In the teaching of the Church, there are only three original societies or communities on Earth: the family, the Church, and the state. … According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
“The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love, and in the gift of life (CCC 2207; also in Dignitatis Humanae 5).
Nevertheless, the Church does not stop with recognizing the family as a natural society. The Church also recognizes the Catholic family as a “supernatural society” in a certain sense. The Church calls the family a “domestic Church”:
“The Christian family constitutes a specific revelation and realization of ecclesial communion, and for this reason, it can and should be called a domestic church” (CCC 2204).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives a second reason for the aptness of the family as a domestic church:
“In our time, in a world often alien and even hostile to faith, believing families are of primary importance as centers of living radiant faith. For this reason, the Second Vatican Council calls the family the Ecclesia domestica [the domestic church]” (CCC 1656), italics in the original.
And the Catechism of the Catholic Church continues:
“It is here [in the family, the domestic church] that the father of the family, the mother, children, and all members of the family exercise the priesthood of the baptized in a privileged way “by reception of the sacraments, prayer and thanksgiving, the witness of a holy life, and self-denial and active charity. Thus the home is the first school of Christian life and “a school for human enrichment” (CCC 1657; emphasis in the original).
Each family is also “a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. In the procreation and education of children, it [the family] reflects the Father’s work of creation. It [the family] is called to partake of the prayer and sacrifice of Christ. Daily prayer and reading of the Word of God strengthen it [the family] in charity. The Christian family has an evangelizing and missionary task [which is to be done in the power of the Spirit]” (CCC 2205).
In other words, the family is a sign and image of the supernatural Society of God Himself, the Holy Trinity. Like the Church herself, each Catholic family is in a certain sense, a chosen people of God the Father, a body of Christ, and a temple of the Holy Spirit. No other society or community, except the Church herself, could claim such a status.
This article was taken from pages 8 to 11 of the 54-page pamphlet Responsibilities and Rights of Parents in Religious Education, written by a Canon Lawyer for the Catholic Homeschool Network of America, now available from Seton Educational Media for $2.00.