Sacrament Matters: Grist for the Mill

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Home > Media > News > Sacrament Matters: Grist for the Mill
Sacrament Matters: Grist for the Mill

Dr. Christine Wood, Director of the Office of Evangelisation & Catechesis

Former Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies’ ‘forgotten people’ speech from 1942 is noteworthy for many reasons, none more so than its emphatic statement about the centrality of home and family life:

“I do not believe”, he said, “that the real life of this nation is to be found either in great luxury hotels and the petty gossip of so-called fashionable suburbs, or in the officialdom of the organised masses. It is to be found in the homes of people who are nameless and unadvertised, and who, whatever their individual religious conviction or dogma, see in their children their greatest contribution to the immortality of their race. The home is the foundation of sanity and sobriety; it is the indispensable condition of continuity; its health determines the health of society as a whole.”

Menzies recognised what Catholic tradition has perennially taught: that the family is the basic unit of society, and the Christian family is “the domestic church.” If the Church is the universal sacrament of salvation, as Vatican II calls it, then the family as “domestic church” somehow participates in this sacrament.

This autumn, we are experiencing a new way of living family life. Enforced, protracted close association with kith and kin is revealing new dimensions to each other’s personalities. It provides an opportunity to wear off those ‘rough edges’, so that the beauty of God’s image can shine through.

When we don’t fully appreciate the mysterious gift of the other family member, conflict may arise. This becomes an opportunity for grace through repentance and mutual pardon, within the bosom of the Christian family. How difficult it can be to forgive those closest to us, and yet how essential it is for healthy family life. Indeed, it becomes a participation in the sacrament of reconciliation.

The foundation of Christian family life is sacramental marriage in which husband and wife freely and mutually give themselves completely to one another. This free and total self-gift is often blessed with the gift of children. The fruits of marriage – permanence, fidelity, and children – are sacramental expressions of Christ’s relationship to his Church, which is marked by an unbreakable bond, by faithfulness, spiritual fruits of love, peace and joy, and the birth of more disciples.

Despite our current separation from physical reception of the sacraments, let’s not forget the sacramental dimension of family life, from which we can draw immense spiritual nourishment, which in turn can be grist for the mill for all of society.