Taryn, Ryan and I have quoted many times paragraph 1653 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
The fruitfulness of conjugal love extends to the fruits of the moral, spiritual, and supernatural life that parents hand on to their children by education. Parents are the principal and first educators of their children. In this sense the fundamental task of marriage and family is to be at the service of life.
This passage also relates to the image of the family as the first church, the “domestic church” of our childhood. As Saint Pope John Paul II said in his December 30, 2001 Angelus address:
For every believer, and especially for Christian families, the humble dwelling place in Nazareth is an authentic school of the Gospel. Here we admire, put into practice, the divine plan to make the family an intimate community of life and love; here we learn that every Christian family is called to be a small “domestic church” that must shine with the Gospel virtues. Recollection and prayer, mutual understanding and respect, personal discipline and community asceticism and a spirit of sacrifice, work and solidarity are typical features that make the family of Nazareth a model for every home.
Right now I’m completing a 30-day meditation called The School of Nazareth: a Spiritual Journey with Saint Joseph. My wife got it for me for Father’s Day, and it’s excellent. In short daily reflections, the author guides men through what it means to be a husband and father by focusing in on the three members of the Holy Family. He calls their home the “school of Nazareth,” the place where for thirty years Mary, Joseph, and Jesus lived a hidden life. So critical was this silent period in our Lord’s life that the Byzantines and later the armies of the Crusades built two churches over where they believed the Holy Family lived. They named this place of veneration The Church of the Nutrition, because it is where Jesus was nourished in his childhood.
Not being the strong, silent type, I’ve always had a difficult time getting close to St. Joseph. But now that I’m mid-way through this retreat, I’m beginning to understand more about him and why I need to ask for his prayers. Whether he truly taught the Lord of the Universe anything is up for debate, but I am starting to contemplate how he understood better than almost anyone how precious the child he was safeguarding was. Over the past few weeks, I am asking myself, “Do I treat my children as that precious? Do they know how much they are loved by both me and the God who made them?” And this thought is helping me see my children with new eyes. Saint Joseph, pray for us!