the end the foundation is always built on the love of God. Some families will have their own prayer space or altar, where you might find bibles, statues, rosaries, a crucifix, etc. Other families may decorate their home with bible verses or religious paintings. Some families may pray the rosary together each night, while others might engage in a bible study. There is no "cookie cutter" Domestic Church, so do what works for your family and spirituality.
This pandemic changed a lot for us, and it is important to recognize: how did it change my spiritual life? How did it affect my Domestic Church? How do I keep myself and my family strong in faith during this time?
Below are some tips for maintaining your Domestic Church during the Covid-19 Pandemic:
Make and keep God a priority. With our busy day to day lives, it is easy to put our prayer life on hold, and our relationship with God. Before we know it, we feel completely distanced from Him. Make God a priority. Make your schedule around a prayer time you choose, around mass time, and however else you connect in your relationship with God. The main rule is do not schedule Him last in your schedule.
Still "attend" mass. We may not be able to attend physically, but we are blessed with today's technology where we can attend virtually. Make it a habit to get ready for mass still on Sunday's and "attend" the hour that suits your family. Create your own altar in front of your screen and participate fully in the mass so you can still feel a part of the mass. Make sure to limit any distractions: turn off your phone, turn off the TV, put away any food/snacks you wouldn't have at mass. Once mass is available to us, make it a point to attend (if you are comfortable).
Schedule time to pray or read the Word of God. Related to 1 & 2, schedule your time with God. Make this a part of your family schedule. For example, every night at 7pm you know it is family prayer time. OR every Friday at 8pm. Schedule what works for your family, but make it a priority.
Access the sacraments if you can. During the pandemic, the sacraments might not be readily available. However, when the opportunity arises for confession or the Eucharist (and if you're comfortable), definitely make it a point to access them. We also have the gift of spiritual communion during this time, so make sure to participate in that as well.
Still talk about God. The pandemic might be the main topic we hear everywhere, so try not to get too focused on that topic at home. Make sure to still talk about God in your everyday conversations. God should be present in your home to help form your Domestic Church.
Continue to recognize the liturgical calendar. Although we may not be able to attend mass physically, we can still participate in our own ways at home. Aside from preparing an altar in front of the screen, you can also decorate your home according to the season of the liturgical calendar. For example, during Lent, you might find more purple items and items related to Lent in the home. Or during advent, some families might choose to recognize the season with their own advent wreath at home. Be creative and still follow along at home!
Create or maintain your faith community virtually. The community we form is so important, and although the pandemic has prevented us from gathering physically, we are blessed to still gather virtually. Schedule times to connect with other family/friends in your faith community. Talk with them. Check in. Agree to hold each other accountable spiritually. The most important thing is, do not completely isolate yourselves, we need each other still.
We ARE the Church
This year has been difficult, overwhelming, emotional, you name it! However, we are blessed to be able to continue to walk by faith and we must remember God has never left our side. An important quote that I saw circulating the internet stated "The church isn't empty, the church has been deployed!" This couldn't be more true. We ARE the Church. Yes, we must go to mass and that is how we get fed spiritually, but the church does not remain inside a building, the church goes out into the world with us. So, let us be the church for one another and let us maintain our church at home strong in faith, ready to share God's love with the world.