TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: The Family Church

I finished last week’s message with the thought that family could be described as the ‘meeting at the same table’. While at Mass over the weekend, I was really conscious of the altar, especially after Holy Communion when the ‘table/altar’ was cleared.

Here we were gathered around the table of the Lord as one family. This was a powerful image for me however as I looked out into the congregation (I sing in the choir so can see most of those gathered) I became conscious that I do not know these people and similarly they do not know me, and yet we are called to be family. I wonder what I can do about this. I have been going to this Mass, at the Cathedral, for about eight years and, while I am an active participant in the liturgy, I do not know the family that gathers.

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Last week, I also referred to the following from the 2014 Bishop’s Synod document on the family - several times there is reference made to the Gospel of the Family. undefinedIn the introduction to Part II, it says: “The Gospel of the Family, faithfully preserved by the Church from the time of Christ’s Revelation, both written and transmitted through the ages, needs to be proclaimed in today’s world with renewed joy and hope, continuing all-the-while to look at Jesus Christ.” This explores the vocation of marriage as witnessing the mystery of love which Jesus revealed. I wonder if we really live this great mystery of love in our families. And this week I am asking the question about the Gospel of the Family/Church Gathered. Do we even know how to live this in our present day context? Some remember the way it was and wish it were so while others remember and wonder what might be.

One of the joys of being home for me, especially during the slower month of January, is to explore our CD collection and choose some music to fill the house. I came across a set of CD’s with the title “The Great Voices of the Century”. Most of the songs are very old and were played in my home when I was growing up. A lot of them have been copied from 78rpm records. One of the songs was “Bless this House” and it was this one that called me to consider what Pope Francis is asking of us in responding to the Synod document. So I now share these words with you to contemplate:

"Bless This House"

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Bless this house, O Lord we pray,
Make it safe by night and day
Bless these walls so firm and stout,
Keeping want and trouble out
Bless the roof and chimneys tall,
Let thy peace lie overall
Bless this door that it may prove,
Ever open,
To joy and love

Bless these windows shining bright,
Letting in God's Heavenly light,
Bless the hearth, the painting there,
With smoke ascending like a prayer!
Bless the folk who dwell within,
Keep them pure and free from sin
Bless us all that we may be,
Fit O Lord to dwell with thee
Bless us all that one day we may dwell,
O Lord! With Thee!

I wonder how many of you have experienced this prayer in the home in which you grew up or indeed the home that you created or are creating or continue to create – the family church. I find this to be a very powerful prayer and because I grew up in a house of singing voices, I can hear it sung.

The family church, and then the church gathered, are meant to be a reflection of our heavenly home. Paul, writing to the Corinthians in the second reading (first letter 9:16-19) reminds us that it is our duty to preach the Gospel; it is a responsibility which has been put into our hands. He says; “in my preaching, to be able to offer the Good News free, and not insist on the rights which the gospel gives me.” In all situations we are required to preach the Gospel.

And so as the pace of life has now lifted with work, children back to school and parish life returning to ‘normal’ I encourage you to ponder the relationships you experience in the many aspects of your life. I especially ask you to imagine what the spirit is calling us to in our local parish communities.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is the Vice Chancellor Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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