Grace prevails in the first domestic church

| Deacon Gordon Bird | May 13, 2019 | 0 Comments

Each season brings its holidays, both religious and secular. Spring rolls on, as does Eastertide through this month of May. Earlier in the month, we were crowning Mary and honoring St. Joseph the Worker. And, we just recently celebrated Mother’s Day with feasts, flowers, gifts and — most important — love. In a few weeks — post-Pentecost — we will come upon Father’s Day.

A Catholic slant presents these religious devotions and secular celebrations as opportunities to honor the leaders of the first, and holiest, domestic church — Mary and Joseph. Learning from both their contemplative and active examples as the domestic parents of Jesus, these two models teach us how to live the Christian life through all seasons.

Observing my wife crowning our Marian statue in the backyard, I’m pleasantly reminded how the grace of God perfects nature — supernatural gifts perfecting the natural. In centuries of Catholic tradition, we have dedicated the entire month to Mary. Sacred Scripture reveals that our queen mother had the experience of living with Jesus from birth through his resurrection.

St. Joseph has a significant feast day that leads off the month. While we don’t know much about Jesus’ hidden years, we do know he grew up as “the carpenter’s son” (Mt 13:55). Such a teacher Joseph must have been to our Lord, given the antiquity of devotions in his honor that remain today. In the prayer of St. Joseph the Worker, who is the “model of all those who are devoted to labor,” we ask for “the grace to work conscientiously,” cooperating with help from God to fulfill its proper end.

His example reminds us to strive for excellence in all our work, tasks, situations and assignments — big or small. That’s doing the best we can to perform deeds and to teach others with the same reverence and work ethic as Mary and Joseph, starting with our own homes.

We can memorialize the holiness of the first domestic church in our houses and the outside properties with devotional prayers and religious articles that provide us many occasions to share the beauty, goodness and truth of God’s creative work. That may include Christian art that speaks 1,000 words, or a library of good books or movies that support the breadth and depth of the Catholic faith. All bode well in providing a special time with friends and family for prayer, study, discussion and learning — and having fun at it. We have little eyes along with the big that observe what goes on and what is displayed within the boundaries of our domestic church we call home. Displaying a Bible on the coffee table, rosaries on lamp stands, a crucifix in each room, or leading novenas and prayers for friends, family and others in need help resonate the faith.

So does offering up special moments like crowning and blessing a statue of our Mother in May, memorializing St. Joseph on his feast days or speaking to the merits of the saint of the day. It’s a little heaven on earth as we press onward toward our eternal home.

Integrating the roles of husband, father, grandfather, son, brother, colleague and good neighbor can pose its challenges. There certainly are times I have fallen short of being proficient in each and every one of those vocations, including my responsibility as a teacher, spiritual and self-sacrificing leader within the boundaries of my domestic church. Thank goodness for the endless mercy and forgiveness of God, and for an understanding and loving spouse. Married or single, we are so fortunate to have Mary and Joseph from whom to learn, to teach, to follow and to intercede for us in prayer. After all, with God’s grace, the first and holiest domestic church raised our Savior. “The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him” (Lk 2:40).

Deacon Bird ministers at St. Joseph in Rosemount and assists the Catholic Watchmen movement of the archdiocese’s Office of Evangelization.

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Category: Catholic Watchmen