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Our Domestic Church Guidebook


by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson

Pope Francis’ new document provides us sure guidance for building up family life

Carl A. Anderson

Carl A. Anderson

LAST MONTH, Pope Francis released one of the most important documents of his pontificate: Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love). In the coming days, much will be written about this post-synodal apostolic exhortation, but this much can be said now: Amoris Laetitia is our guidebook to building up the Catholic family as a domestic church. Moreover, it is the guidebook for our Order’s new initiative, Building the Domestic Church While Strengthening Our Parish.

In the document, Pope Francis reminds us to view the family as that sanctuary of life and love which is at the heart of the domestic church: “The ability of human couples to beget life is the path along which the history of salvation progresses,” he writes. “Seen this way, the couple’s fruitful relationship becomes an image for understanding and describing the mystery of God himself, for in the Christian vision of the Trinity, God is contemplated as Father, Son and Spirit of love. The triune God is a communion of love, and the family is its living reflection. St. John Paul II shed light on this when he said, ‘Our God in his deepest mystery is not solitude, but a family, for he has within himself fatherhood, sonship and the essence of the family, which is love. That love, in the divine family, is the Holy Spirit’” (Amoris Laetitia, 11).

Pope Francis also strongly reaffirmed the teaching of Blessed Paul VI in Humanae Vitae on “the intrinsic bond between conjugal love and the generation of life” (68).

The Holy Father further recalled the teaching of St. John Paul II, in his catecheses on human love, in his Letter to Families and in Familiaris Consortio, saying that through these documents his predecessor had “defined the family as ‘the way of the Church’” (69).

Clearly, Pope Francis, too, is presenting the family as “the way of the Church” while also emphasizing the need for greater pastoral care of families.

In Amoris Laetitia, he describes the Church as “a family of families” (87). This is especially true of our parish churches, and this is the fundamental premise underlying our Building the Domestic Church While Strengthening Our Parish initiative.

Last December, when the supreme chaplain and I discussed our Building the Domestic Church program with Pope Francis, he encouraged us to continue this initiative to strengthen family life, especially by encouraging more families to be active in their parishes.

Knights of Columbus parish-based councils are ideally positioned to do this. Amoris Laetitia calls us to a new “family apostolate” based upon families’ “joy-filled witness as domestic churches” (200). This is especially important for young husbands and fathers.

Pope Francis is encouraging all of us to redouble our efforts to strengthen family life. Central to those efforts is our new initiative of family consecration to the Holy Family.

Amoris Laetitia concludes with this prayer:

“Holy Family of Nazareth, grant that our families too may be places of communion and prayer, authentic schools of the Gospel and small domestic churches.

“Holy Family of Nazareth, may families never again experience violence, rejection and division; may all who have been hurt or scandalized find ready comfort and healing.

“Holy Family of Nazareth, make us once more mindful of the sacredness and inviolability of the family, and its beauty in God’s plan.”

I ask that we make this prayer our own and also add: “Holy Family of Nazareth, grant that the Knights of Columbus may be a place where families experience the joy of the Gospel, grow as sanctuaries of love and life, and as true domestic churches witness to the beauty of the family in God’s plan.”

Vivat Jesus!