Last spring, the global pandemic that began changing the way people live — and worship — was an entirely unprecedented event. With public Masses suspended, Catholics the world over were forced to reimagine a faith life away from the sacraments and rituals that are so integral to our experience of the Church. This transition was certainly not easy, but for many Our Lady of the Assumption families, it came with a hidden blessing — a revival of the domestic church.
The importance of the domestic church is highlighted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states, “The Christian home is the place where children receive the first proclamation of the faith. For this reason, the family home is rightly called ‘the domestic church,’ a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity” (CCC, 1666).
With the sudden quiet and stillness that came with the pandemic last March, parishioners Kristine and Dennis Breault began to question whether or not their home life with their two young daughters — Virginia was almost 3 years old and Teresa almost 1 — reflected that “community of grace and prayer” described in the Catechism.
“Things were hard at home,” Kristine says. “I had the same attitude toward motherhood that I had with work, which was to have a schedule and be rigorous with it. Then all that just came to a halt, and I just didn’t like the lack of joy that was in my home when we should have been having a great time. I was saying unkind things to my kids, and I realized that the culture of busyness had disguised the way we were all treating each other before because we could just move on to the next activity without really having to confront any of it.”
After deciding they needed a change, Kristine and Dennis began taking a Values Parenting class. As part of the program, the couple was asked to write a parenting mission statement. After several months of discussion and revisions, they realized that their mission was very clear and simple — to get everyone in the family to heaven.
Viewing their vocations to marriage and parenthood through this lens changed everything for the Breaults.
“A bunch of things started falling into line with our home life and family life,” Kristine says. “It transformed our marriage because once every person’s sainthood is important to you, you aren’t going to pick a fight with your husband when he’s exhausted because it won’t bring out the best in him. Our marriage changed when we had a clear vision that we are meant for purification. We saw finally what the Catechism means when it says marriage is a vocation on par with holy orders, and we are here to serve each other.”
With the liturgical season of Lent coinciding with this new stage in the family’s life, Kristine and Dennis began reading the Magnificat with their daughters in place of bedtime stories. This seemingly small daily practice led to yet another life-changing moment for the family.
“When it would get to the part with the offering, the Eucharist, at first it was awkward because we didn’t know what we were offering,” Kristine says. “Of all the things I think the domestic church looks like now, the biggest one is bringing sacred silence into your home. During those silent moments, it just translated into us offering all our brokenness. I started offering my desire to be a good mother and partner, and then it started clarifying itself.
“We began taking all our brokenness in all these little areas, and allowing God to transform everything we offer into something holy,” she adds. “And I think it’s so in line with the Eucharist, too. We don’t offer the youngest, fattest calf — we offer a little teeny bit of grain and a little teeny bit of wine, and we get so much back in return.”
Eventually, the Breaults’ evening Magnificat readings evolved into nightly Scripture reading. The family also began praying the Rosary and Novenas together and watching Stories of the Saints videos on YouTube. Another turning point came with their realization that children are naturally spiritual and sacred beings. Rather than keep their rosaries, prayer cards, and saint statues high on a shelf to “protect” them from the children, Kristine and Dennis began viewing the children’s playful interaction with religious items as a form of adoration.
Now, little Virginia and Teresa love to imitate the Mass in their play, reflecting how the family’s Catholic faith now permeates their home in ways it never had before.
“As Dennis says, this all happened because when we started watching Mass at home, we were confronted with the duality that we were living,” Kristine says. “We were going to church and God was there, and God was not in our home. Just the act of bringing God in any shape into your home is so powerful that it’s uncomfortable if you’re not living congruently with your faith. So as Dennis says, we had a choice — we could either choose to keep God out, or we could bring the rest of our lives in line.”
As Lent draws near once more, the Breaults look back to this time last year with gratitude for the “wake-up call” they received from the Lord and the abundant blessings that have come from their devotion to building up the domestic church in the home.
“One thing everyone can do is to make that offering,” Kristine says. “Offer every piece of your life, and it will be transformed.”