What is a Catholic family?

FJ June

At the end of June, the Catholic Church will celebrate the 10th World Meeting of Families. Catholic families from across the globe will gather in Rome to pray, share and learn. The hope is that at the same time, in every diocese[1] in the world, similar gatherings will occur. This is a huge undertaking, and it reflects the significant value Catholics place on family life.

However, I’m not sure what comes to your mind when I say “Catholic family”. My sense is that there are some stereotypical images of what a Catholic family looks like, especially as portrayed by popular culture. Let me give you an example: mum and dad, lots of kids, a “people-mover” vehicle in the driveway, holy pictures adorning the family home, Mass on Sundays and living “neat and tidy” lives. I actually know, and love, some Catholic families just like this. But I think we can get ourselves into dangerous territory if we hold such a narrow view of what a Catholic family looks like.

Catholic families are as diverse, and yet unique, as any other family. At the Good Friday Stations of the Cross service held at the Colosseum in Rome this year, a variety of Catholic families were invited to lead the prayers. These families reflected diverse cultures and languages, structures and challenges faced by many in today’s world. Included were families caring for children living with a disability, parents whose children have died and those who have been unable to have children. There were those in which a spouse had died, those caring for orphans, as well as migrant and refugee families. As the saying about Catholics goes: “Here comes everybody.”[2]

But what makes these families “Catholic”? I believe there will be a common desire within these families to live out Jesus’ message of loving God and loving each other and they will be doing their best to do this within the context of the teachings of the Church. These families are our “domestic church”. What they live out in their families, the Catholic Church attempts to live out in the world. Sometimes this will be done imperfectly, and at other times brilliantly!

As you read this article, we invite you to think about your own family. Maybe you could bring each family member to mind and, if you feel comfortable about praying, offer a small prayer for each one of them. You could give thanks to God for what each member brings to the life of your family and/or pray for anything they may need help with. If you are struggling to get along with a family member, ask God how you might heal that relationship. If you’re not a Catholic, you can still bring to God your loved ones – and even those you struggle to love – in prayer.

May I leave you with a prayerful thought for families from Pope Francis:

“I thank God that many families, which are far from considering themselves perfect, live in love, fulfil their calling and keep moving forward, even if they fall many times along the way. Our reflections show us that there is no stereotype of the ideal family, but rather a challenging mosaic made up of many different realities, with all their joys, hopes and problems.”

The Joy of Love, #57[3]


[1] A diocese (or archdiocese) is a geographical area made up of small communities called parishes.

[2] Attributed to the author James Joyce.

[3] Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), promulgated March 19, 2016. Quote has minor adaptation.

Further Reading

World Meeting of Families: https://romefamily2022.com/en/wmof/

Meditations on families—Way of the Cross, Good Friday, April 15, 2022: https://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/2022/documents/ns_lit_doc_20220415_via-crucis-meditazioni_en.html

Prayer: https://romefamily2022.com/en/preghiera/


Words: Sharon Brewer

Back to top