Evangelii Nuntiandi 71: The Role of the Family

The domestic Church also has a role to play in spreading the Good News:

71. One cannot fail to stress the evangelizing action of the family in the evangelizing apostolate of the laity.

At different moments in the Church’s history and also in the Second Vatican Council, the family has well deserved the beautiful name of “domestic Church.”[Lumen Gentium 11; Apostolicam Actuositatem 11; Saint John Chrysostom, In Genesim Serm. VI, 2; VII, 1: PG 54, 607-68] This means that there should be found in every Christian family the various aspects of the entire Church. Furthermore, the family, like the Church, ought to be a place where the Gospel is transmitted and from which the Gospel radiates.

This is simple enough. The title, “domestic Church” isn’t just a plum of a name. Every Christian family should indeed possess characteristics of the universal Church. And if evangelization is at the top of the list of apostolates for the whole Church, it figures that the family will be involved in evangelization. How is that? Read on:

In a family which is conscious of this mission, all the members evangelize and are evangelized. The parents not only communicate the Gospel to their children, but from their children they can themselves receive the same Gospel as deeply lived by them.

We should not overlook the evangelizing qualities of children of all ages with their peers, certainly, but also parents who have lagged in the practice of the faith.

And such a family becomes the evangelizer of many other families, and of the neighborhood of which it forms part. Families resulting from a mixed marriage also have the duty of proclaiming Christ to the children in the fullness of the consequences of a common Baptism; they have moreover the difficult task of becoming builders of unity.

I’m glad that Pope Paul brought up this topic. It was Pope Benedict who described so-called mixed marriages as “laboratories of ecumenism.” Perhaps in such families, we can accomplish some of the long-aspired goals of the ecumenical movement, and begin to make true progress toward unity.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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