I follow a Catholic stay-at-home mom of six on Instagram who, at the beginning of every year, does a “Home Reset” challenge where she invites her followers to join her in “resetting” or cleaning, decluttering, and overall bettering different parts of their homes.
In previous years I didn’t join because I kept telling myself I didn’t have the time (#toddlermom), but this year I felt a nudge that finally pushed me to do it, because why not!
Our toddler is older and I’m pregnant with our second living child, so after finishing it, her challenge only initiated a major rush for nesting and minimalizing our possessions and lifestyle extras–something that’s still going strong four months later and that I don’t see ending, God-willing.
Once I finished that Instagrammer’s week-long Reset sometime in January, I somehow came across (read: YouTube must’ve stalked my browser activity and concluded I’d love) Dawn from The Minimal Mom on YouTube, specifically her video on changing how we think about (our) stuff, in every room of our home, so that we can better declutter.
(It’s quite long, so I don’t blame you if you don’t want to watch it in one fell swoop. But I recommend you at least play it in the background while you do something else or watch it in short bursts.)
As I started watching it while our oldest napped one day, I had the realization that we were (long) overdue for a major overhaul of what we keep in our house, why we keep it, and how we go about acquiring things.
And as the months passed and I got roughly “finished” with every room in our house..
as we reorganized and simplified..
as we threw away junk and donated several SUV-sized piles (as in, several trips with our full SUV with) possessions that’d bring others value..
and as I established new cleaning routines (because cleaning is a joy when you have less to clean and manage!)..
I became more fascinated by other minimalists and whatever other content Dawn would put out, incl. this gem with her twin sister Diana (both of whom grew up Catholic) on their faith journeys:
First, some background on my Catholic upbringing
As a cradle Catholic (i.e., a person who’s “born” Catholic–i.e., someone who was baptized Catholic as a baby), I was fascinated by Dawn and Diana’s experiences, mainly because like many (most?) cradle Catholics, I grew up Catholic “by default” or “in name only.”
What’s worse, as a Catholic in Colombia–like most of my peers–I grew up not really caring much for my religion and not taking it very seriously. We had traditions that I assumed we did just because (not because that’s what God had mandated of us). Weekly Mass attendance wasn’t really required (most families I knew didn’t care much for it) and I didn’t know missing Mass was a mortal sin that required Confession until just a few years ago(!).
Because I attended Catholic school from grades 1st through 12, I also attended the occasional Mass whenever those schools held one. Some even included awful interpretive dancing, but I digress. I was a Eucharistic Minister in high school, so at least that helped me be more involved at Mass, while almost everyone else was half asleep.
In short, I was lukewarm about our Catholicism until a few years ago, but I wish I had had a stronger foundation growing up, which is something we’re thankfully working to instill in our kids.
Given my background, I can identify with the twins’ experiences
Because of a formerly tepid Catholic faith, I could see where these women come from and why they converted to another denomination (one of them even went on to become a pastor but she’s since left that job).
However, I wish someone had been there to properly guide them out of their misconceptions and unexplained traditions so that they could’ve had a better understanding of their Catholicism.
This way, like many others who leave the Church, I think they could’ve better discerned whether another denomination did really fit their needs best.
I mean no disrespect by that.
In fact, I wish to pay the twins a compliment as they’ve really enlightened me and shown me WHAT MORE my husband and I can do to ensure our children grow up with a legit strong foundation that they can take into adulthood.
LESSONS WE CAN LEARN FROM OTHER CHRISTIANS
Not much emphasis on understanding the Bible, reading the Bible for yourself, or praying on your own.
Dawn and Diana discuss that growing up, they didn’t really learn or experience reading the Bible on their own, much less praying on their own.
A reason that might explain why they didn’t do this (much) growing up is because half of the community at their small parish was made up of their own relatives.
Think about it: If you’re surrounded by the same people every weekend, who know and preach the same teachings, then you’re exposed to the same exact things day in and day out.
And if they, for example, require that you say only rote prayers such as the Our Father and Hail Mary every night, then rote prayers become your default way of praying, and you don’t realize that you CAN change the way you pray into something that might suit different situations best!
[He] spoke to God like he was talking to a friend.
Rodney Atkins has a song our family loves, “Watching You,” about the beautiful relationship between a young son and his father. I highlight this verse because it shows the manner in which (contrary to what some people think) many Catholics DO pray: We just talk to God like we’re talking to a friend, and leave the usual rote prayers to other times.
No relationship with Jesus.
Another point the twins brought up was that growing up, they lacked a relationship with Jesus, which I definitely get.
If you grow up being required to say only rote prayers instead of prayers that you can’t free-style, and doing things by default because you must rather than being explained WHY you do what you do, then I can see how someone would lack a relationship with Jesus.
It’s obvious he’d seem distant, irrelevant, unavailable.
However, Catholicism does everything but, and I feel a bit bad for the twins and their family for having such a limited understanding of what it entails to grow up Catholic.
As a local parish explained in one of its online newsletters recently,
For the modern Christian, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is absolutely necessary. However, since the inception of the Church, we are very clearly shown that we are also meant to be in a community, not simply millions or billions of individuals with a personal and private relationship with Christ. We share Christ with one another just as Christ shared himself with us. (Emphasis my own.)
