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Mary: Mother of the Domestic Church and Queen of the Family

By Deacon Keith Fournier
October 30th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The beloved disciple John tells us of the last gift that Jesus gave to all of us before He surrendered His life for the redemption of the world. That gift was His Mother: When Jesus saw his mother* and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son."Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. (John 19:26,27) From the earliest centuries of the Church this gift of a mother has been reflected upon in some of the most beautiful writings in the Christian tradition.

CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic online) - After celebrating Holy Mass on World Family Day, October 27, 2013,Pope Francis prayed before an image of the Holy Family of Nazareth. He commended all Christian families to the Holy Family and asked for an outpouring of God's grace:

Let us pray the Angelus together. With this prayer, we invoke the maternal protection of Mary for families throughout the world, and especially for those who live in situations of great difficulty. Mary, Queen of the Family, pray for us!

Mary is the mother of every domestic church, of every Christian family. She fully understands the naturally supernatural realities of family life because she lived them. In fact, she shows us the way to make the ordinary extraordinary by her witness of surrendered love.

She shows us how to embrace our daily lives in a way which allows them to become the means of grace and a path to deepening conversion. She can also obtain for us, through her intercession, the graces we need to be made holy in our vocation.

The beloved disciple John tells us of the last gift that Jesus gave to all of us before He surrendered His life for the redemption of the world. That gift was His Mother: When Jesus saw his mother* and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son."Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. (John 19:26,27)
 
From the earliest centuries of the Church this gift of a mother has been reflected upon in some of the most beautiful writings in the Christian tradition. Jesus gave us His Mother. The Church is fundamentally relational, a family.

Through Baptism we live our lives in the Lord by living in His Body, the Church, of which we are members. Through the Church, Jesus continues his redemptive mission. For most of us, much of our life is lived within the smallest cell of the Body of Christ, the domestic church of the Christian family.

The Catholic Catechism tells us: Since the Virgin Mary's role in the mystery of Christ and the Spirit has been treated; it is fitting now to consider her place in the mystery of the Church. "The Virgin Mary is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and of the redeemer. She is 'clearly the mother of the members of Christ' since she has by her charity joined in bringing about the birth of believers in the Church, who are members of its head." "Mary, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church." (CCC #963)

It is in this sense which we can say that Mary is also the mother of the domestic church. She was - and is - a real mother. Understanding this is truly important if we hope to respond to the universal call to holiness. It is in our ordinary lives that we encounter the Lord and it is there where we grow into His Image. We never really leave the Church. We leave the building where the Liturgy is offered, but we live in the heart of the Church for the sake of the world.

I woke up in Church this morning. Not on a cold dark floor or surrounded by votive candles and stained glass, but next to my partner in faith, my best friend, my beloved wife of 37 years, Laurine.  We have five grown children and six grandchildren. Some of them are spread around the Nation - but they are all, always in our heart.

Through our Baptism, our natural bond was supernaturally elevated by grace. Jesus said "Wherever two or three are gathered in my Name, there I am in their midst." (Matt. 18:20) The place where this kind of gathering occurs the most is in the hearth of the home, in the first vital cell of the Church, the Christian family.

From antiquity the Christian Family has been called the domestic church. This is more than piety; it is meant to become reality, by grace. Perhaps the most often quoted use of the term is from the "Golden Mouth", the Bishop John Chrysostom, writing in Antioch (the city where they were first called Christians) in the fourth century. After all, the church is fundamentally a relational reality.

Also, Christian Marriage is a Sacrament. In other words, it is a participation in - and sign of - the very inner life of the Trinity! As the Apostle Peter wrote to the early Christians, we are now "partakers of the divine nature." (2 Peter 1) Yet, do we view Christian marriage and family life in this way?

Even the most sincere Christians can still live out their Christian life with a certain dualism. They see themselves as living in the world and going to Church. Family life sometimes gets included in the world or perhaps it is seen as a part of a "duty in the Lord" which often "competes" with the Christian mission.

Please understand, as a Catholic Christian, I love to frequent beautiful Church buildings and to participate in the beauty of liturgical worship. However, the point I am trying to make is a vital one. We actually live in Church. We were baptized into the Lord and we now live in His Body.

The Christian family IS a church, the smallest and most vital cell of that Body. The extended church community is a family of families. This understanding is more than piety--it is sound ecclesiology, solid anthropology, in fact it is reality for those who are baptized into Christ Jesus.

With the eyes of living faith, my wife Laurine and I learned to see the deeper purpose over years of raising our children, with all of its joy, sacrifice and struggle. Over those years of raising children and now these years of trying to help raise grandchildren we have begun to comprehend the mystery of Christian marriage and family life.

An almost liturgical sameness emerges after years of living Christian family life. It is a source of holiness when it is freely embraced. It has the capacity to sanctify even the plain, human repetition. It can all become transformative when lived out in Jesus Christ.

It is where the rubber hits the road for most Christians. It is there that the universal call to holiness, in all its real, earthy ordinariness, is lived out and sanctifies. There we are forged into the Image of Jesus Christ, as we empty ourselves in love for the other - and join that emptying to the emptying of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 2)

There in the family, progress in the spiritual life finds its raw material for so many of the faithful. The  question for Christians who are called to marriage and family is whether they choose to live it as a vocation. Through grace we are able to develop the eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to accept the hidden invitations to love. They are there, beneath the surface of the daily stuff of Christian Marriage and Family life.

Mary is the mother of every domestic church, of every Christian family. She fully understands the naturally supernatural realities of family life because she lived them. In fact, she shows us the way to make the ordinary extraordinary, by offering it all to Jesus Christ.

Mary shows us how to embrace our daily lives in a way which allows them to become a means of grace and a path toward our continuing conversion in jesus Christ. She also obtains for us, through her intercession, some of the graces we need. She is the Mother of the Domestic Church and the Queen of the Family.

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