Strengthening the ‘domestic church’ in the Year of the Family: Celebrating the Easter season

   With the publication of his pastoral letter, “Enriching the Church: The Role of the Family in the Life of the Church of Syracuse and Beyond,” Bishop Robert J. Cunningham announced a special Year of the Family, which began in the diocese on Dec. 3, 2017.

   In his letter, Bishop Cunningham reflects on the mission of the modern family — evangelization — and how it can be accomplished by forming an “ecclesia domestica,” a “domestic church,” through prayer and worship, formation, community, and service. Throughout the Year of the Family, the Diocese of Syracuse and its ministries will focus on each of these pillars and provide resources families can use to build their domestic churches.

Most people think of Easter as a single day. It’s never had the commercial appeal of Christmas, and because it always falls on Sunday, most people don’t get an additional day off from work. But for Catholics, Easter isn’t just a day, it’s a whole season. The Easter season stretches all the way to the feast of Pentecost. Lent, which sometimes feels like it’s stretching on forever, is actually 40 days long. Easter, on the other hand, is all of 50 days long. About these 50 days theologian Nathan Mitchell writes:

   “The great fifty days of Pentecost are not an unwelcome, unrealistic obligation to ‘party on,’ even if we don’t feel like it, but an invitation to explore more deeply ‘the weather of the heart,’ to awaken our memory of God’s presence and power in our lives, to look more closely at all the rich and varied textures of creation.”

   One way the church pursues this goal of seeing God present in the world is through the reading of the Acts of the Apostles. At Masses all through the Easter season, our usual practice of reading from the Old Testament is replaced be reading from the Acts of the Apostles. These readings tell the story of the church’s earliest days, and the beginnings of our faith’s spreading throughout the ancient world. These stories of heroism, controversies, persecutions and miracles all testify to the continued presence of the Risen Christ in the world, through the lives of his disciples, and the actions of the Holy Spirit.

   All of this should be an encouragement and a sign of hope for us today. Despite war, violence, personal struggles, and an under-performing economy, God has not abandoned us, nor left us to our own devices. The risen savior is still with us. These 50 days of Easter ask us to reflect on his presence, and — even in the face of danger or fear — to live with joy.

   How can you and your family mark the 50 days of Easter this year? Here are some suggestions:

   • Consider reading Acts of the Apostles or some of the New Testament letters as a family during this liturgical season.

   • The Easter season is a time of celebration! The Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary are particularly fitting for this time. Pray a decade as a family each weeknight.

   • Divine Mercy Sunday is celebrated the Sunday after Easter. To prepare for the celebration, consider praying the Divine Mercy novena that Christ revealed to St. Faustina. Starting on Good Friday, the novena spans from Good Friday through Saturday of the Octave of Easter. The novena can be found at EWTN’s website (etwn.com).

   The text of this article originally appeared on ForYourMarriage.org (an initiative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops) under the title “Why Do We Celebrate Easter for 50 Days?” It is reprinted here with permission.


The Huynh family: Michael, Thi, Christy, and Tyler.

Share our Lent: The Huynh Family

   Editor’s note: During this Year of the Family, the Catholic Sun and the Diocese of Syracuse invited families to offer reflections on how they observe Lent in their “domestic churches.” The series concludes this week with the Huynh family.

   Michael and Christy Huynh are the proud parents of daughter Thi, 11, and son Tyler, 9. Thi and Tyler attend Trinity Catholic School in Oswego. As a family they minister to and are a part of the Hall Newman Center community at SUNY Oswego. Michael is the Associate Director of Campus Ministry for the Syracuse Diocese and Director of the Hall Newman Center and Christy is the Associate Director of Career Services at SUNY Oswego.

As two working parents, we always say, “Let’s not pretend to be anything that we are not!” Most of the time we are running around, coordinating who’s picking up who, and trying to carve out time to eat as a family. Lent offers us the opportunity to refocus our lives in the midst of the chaos and focus on what is most important: how we as a family connect to and celebrate our faith. We always try to focus on prayer, community, and service.

   Prayer: One thing we strive to do is have a gratitude mindset. At least once a day we take time for a prayer of gratitude, each sharing what we are grateful for. We are inspired by the words of Meister Eckhart, “If the only prayer we ever say in our lives is ‘thank you’ that will be enough.” We hold one another’s hands and take a moment in a circle of gratitude to share what we are grateful for.

   Community: We believe it is important to build community within our family as a foundation for building community beyond our family. One practice we have implemented to ensure we are supporting and listening to one another is called “high and low of the day.” Everyone shares one “high” point from their day and one “low” point from their day. This practice gives us the opportunity to really listen to each other and be present to one another. One of the essential aspects of this practice is that we are intentional about asking about both the highs and lows. We nudge each other to share about both sides of the day — the pleasant and the unpleasant.

   There is often a sense that we have failed if we are not constantly cheerful and experiencing “good” or pleasant feelings. This is unrealistic, and more importantly, unhealthy. Our human experience includes both the highs and lows of life and we can’t truly experience the full extent of one without the other. The Lenten journey seems to be the perfect time to embrace the full range of human experience, as modeled by Jesus and the way he embraced suffering and sacrifice.

   Service: In addition to the normal fasting practices in which we fast from something that gets in the way of our relationship with God, we also take something on that will grow our relationship with God. For instance, a few of our family members have taken on the practice of writing notes to let others know that they are special and loved.

   As we enter Holy Week and our family prepares for Easter Sunday with our faith community, we look forward to celebrating with all the college students who cannot make it home to celebrate with their own families. We hope that they can recognize that they have a spiritual family away from home. In this Year of the Family, we hope our family’s ministry at the Hall Newman Center will model the importance of family life grounded in prayer, community, and service.