One Friday night my husband and I fed the kids, put them in their cozy pj’s and wished the babysitter good luck as we rushed out of the house in blissful freedom.
We had been eagerly awaiting this date night. Instead of going to a restaurant and overpaying for our meal, we were getting together with four other couples and our priest. To make things extra exciting, Fr. John Peter would be cooking for us that night.
As we walked into the rectory, we saw the table Fr. John had set for us and it tugged at our heart strings. The plates and silverware were formally placed along with the cloth napkins. Over on the kitchen counter was the fruit Father had pick and washed for us along with the bourbon gouda he had placed on a cutting board. My eyes felt the burn and my love for the priesthood grew and stung at the same time. It was like those moments that you see your children so happy it gives you an unexplainable sting. Fr. John looked so joyful in creating this meal for us and having us in his home.
Before dinner, we grabbed our Bibles and rosaries, moved to the living room and began our time together.
It was an incredibly sweet, heartwarming night of sharing our hearts, our love and desire for God along with some accountability and faith formation.
The Domestic Church Lay Movement
The consensus seems to be that anything out of Poland has been anointed.
When you have great Saints like JP2, St. Faustina and St. Maximilian Kolbe praying with deep love for a country, fruitful stuff is bound to happen. The Domestic Church Lay Movement is no doubt one of those Polish fruits.
They have come up with a genius, Holy Spirit given concept of how to run a successful small group.
The movement has been around for 46 years and in Poland there are over 18,000 families involved. It was brought to the U.S. in 2011 and there are now over 450 couples involved.
“Domestic Church is a Catholic lay movement for Sacramentally married couples who want to grow in holiness together with their spouses and their family. It began in Poland with the help of St. John Paul II and is now available in English in a number of dioceses across the U.S.”
Here are the basics:
You might think, well, those are practices all Catholics are called to do.
Very true, but how many couples are actually committed to fully living out their baptismal promises?
How many of us have an accountability group set up to make sure that we are actually living out our faith the best we can? Not many.
Look at the lives of the Saints, most were not on their own. God raises clusters of Saints because of the innate fact - we need each other. We were all put on this earth together to help each other reach Heaven.
Couples in DC do just that, they are committed to helping the others on their journey Home.
My husband and I have been a part of the Parents Group at our church for some years now. We have made great friends and created a community that feels more like a family than just friends from our parish.
While the kids are in religious education on Sunday mornings, the Parents Group gets together for our own formation. This time and these people enriched our faith life immensely and we began to feel a growing call to go deeper into the heart of God.
Around this time our parish priest asked me to find out more about a new lay movement that was spreading throughout our diocese.
I called Alex Schimpf, Director of the Office of Marriage and Family Life Ministry for the Archdiocese of OKC and one half of the couple that brought DC to Oklahoma.
As he was explaining the movement, I knew I wanted my husband and I to be a part of it, along with couples in our Parents Group.
You see, for a few years we had been trying to figure out how to take our Parents Group (one of the most fruitful groups a parish can have, by the way) to the next level with “small groups” so that couples could have more time connecting as well as a safer place to share and grow openly.
Our protestant brothers and sisters have figured out that this is a great way to grow in faith as adults, so I researched within several denominations. Sadly, I never found a solid formula for a small group. They all seemed to fall short of the end goal.
Until, Domestic Church.
Even though the movement does stand alone, it sounded like the perfect next step for any parish based couple group that have a desire to go deeper, together.
And that was us.
We went on the retreat and could feel the Spirit showing us how this was going to change our life.
Our Domestic Church family is one of the greatest gifts God has given us as a couple.
We have friends that are encouraging us to reach for Sainthood and praying for us along the way, doesn't get much better ( or important ) than that. Both my husband and I have friendships that go beyond every day issues and aren't afraid to get into the vulnerable, hard side of living as a Catholic.
And the accountability side of these friendships is huge. I've said it before and I'll say it again and again, we need each other for Heaven.
Another beautiful aspect to DC is the impact it has on the priests that have joined. Not only is the movement feeding us lay folk, priests are finding spiritual strength through relationships with DC couples. And for the couples, it gifts us the opportunity to walk closely with a priest, something that is so rare and special these days.
“The Domestic Church movement has been a refreshing source of encouragement for my own vocation as a priest. Journeying with families committed to growing in holiness is a great reminder for me that God is continually raising up saints. No matter how dark things can seem on occasion, there are Catholic families committed to Jesus Christ and to sanctifying his Church. Through regular prayer, sacrifice, and thoughtful community life Domestic Church families seek to place our Lord at the center of their lives. This for me is a great sign of hope and impels me to strive for greater holiness in my vocation.” Fr. Alex Kroll, Domestic Church priest
So, moral of the story?
