Michelle Neitzke

Welcome Home: Your Family, The Catholic Church

When we were little, my mom used to skip down the aisles and sing in the grocery store.

My reaction?

“Um, who is that lady and why is she skipping in the aisles? We are definitely not related!”

Real talk. Families are quirky. Everyone has that weird uncle, right? (You know the one that wears tube socks with sandals and cracks terrible jokes?)

Ok fine, maybe you don’t have a weird uncle, but you definitely have a friend who does.

The Catholic Church teaches that the family is the “domestic church.” What does this mean? It’s just a fancy way of saying that human families mirror a family that is bigger than them. Families should be a place of life, love, community as well as a place to grow in holiness.

Families are a little interesting, maybe a little crazy, a lot of fun, and hopefully full of love. Growing up, I moved a lot. One thing I learned about moving every three years was that home wasn’t about a place. Home was where my family was. Even though my family is a little quirky, I know my I grew up in a family full of life, love and community. But I also know something else, my family is nowhere near perfect and neither am I.

While we know the ideal of how families should function (as the “domestic church”), we also know the reality that human families fail. Parents fail sometimes as their role as parents, and brothers and sisters hurt us. No family is perfect or excused from human weakness.

We come from all types of families, loud, crazy, large, small, broken. Maybe you don’t feel like you have much of a family at home, maybe you feel like your family doesn’t understand you, or maybe you are the only practicing their faith at home.

The Catholic Church is also a family; in fact the Catholic Church is one big family. We are all adopted sons and daughters of God, we all have the same God as Father (Galatians 4:6-7). Which means we are all brothers and sisters in Christ!

When I was in college, I had the amazing opportunity to study abroad. Part of my trip included a visit to Rome where I was able to gather with thousands of other Catholics in Saint Peter’s Square outside of the Vatican to pray with Pope Benedict XVI. I don’t think I have ever had a more profound experience of understanding how as Catholics we really are one big family.

Upon seeing and praying with our spiritual Father at the time, Pope Benedict, I was drawn to tears of joy. I was with thousands of Catholics, we all spoke different languages, but we all prayed through the same Holy Spirit. I looked at the woman next to me, she spoke Spanish and I spoke English, we couldn’t communicate but we were both crying with tears of joy. And then, what I knew about the Catholic Church as family became a reality. We just looked at each other through our tears, and knew we were sisters in Christ.

This is one of the many beauties of being Catholics. Our home is in the Catholic Church. As I mentioned, sometimes our human families fail. Members of the Catholic Church aren’t perfect either, but through grace and the sacraments we strive to be best we can be here on earth.

Here are a few things to remember as we think both about our own families and our family in the Church.

  • Even though our families can be challenging ( and maybe even a little embarrassing!) these are the people God has given us to love and help lead to heaven. We are called to to do our best to love and be an example of Christ to those in our families!
  • You really are part of one big family. The Catholic Church is universal, it stretches across the entire world! You have brothers and sisters in Christ everywhere!
  • You always have a home in the Catholic Church. Whether or not you feel at home in your earthly homes, the Church is always there to embrace you with open arms.
  • Get to know your parish! Community is essential for feeling at home. Join a Bible study, get to know the teens in youth group, other families at your parish, and even the elderly!
  • Most importantly, grow in your relationship with God. Pray to know God more as Father and Mary as your Mother. Get to know the saints in heaven, they are part of our family too!

Brothers and sisters in Christ, I am praying for you!

Michelle Neitzke

About the Author

I am originally from the south but somehow found my way up to the northern tundra (aka Saint Paul, Minnesota) where I live and also work for an amazing parish in the Archdiocese. I love good humor, fall weather, black olives, tea, studying theology, bodies of water, Chick-fil-a, bookstores, and great company. I love sharing my faith with others and I consider it an honor that I am able to participate in the Church’s mission of making the name of Jesus Christ known and loved. Follow me on Twitter @MichelleNeitzke