I think other Christian denominations prioritize this personal relationship over a relationship with the community of believers (and may possibly end up making up their own version of Christianity?), but it’s key that WE involve both in our lives, both for our sake and for the sake of other Christians.
The newsletter continues:
The Church has spent much of its history fighting heresies and misunderstandings on who Christ was and is. Why? If the most important thing is for us to have a personal relationship with Christ, why would the Church bother with the drama and the heartbreak that heresy brings? Why not just let people want to believe what they want about Christ? The answer is simple: to be in unity means something. (Emphasis my own.)
Christ is not an esoteric idea or a personal philosophy. He was a real human being… His relationship with the Father was real. His divinity was real. … His Church … he came down to establish, is real. It is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. It is universal. … Our unity and our communal worship is exactly what Christ envisioned when he went up on the cross to simultaneously offer himself and to establish his Church through that sacrifice. …
It’s important that we have a personal relationship with God, as well as a relationship with our fellow Christians.
In Catholicism, the nuclear family is known as the Domestic Church because it is through our families that we “first learn who God is and to prayerfully seek His will for us.” Furthermore, “how you live your faith in your… families… has a ripple effect that changes the world.”
If you’re interested, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops shares several beautiful ideas for building and strengthening your Domestic Church.
Contemporary style of worship 🙅🏻♀️ vs. more contemplative
As I understood it (please correct me if I’m wrong), the twins seemed to have been more attractive to a more modern, sometimes boisterous style of worship accompanied by loud music than the usual contemplative, solemn, quieter style.
Lucky for Catholics who prefer one style over the other, different parishes offer their own unique style that parishioners flock to. I know of one parish with a rock back (whose loud Masses I hated because all those “concerts” were, to me, LOUD and massively irreverent) while one-or two parishes offer masses in Latin. Still, most parishes offer something in between, with Masses including one cantor or full choirs, lay Eucharistic ministers or only ordained men serving as Eucharistic ministers, etc.
You just have to “shop around” and see which parish fits you best!
To think that one tradition or religion could contain every aspect of God and the spirituality that should be expressed today is impossible!
This quote by Diana really struck me because it’s something I also believe. Granted, my experience tells me that the Catholic religion IS the one true Church because it’s the one that Jesus established 2000 years ago when he handed his keys to the apostle Peter.
However, I don’t criticize (most) other faiths and denominations because their members are good people who truly believe they’re on the path to their Heaven.
Choosing a church: Am I with people who are spurring me on? Who are growing?
This is why it’s important for us Catholics to “shop around” for the right parish. And yes, there IS a right parish for you!
No, it’s not just Protestants who look for the right denomination or building to start attending services in. Us Catholics absolutely need to attend Mass and get involved with the community that best edifies us, and who are themselves growing.
At one parish, we see mostly old people; little kids are a rare sight. Unfortunately, its primitive email newsletter and groups reflect the stagnant nature of this community. At another local parish, about one-fourth to one-third of parishioners every weekend are kids and young adults, which is also reflected in its groups, bulletins, campaigns, and even its more modern email newsletters.
This matters a lot! When we’re surrounded by people who are similar to us, and who share our values and beliefs, we know we belong and can grow best. On the other hand, when we’re surrounded by people who are too dissimilar to us, its difficult to grow and feel relevant.
“Church Leaders Don’t Care!”
To bring this post full circle, and with a bit of pessimism you didn’t ask for, I have to include Lino Rulli’s commentary on Catholic higher-ups, a few of whom he’s familiar (friendly?) with.
Lino’s the host of the popular Catholic Guy Show on SiriusXM, and on a recent chat about the Oscars last month, he brought up how Church leaders, just like the people in charge of the Oscars, don’t care (or don’t seem to make an effort to care) about the opinions or desires of regular parishioners:
Catholic leaders do not listen to what the people are saying and they say, “Well this is what WE like.”
[So] you get bad music, or you get bad theology, or you get bad seminaries, or you get bad whatever! And you go, “We’re telling you what to do! We’re telling you what we like! [But] you don’t listen and [instead] go, ‘Well, this is what WE prefer’ And then you don’t understand why less and less people show up.
My goal with this post wasn’t to address Catholic leadership. It’s pretty obvious that they don’t care about parishioners’ takes no matter how much we insist on sharing, and it’s pretty obvious they’ll continue doing what they think has “worked” regardless of how much church attendance has decreased.
It’s sad, but I don’t say that to be disheartening.
What to do?
Instead, with this post I hope to talk to other Catholic parishioners about what WE can do in OUR families AND communities to better them.
For instance, talk to your children about the importance of rote prayers and the importance of spontaneous prayers. Tell them about WHY it’s key to talk to the saints, pray the Rosary, go to Mass, go to Confession, and so on.
Don’t let them grow up in a vacuum: show them how influential their values and their Catholicism are to their lives so that they don’t get as easily swayed by another denomination, or worse, movements and organizations that actively fight what we believe.
In your parish groups, talk about what needs improvement and how you all can take charge; discuss what you can do better or how the parish can more effectively address the needs of a certain population you perceive is underserved.
Those are just basic ideas based on two moms’ “testimonies” that I hope will help get your gears turning.
I’d love to know any other strategies you have for building your Domestic Church and strengthening your family! Share your comment below!