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Restoring the Domestic Church One Family at a Time

on Tuesday, 01 October 2019. Posted in Testimonies

Yves and Anne Marie Jacques travelled to Guayaquil, Ecuador in August 2019, as guest speakers at the invitation of Carlos and Teresa Reyes, directors/editors of the Spanish edition of MICHAEL, San Miguel. The conference was an encounter for Catholic formation, entitled: For the Reign of Christ and the Common Good, Social Credit, the Liturgy and Holiness.

In the United States we hear of many disturbing things — the media keeps us continuously inundated with horror stories of drugs, school shootings, legalized abortion, gender ideology and now the acceptance of same-sex unions, recognized as “marriage”. The list could go on — and sadly, this is a reality in our country at the present moment. But what the media does not tell us about are the many, many beautiful things happening that are the result of strong, faith-filled Americans who are “fighting back”, so to speak, at this anti-culture, in order to permit that Christ reign in our families, in our homes, in our cities, and throughout our entire country.

There is HOPE… Christ is NOT defeated, and the enemies of His Church have NOT prevailed.

It was a great grace and a privilege that my husband, Yves, and I were both called to do apostolate work through the Pilgrims of St. Michael in the years that we were single. Then from the very beginning of our marriage, we decided to continue that apostolate, but obviously by finding ways to do the work without it interfering with our new vocation of marriage and family. We had both come to realize that to have a better world we need better families. And by “better” I mean: families in love with God.

Christ was born into a family — He was raised by a mother and a father — and He began His true mission among men only after He had grown up in a family; the Holy Family of Nazareth. Christ showed us the importance of family. He actually showed us that it is through the family that our own missions need to begin. This is why Yves and I decided that our family become our new “Mission”.

Pope St. Paul VI, when speaking about the Christian family, referred to the home as the “domestic church”. He said that “It is in the context of the family that we first learn who God is and to prayerfully seek His will for us”. The Christian home is a “Domestic Church”. I also use the word “sanctuary”; domestic sanctuary, because a sanctuary refers to a safe place, like an oasis — not in the sense that we would want to isolate ourselves from those around us, but rather, that we need to try and create a home that is peaceful; a love-filled place where we can freely live our faith, share that faith with our children and together as a family, “prayerfully seek God’s will for us.”

When our oldest son, Michael, was 5 years old we decided to consider homeschooling. This was in 1990, when there was a lot going on in the schools — just like today! I really had no clue what I was getting myself into, because along with Michael, we also had Gaetan, who was 4 years old, Eric, who was 2, and Marie, who was barely 6 months old. But we really felt in our hearts that it was the right choice — and looking back, we praise God for His guidance through those years.

Some days were very hectic, with laundry, meals, cleaning the house; all these things still needed to be done. But we always began the day with morning prayers. We had a very simple but good practice. Right after breakfast, we said 1 Our Father, 1 Hail Mary, 1 Glory Be and then read the life of the saint for that day. We also had a beautiful book on Virtue for children, and we would read from that too. It all took about 15 minutes — simple — but it helped us to focus our minds on the task before us; our school work.

As the years progressed, and with the births of Aimie, Emilie and Matthew, there were some mornings when we would be running a little behind in our schedule! Those were the mornings that I would try to “get ahead” by “skipping” morning prayers — and those were the mornings that we would never really “get ahead” at all. Those would be the days when we could not find an important schoolbook or the pencils all seemed to mysteriously disappear…

I have a story that I love to tell about one such morning. Things seemed especially chaotic on that day — then, to add to the chaos, there was a knock at the back door — it was a policeman! I thought, “Dear Lord, have they come to arrest me?” The policeman said that there had been a call to 9-1-1 and he wanted to make sure that everything was alright. He was therefore responding to an emergency call. I was a bit confused by this, but then I happened to glance over at the baby, and realized that he was holding the cordless phone in his hands. With his chubby little thumbs he was pressing the two numbers closest to the edges of the phone over and over; 9 and 1 — 9-1-1! It was the baby who had made the emergency call!

