By Kaelanne Jordan
How can the domestic Church practise or promote Christian relationships within the home?
This was the question addressed during the Archdiocesan Family Life Commission’s (AFLC) weekly Topic Thursday’s session September 17 via Facebook live.
AFLC host, mental health clinician Crystal Johnson began the conversation by quoting the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: “the family, is so to speak, the domestic Church” (#11, Lumen Gentium).
For Johnson, it is in this context of the family that we first learn who God is and to prayerfully seek His will for all of us.
“Remember family is the first institution that we have to learn a lot of things. So, we need to understand how to learn to build this domestic Church through a life of prayer, through rites and rituals that can help members of our family,” Johnson said.
She mentioned three things which have significantly affected the domestic Church during COVID-19.
“On a positive for me,” Johnson said, COVID-19 forced many to slow down and be present with their families. “And I saw this as a great opportunity to nurture and enrich relationships that may not have been top priority anymore due to the demands of life and the high sense of individualism,” she said.
She observed that being ‘cooped up’ during this pandemic may have caused further strain and tension to family life, especially for family members with existing mental conditions.
While trying to adjust or promote family life during a pandemic can be very overwhelming, it is important at the same time that families recover, heal, and maintain those core relationships as the Church promotes.
Johnson emphasised that the Christian relationship between husband and wife, child and parent, siblings etc must be “warm” to facilitate a secure attachment. Family therapist and parent Dr Gregory Popcak defines ‘secure attachment’ as the gut level confidence a child has that he/she can turn to his/her parents at every stage and age to get whatever nurturance, support, guidance, and resources he/she needs to thrive.
“So, I believe this is also important for adult relationship because as adults we still seek the same desire of nurturance, guidance, support, and resources from our spouses ….” Johnson said.
She shared four practices in promoting Christian relationships as a domestic Church:
3.Attend promptly, generously, consistently, and cheerfully to each other’s needs. Attachment and intimacy are formed when families can count on each other to care and respond to each other’s needs. Johnson commented that the ritual of talk “comes in handy here”. She shared when she got married, she and her husband would sit outside, no phones, no TV, and would talk about everything on their minds. In that way, she said, they developed an avenue of making “a space” to connect and to attend to each other’s needs.
4.Discipleship, discipline. This practice is a love guidance approach to child rearing which is largely inspired by Italian priest, St John Bosco’s work with children. St Bosco, Johnson explained encouraged parents to raise children not with harsh punishments but with reason, religion, and loving kindness. She endorsed this approach as she observed that an attachment is fostered when parents mentor and teach and not by punishment and shame.