Novice Training

28 Jul

One of the hallmarks of the Church in our time is the renewed emphasis on the role of the laity. Drawing upon the rich, traditional teaching of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), the Church reminds the laity that all of us are called to holiness by virtue of our Baptism, and we are all called to play an active role in the apostolate, serving as a leaven in the world.

All that’s well and good, but saying it doesn’t make it so. All Catholics–and not merely those who are called to the priesthood and/or religious life–need a sound Christian formation to be able to respond generously and well to their own personal vocation in Christ. We need ongoing catechesis.

In other words, we can’t expect the fruits of discipleship, such as growth in holiness, apostolic zeal, and so forth, unless we truly are disciples ourselves.

In recent decades the Church has called the family the “domestic Church.” This powerful image suggests something more than a once-per-week catechism class and maybe a crucifix on the wall.

Before they become priests, young men go through years of training in seminary. Similarly, religious brothers and sisters receive intensive formation as novices to prepare them to fruitfully embrace their vocation as consecrated persons.

Likewise, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the family is called to be a “lay novitiate,” with the family home being the “motherhouse,” where family members are equipped to grow in holiness and bring the Gospel to the world.

I’ve been called many things–and more often than not I deserved it!  But one accusation I’ve never really understood is the charge that my family is “too religious” simply because we believe the faith should carry over into the way we live. When it comes to following Christ, we’re either “all in” or we’re not. The family, then, must be an incubator of faith, a school of virtue, and a training ground for prayer, always in a context of being a joyful, welcoming environment (see Catechism, nos. 1656-57).

Over the coming weeks, we will provide in this blog some practical advice for building up and catechizing our own domestic Church. For today, however, I want to invite our readers to reflect on Catechism, no. 2225, which in my estimation calls us to see our homes as “lay novitiates.” As we read, let us ask the Lord how we might live this teaching more fully in our own families:

“Through the grace of the sacrament of marriage, parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children. Parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith of which they are the “first heralds” for their children. They should associate them from their tenderest years with the life of the Church. A wholesome family life can foster interior dispositions that are a genuine preparation for a living faith and remain a support for it throughout one’s life.”

At our discussion board, feel free to offer practical ways in which Catholics parents can evangelize their children and associate them with the life of the Church. 

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