The Role of Families
As we lived through the darkness of the pandemic, many of us found our families to be sources of light. Our families are gifts from God, and they are intended to be wellsprings of mutual support and spiritual growth.
The Church teaches that the family is “the domestic church” and that it is the primary place where the faith is passed on. In explaining how the family serves as domestic church, our catechism, Christ Our Pascha, calls the family “the primary cell of the Christian community” where “parents are the first evangelizers and educators of their children” (COP 656).
Preparing children to become faithful adults
Parents have the special task of preparing children to one day face the world independently, as adults. How they raise their children shapes who their children will become as adults.
Worshiping together in church – as a family – is an irreplaceable experience that yields lasting spiritual rewards. By choosing to belong to a faith community as a family, and participating in the liturgical life of the Church as a family, parents can help ensure that their children inherit the gift of faith.
Choosing to bring one’s family to church – or conversely, choosing to stay home – communicates to children a message about what is most important to their parents. Attending church instills in a child the belief that faith is something to value, that it is a priority. Deciding not to attend church, when it is safe to do so, conveys the message that faith is not a high priority. These are lessons children remember.
Forming children to worship liturgically
Experiencing the worship of our Ukrainian Greek Catholic tradition, with its singing, incense, processions, and colorful iconography, leaves a lasting impression on a child.
Although the results are not immediate, participating in worship week after week will draw a person closer to God, and will change them. Our liturgy reminds us that when we worship God on earth we join in the worship taking place in heaven, where the angels and saints are gathered around God’s throne in an eternal, heavenly liturgy. Participating in this worship has a formative effect on who a child will become.
Raising children to be disciples of Christ
The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith, which spiritually nourishes and strengthens those who receive it with an openness to God. Our tradition emphasizes the importance of children being strengthened through reception of this holy mystery. Ensuring that one’s family receives the Eucharist will reinforce the bonds of faith and love in a household, and will help children to grow spiritually.
Raising children to be disciples of Jesus in today’s environment is challenging. For this reason, families will benefit from belonging to a faith filled community. Participating in a parish family provides much needed support in shaping children to become mature, faith filled adults.
Church attendance instills in children something precious: the gift of faith. This faith will be an anchor to help them weather the storms of life.
A call to families
In addition to church attendance, families are encouraged to:
1. Pray together. Set aside time each day to pray together. If daily prayer is not possible, pray together two or three times each week. Creating a routine – and sticking to it – will help you develop the habit of prayer, which will yield great spiritual benefits.
2. Read scripture together. With its feasts and seasons, the Church’s liturgical calendar sanctifies time. Reading the Sunday Epistles and Gospels together will help you and your children develop a better understanding of the pivotal events of salvation history, which the Church calls to mind each year. This will allow you to participate more fully in Divine Liturgy.
3. Designate a place in your home for prayer. Adorn this space, or prayer corner, with holy icons. Icons enrich a family’s spiritual life by bringing the sacred into the home. In our tradition, families often have three icons in such a prayer corner: one of Jesus Christ, another of the Mother of God, and a third of Saint Nicholas. Christ, as the Head of the Church Body, is the model for the husband, the head of the family. The most holy Mother of God with the Child Jesus is the perfect model for the mother and the children. Saint Nicholas is an example of compassion and hospitality.