For many young people, the “domestic church” is like Plato’s world of ideas: a great concept that doesn’t necessarily have a corresponding reality. Marriage and family life have an innate beauty that young people are naturally drawn to because of the heroic love, sacrifice, virtue, and holiness involved in them. But why does the ideal seem so hard to transfer into reality? How do we teach the domestic church to young people in a culture that seems antagonistic to marriage and family life?
Young people crave authenticity. When we teach the hard truths, the high ideals, the demanding precepts, it always helps when they are supplemented with real witness and testimony. Theology and philosophy don’t occur in a vacuum; they need to be tested by reality to verify the truth of their claims. Unfortunately, the experience of a lot of our young people is that the idea of the domestic church is a failed philosophy.
The problem, however, does not lie in the domestic church as a concept or idea, but rather in the human heart. Breakdown in marriages and families are not the result of “structural” or “institutional” conditions, they are the result of the human condition; we are fallen beings and it is alright to acknowledge that. When assessing the credibility or idealism of the domestic church, we have to acknowledge the whole reality; the domestic church doesn’t exist purely as an idea, but is lived out by human beings who are fallen. The splendor and grace of marriage is in a tussle with the fallen nature and vices of man.
Part of being “real” with young people is telling them the whole story—the good, the bad and the ugly. In particular, we need to inform how the bad (sin) can corrupt the good with devastating consequences.
Domestic Church Founded on a Sacrament
All sacraments are salvific encounters with Jesus Christ. They are where we experience the kerygma in a tangible way: “In Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, who died and rose from the dead, salvation is offered to all, as a gift of God’s grace and mercy.” Or as Pope Francis puts it: “Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.”
This is the good news of the domestic church: it is founded on the Sacrament of Marriage and, therefore, is permeated with the grace of Christ, who is devoted to redeeming the love of the spouses, healing its wounds, and coming to its aid when it is subject to falling. As Gaudium et spes affirms, “authentic conjugal love is caught up into divine love and is directed and enriched by the redemptive power of Christ and the salvific action of the Church.” Jesus does not leave us orphans; he is irrevocably invested in aiding our marriages and families.