The officer laughed but after he left I brought all the children before our image of the Blessed Mother, and we recited our morning prayers together. For me, it had been God’s way to let me know that He really does want to be first in our lives. We had chosen not to include Him in the start of our day and He decided that this was an “emergency”! I believe that God has a sense of humor, and that He had the baby call 9-1-1 on that morning.

There are obviously many stories from our 22 years of homeschooling that I would love to share, but what I really wish to focus on is what it is that truly enables us to pull through, and to survive, the incredible challenges that we all face in today’s world. Homeschooling is one of many means to rebuild Catholic culture — but not everyone is called, or even able, to undertake this huge commitment. But there are two things that I see as extremely important, and which we are all able to do — and, in the spirit of Pope St. John Paul II’s New Evangelization, we are all called to do.

The first of these two things is:

STEADFASTNESS IN PRAYER!

Pope St. John Paul II, who was my hero while I was raising my family, once said, “If you really wish to follow Christ, if you want your love for him to grow and last, then you must be faithful to prayer. It is the key to the vitality of your life in Christ. Without prayer, your faith and love will die. If you are constant in daily prayer and in the Sunday celebration of Mass, your love for Jesus will increase. And your heart will know deep joy and peace, such as the world could never give”.

We cannot persevere — we will not survive, unless we develop a strong, regular prayer life. If you are not already praying on a regular basis — every day — then you need to begin NOW!

Yves and I decided to attend daily Mass during Lent not long after we were first married. Not only did we discover that it was something that was very possible to do, but the spiritual benefits were amazing (!) and so we decided to continue the practice after Easter. Our first child, Michael, was born that year, and as our family grew, and with our homeschooling, daily Mass became our priority, and a most important part of our day. We even made it a part of our curriculum and studied the parts of the Mass. Soon our boys began serving at the altar on a daily basis, which presented an incredible teaching moment. All of this richly enhanced our Catechism lessons.

Our parish church only had a 5:30 p.m. Mass, which was a very difficult time for families, as that meant dinner would be very late. We began planning an afternoon snack at around 4:00, then had supper at 7:00 p.m. This took some getting used to but we made it work for our family.

I’m telling you all this because there could be so many excuses, and some very good ones, as to why one cannot attend Mass every day but if Mass becomes our most important priority of the day, God arranges all the rest for us — that is a fact — and the graces and blessings from this practice are beyond even our own understanding.

Another very important prayer is the family Rosary — there is no substitute for this practice! Here in the United States we had Fr. Patrick Peyton, who since the 1940’s, spent his priesthood promoting the Family Rosary. He had a famous slogan: “The family that prays together, stays together”. Many families in the U.S. back in the 1950’s, and even the 1960’s, prayed the daily Rosary.

Yves grew up praying the Rosary in his family. In my family, this was not so much the custom, but when I became active with the Pilgrims of St. Michael this was something that we promoted. We even went from house to house in towns and cities, in a Crusade for the Rosary, asking families to begin saying the Rosary in their homes, and helping them get started by saying one decade together during our visit. This practice of praying the Rosary every day carried over into our marriage.

This is what the Blessed Mother asked us to do — it is what will turn the world back to God. We should all know Our Lady’s message at Fatima and the promise: “Pray the Rosary every day to obtain peace for the world.” — The Blessed Mother also appeared to a nun from Ohio in the 1950’s, Sr. Mildred Neuzil. She said to her, “I am Our Lady of America”. She also told her, “Making the Rosary a family prayer is very pleasing to me. I ask that all families strive to do so…” This apparition was approved by Bishop Liebold in Ohio and was later endorsed by Cardinal Raymond Burke. Many families in The United States have undertaken to bring back the family Rosary, and are seeing incredible results!

I do not wish to seem to be painting a perfect picture of our whole family on our knees, devoutly praying the Rosary, with no interruptions or distractions — because this would not be reality — or, even more so, to say that our children have always loved this practice — NO! — but if we try to make family prayer a regular practice, our children become accustomed to it, and it does become easier with time.

Now that our children are older, those who are living at home still pray the Rosary with us every evening after supper. Our boys who are now married have also chosen to continue this practice with their own children. My son was telling me that one night when they had gotten home late, after being out all day, they were tired, and decided to put the kids to bed without praying the Rosary. Their oldest boy, who was 6 years old said, “Daddy! We haven’t prayed the Rosary yet!” So, of course, they prayed their Rosary together! Again, God often teaches us through the words and actions of our children.