If you want to be a Saint, join Domestic Church. Because it could possibly be, as simple as that.
Want to bring DC to your diocese? Find out how here!
Copyright Text and Image Stephanie Stovall 2019
I climbed into the van hesitantly while dreading the weekend ahead.
Oklahoma State University’s parish had put together a “Nun Run” for young women that felt a calling to a religious vocation.
I wouldn’t say I had heard the call, but I was…
I figured I was only fighting God on this so the only fair thing to do was give it a shot.
The weekend was awful.
Judge me all you want, I found out that trip that I do not like praying the Liturgy of the Hours at. all.
It was its own form of torture.
All of the Adoration time was beautiful, but then you’d go back to silence and work.
No, thank you.
I was counting down the hours for my “weekend of hell” (as I referred to it as the bus drove us from convent to convent) to be over.
At our last convent, during one of the Adoration times, I’ll never forget hearing the voice of God.
It wasn’t a loud audible thunder-like voice, but more of a strong thought in my head and heart that I knew wasn’t my own.
“You’re going to be a soccer mom,” are the words I heard.
They completely threw me off because I had been praying for God to open my heart to being a Sister AND then also the whole me not wanting kids thing.
It didn’t make any sense at all, until the peace came.
I knew in my soul that God was not calling me to be a nun.
And I was ecstatic!
I was okay with Him slowly unfolding the rest of that sentence to me in time because I heard the most important thing, my vocation was not in a convent. Hallelujah!
Late into the fall of my senior year at OSU I found myself praying another prayer of clarity.
I met a boy that took me by surprise.
I had already made plans to attend a Catholic missionary school in Australia after graduation and then saving souls while adventuring all over the world. A husband and kids would wait until I hit about 30.
I’ll never forgetting talking to God, “Okay God, you know how much I like him. I feel like I might be falling in love with him, so please, if you don’t want me to be with him stop these feelings and relationship right now. I want what you want. But please be clear.”
The feelings only became stronger and stronger. I couldn’t get this boy out of my head. I kept praying for direction and clarity and John kept filling up more and more of my heart.
As we spoke of marriage and a family three months into our relationship, I had to face the reality that was right in front of me.
Vocation time had arrived.
Did I want the dream of a husband and kids, a cozy home and homemade pies…or the dream of adventure and missions all over the world.
The two dreams played tug of war with me but God had made it so clear and strong in my heart that there wasn’t an actual decision to make.
I couldn’t wait to begin a life with John. I wanted, more than anything, to be his wife and have children one day.
The journey to finding my vocation has shown me the importance of praying for my boys’ vocations.
John and I have prayed for their future possible wives and for their “yes” to God if they are to be called to the priesthood. We pray for our kids to hear God’s call for their lives, no matter where it might take them. We pray that they have a deep love for God and the Eucharist.
There are so many directions this life can take them, I hope our prayers will help them stay on the path that leads them as close to God as possible. I hope our prayers will help lead them to their Sainthood.
Another lesson, that I am still learning and asking God to show me, is about my vocation within my vocation. My spiritual director refers to the two as “your big V and little V.”
Big V= wife/mom, Little V= the other little missions that God has created me for.
A hot topic in mom circles is being “more than a just a mom.”
We all cringe at the “just a mom,” because being a mom is our Big V, our biggest job in this life, besides being a wife.
But, God has given us all kinds of talents and desires of the heart that are between just us and God and meant for the salvation of the world.
The Little V can be a hard thing to discern, many times even harder than the Big V.
I think a lot of times what gets in the way of us with a mom vocation is either mom guilt and just being plain tired.
We’re so busy keeping little humans alive and well, who has time for anything else?!
Every soul is created completely different, so I can only speak for myself, but the times that I let my little humans completely rule my life, I wasn’t at peace. I wasn’t living my abundant life. That totally makes sense, because I was putting aside the other side of who God created me to be.
I see the little vocations as ever evolving. Think, Mother Teresa and her “call within a call.” She didn’t give up on her first calling, she just gave God her yes to expanding on that call. And what came to be was a Saint.
Vocations Awareness week doesn’t solely belong to the young…what’s your little vocation in waiting and is it time for the world to be graced by your own “call within a call”?
Copyright Stephanie Stovall 2019