Being The Domestic Church

Eleanor Lalley provides encouragement for families and ideas for opening the Bible with your children in the home.

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By Eleanor Lalley

The Church teaches us that parents are the first and best teachers of their children. Faith begins in the home and grows in the home. This is the church in the home – or the ‘domestic church’. The home is a holy place and a perfect environment to explore Sacred Scripture. There is an image one sometimes sees of an entire family gathered around listening to the Bible being read. Sometimes the family is around a dining table, or just sitting comfortably together, or even outdoors. Often it is the father or mother who is holding the Bible and reading from it. This is not usually a picture of Catholic life but rather an illustration of how other Christians revere Scripture in the home. The Year of The God Who Speaks gives Catholic families an opportunity to explore how much more the Bible can be a part of our Catholic family life.

But where to start? For families with children a good place to start might be to locate a children’s Bible. Maybe you already keep your Bibles or other religious literature in one place in your home. If not, then perhaps your child was given a Bible at their Baptism, First Holy Communion or Confirmation. Perhaps you yourself have a Bible or New Testament on a bookshelf. This is the time to find those books and open them. If you do not have a Bible in your home you may consider purchasing one or reading from the many online Bible resources you can access free such as the Bible Gateway website. A parent or grandparent reading Scripture is a powerful model for children.

If you have a children’s Bible think about how and when you might read from it with your children. Bedtime is often a good time to sit together and read. Stories from the Old Testament with their larger than life drama are endlessly fascinating to toddlers and school aged children. Consider the timeless appeal of Noah’s Ark (Genesis 6:5-8:22) and Jonah and the whale (the Book of Jonah) which are familiar to most people, including non-Christians. New Testament stories such as the birth of Jesus, the Last Supper and parables such as the Prodigal Son are also engaging to children. Stories of Jesus’ birth and childhood as well as the Last Supper and Resurrection stories link with the liturgical year. Children look forward to celebrating the feasts of Christmas and Easter and revisiting these stories yearly. Parables that Jesus told include profound teaching within the context of story. Just as the parables gripped the people of Jesus’ time, they are easily imagined by adults and children today. Every family can explore the themes of forgiveness and love in the Prodigal Son in the words of the forgiving father, ‘…But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.’ (Luke 15:32). YouTube is a wonderful resource with free animated Scripture story videos for children and versions of stories appropriate for different age groups. For example, Veggie Tales presents Bible stories told by animated vegetables (with silly songs added in) – just type ‘Veggie Tales’ into the YouTube search feature. Catholic resources on YouTube include animated videos for toddlers and older children. There are Bible resources for children of all ages on YouTube. Some are Catholic and some are not but have excellent content. Bible Society has a playlist of children’s videos on YouTube.  Search words such as ‘Catholic, children, Bible’ on YouTube to find videos suitable for your children’s age and understanding. As a parent you may also enjoy watching some of these videos with your children.

Graphic Bibles that tell Bible stories in comic strip form can be an excellent family resource – the Lego Bible and Minecrafters Bible both have a variety of Bible story books full of action and are appropriate for new readers. What matters most is that you spend time with your child sharing the Word of God. From Bible stories come forth other questions about God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit to discuss with your children. Readings from the Mass from Children’s Liturgy of the Word can be shared by the whole family. CaFOD and ‘Pray through Play’ from the Archdiocese of Liverpool have online resources for families to engage with Scripture. In the end it doesn’t matter which Bible story you choose, or which children’s Bible you read from. In fact you can simply tell a Bible story you know well in your own words.  And there is always a Scripture quote for harmony and peace in family life to inspire you every day such as 1 Corinthians 13:13 ‘In short, there are three things that last: faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.’

When St Augustine was thinking about becoming Christian after many years of putting off this decision, he heard a child singing ‘take and read’. St Augustine did just that – he took and read the Bible – and his life was changed. It is really that simple. All you have to do is take and read the Bible to hear how God has spoken to his people throughout history and how God is speaking to you and your family today.

‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength. Let these words I urge on you today be written on your heart. You shall repeat them to your children and say them over to them whether at rest in your house or walking around, at your lying down or at your rising.’ Deuteronomy 6:4-7

[All Bible quotes from the Jerusalem Bible]

Eleanor Lalley is a Pastoral Associate in the Archdiocese of Liverpool who works in a parish in Ainsdale, Southport. She has seen first-hand in the parish and beyond the spiritual benefits of Catholics engaging with Scripture and contributes to the Liverpool Archdiocesan website.