So, make the Rosary a daily practice — make it for our families as important a part of the day as eating and sleeping, because it is that important! Pope Pius XI said, “If you desire peace in your hearts, in your homes and in your country, assemble each evening to recite the Rosary. Let not even one day pass without saying it, no matter how burdened you may be with many cares and labors.” I can honestly attest to this — no matter what the difficulty, burden, fear, worry (believe me, with 7 children there are many worries!), whatever it is that we are going through, we can offer our evening Rosary and Our Lady always takes our troubles into her own hands. There is just no substitute for this practice of praying the Rosary with our children — as a family — as a family prayer!

The second thing: — and this too is so important:

UNITY! — in the home and in our Faith.

Children absolutely need to see their parents united in their decisions. (I say this from experience — it is something that I have to work on constantly!). When children see their parents arguing, they usually will not take us seriously knowing that we disagree. If there are disagreements, they must be discussed privately, coming to an agreement before sharing our decisions with our children. Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once said, “If it be true that the world has lost its respect for authority, it is only because it lost it first in the home.”

I am always amazed that God entrusts the salvation of our children to us! Imagine! He creates a soul, and entrusts that soul to us as parents — what a responsibility we have for the salvation of our children’s souls! But God, in His infinite goodness, has made this possible by having everything we need available for our asking. By invoking the Holy Spirit, we have access to all His gifts: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety and Fear of the Lord. These are the gifts received at our Confirmation. We forget about these! These are all the “tools” that we need to help us in our parenting!

Therefore, we must be united in our homes, but also UNITED IN OUR FAITH! These are very confusing times that we are living in. I admit that I do not often understand all that is going on, even in our churches. There are so many disturbing things being reported by the media on a daily basis. We are left looking for answers: we read blogs and look up different Catholic authors to see what they think. We discuss these things among ourselves, with people we feel that we can trust, and yet, we still find ourselves very confused. We are even upset by some reports supposedly coming from Rome… We ask ourselves, “How are we to raise our children to become strong Catholics, committed to their faith, amidst so much confusion and disorder?”

There is only one answer:

LEARN OUR CHURCH’S TEACHING — STUDY THE MAGISTERIAL TEACHINGS OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH TO KNOW OUR FAITH (THIS IS SO IMPORTANT!) — THEN TEACH YOUR CHILDREN THE TRUTHS OF THE FAITH — AND TEACH YOUR CHILDREN TO LOVE THE CHURCH AND TO ALWAYS RESPECT THE TEACHING AUTHORITY OF THE CHURCH.

Christ promised in His own Words: “I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” This still stands true today — Our Lord does not lie. And He said again in His own words: “The gates of hell shall not prevail against [My Church].”

Of course we have heard all this before, but ponder on this one fact: Christ is the One leading His Church — CHRIST! — He promised!

When Jesus was still on this earth his disciples abandoned him, except St. John. All the others ran away and hid. St. Peter even denied three times ever having even known Him at a time when Jesus most needed his support and friendship. But through it all, JESUS HAS LED HIS CHURCH THROUGH TO THE PRESENT DAY. Teach your children this truth: CHRIST WILL NEVER ABANDON US, HE WILL NEVER LEAVE US ORPHANED.

LOVE THE CHURCH — love the Church as we love Christ. That is how I’ve always understood it ever since I was a child. Christ instituted His Church to remain with us. He remains with us through His Church. Look to Him. Keep your eyes focused on Him during all the tempests that seem to be rocking the Church on its very foundation. He will guide us through it all. —TEACH YOUR CHILDREN TO LOVE THE CHURCH.

Pope Benedict XVI said, “The New Evangelization in the Church depends largely on the domestic church... Just as the disappearance of God from man’s sense of life, often referred to as the ‘eclipse of God’, and the crisis of the family, are linked so the New Evangelization is inseparable from the Christian family”.

As Catholics we must all work towards this goal: to re-evangelize society, through the restoration of the domestic church, one family at a time. This will happen through the holiness lived in our own lives, in unity with our families and with our Church.

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