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Christ, bless this house: Praying as a family for the Feast of the Epiphany

In the Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (the Joy of Love), Pope Francis reminds us that “a family’s living space could turn into a domestic church, a setting for the Eucharist, the presence of Christ seated at its table.” The Holy Father goes on to remind us of the Lord’s promise: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me (Rev. 3:20). As we open our calendars to another year, we turn toward the Lord in thanksgiving for our many blessings and ask for God’s grace to be upon our families and our homes … our little domestic churches.
One beautiful way to consecrate our homes to the Lord is pray together the traditional house blessing ceremony on Epiphany (Jan. 6) while “chalking the door” with the numerals of the coming year separated by the letters C, M, and B. The letters, which are for the Latin Christus Mansionem Benedicat (Christ bless this house) also represent the first initials of the wise men: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. The + signs represent the cross. This year, the blessing would be: 20+C+M+B+18.
This ancient blessing is an invitation for the Lord who is knocking at our doors, to be a guest in our home each day while we ask God to bless our comings and goings, our conversations, our work and play, as well as our joys and sorrows.
The tradition of marking the doorway of a home is rooted in the Old Testament. God commands the Israelites, “Hear O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength.  Take to heart these words which I command you today … write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:4-6, 9).  
As we seek to offer our whole hearts to the Lord this year, let God’s blessing be upon us that we may be nourished and strengthened within our homes. Then, just as the wise men poured out their gifts before the Lord on his humble manger bed, may the love and faith of our families be poured out to the world around us, in desperate need of the Savior’s love. 
Join a Vermont family asking the Lord’s blessing on their home in the first of a monthly video series to celebrate the Diocesan Year of the Family at vermontcatholic.org/vcm. Then, download the accompanying activity sheet to pray the Epiphany Home Blessing with your family!
Ann Gonyaw, her husband and three children are members of Mater Dei Parish in Newport, where Ann serves as the Director of Catholic Formation.

This article was first published in the January 6-12 issue of The Inland See bulletin.

Loving families bring joy, mercy to world, says pope

Pope Francis urges families to discover God's love and be generous, forgiving, patient, helpful and respectful.

Family life will be better if people use the words "please," "thank you," and "I'm sorry" every day, he said, and the world will be a better place if the church reaches out to the imperfect and the wounded.

The pope's reflection was part of a letter to Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, which is helping plan the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, Aug. 21-26, 2018. The Vatican released the text of the pope's letter March 30.

When asked about the pope's plans to attend the event next year, Cardinal Farrell told reporters at a Vatican news conference, "We hope. I can't say absolutely" since it depends on the pope's schedule, but the pope has expressed his desire to go.

The letter was meant to help Catholic families and parishes around the world prepare for the gathering, which will focus on the theme, "The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World." The pope said he hoped the event would help families reflect on and share his apostolic exhortation, "Amoris Laetitia."

"Does the Gospel continue to be a joy for the world? And also, does the family continue to be good news for today's world?" the pope asked.

The answer is, "yes," he said, because God's love is his "yes" to all of creation and a "'yes' to the union between man and woman, in openness and service to life in all its phases; it is God's 'yes' and his commitment to a humanity that is often wounded, mistreated and dominated by a lack of love."

"Only starting from love can the family manifest, spread and regenerate God's love in the world. Without love, we cannot live as children of God, as couples, parents and brothers," he said.

Making sure family life is "based on love, for love and in love" means "giving oneself, forgiving, not losing patience, anticipating the other, respecting. How much better family life would be if every day we lived according to the words, 'please,' 'thank you,' and 'I'm sorry.'"

Every day, people experience fragility and weakness, Pope Francis said. All families and pastors need humility so they will become better disciples and teachers, better at helping and being helped, and able to accompany and embrace all people of goodwill.

"I dream of an outbound church, not a self-referential one, a church that does not pass by far from man's wounds, a merciful church that proclaims the heart of the revelation of God as love, which is mercy," he said.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin told reporters that the pope's letter shows the clear, central role families have in the pope's great dream of renewal of the church and society.

"The family is called to be a place of encounter with that divine mercy which heals and liberates," he said. The family is where spouses learn to love "not in vague romantic terms but in terms of their everyday realities and difficulties."

"The pope's vision of the mission of the family does not attempt to hide the fact that families experience challenges, weakness, fragility and even breakdown," the archbishop said. "Families need a church which is with them, accompanying them in a process of discernment and integration though helping them to respond with a 'yes' to the divine love."

Happy, loving families should be recognized and be a resource for the renewal of the church and world, he said.

But the church, Archbishop Martin said, also must be "a place where those who have failed can experience not harsh judgment, but the strong embrace of the Lord which can lift them up to begin again to realize their own dream even if only imperfectly."
  • Published in Vatican
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