What is a Catholic family anyway? Busting common myths


When my family first converted to Catholicism almost seven years ago, I confided in a friend that I wanted my house to *look* Catholic. I wanted a visitor to our home to know just by walking in the door that a Catholic family lived here. I thought that I was talking about buying some crucifixes, pictures of Mary and maybe a holy water font. What I’ve learned is that it’s a whole lot more complicated than that.

It turns out there isn’t one look to a Catholic home, any more than there is one look to a Catholic family. Yet, how do we fight back against the idea that there is a singular ideal when it comes to living life as a Catholic family? I believe we start by busting past some of our stereotypical Catholic ideals and broadening our definition of what a faithful Catholic family might look like.

Myth: Faithful Catholic families must be large.

Truth: Catholic families come in a variety of sizes. I feel like at this point in the game this should be obvious, but it isn’t so we have to start here. That couple without kids? They may be facing infertility, pregnancy loss, be unable to adopt, or any other number of circumstances and be acting perfectly within God’s plan for their family. That couple with a small brood? I won’t even get into all the serious, church-accepted reasons that they have chosen to keep their family small. And yes, people are able to faithfully avoid pregnancy for extended periods of time through church-approved methods. Faithful Catholic families prayerfully discern their family size and the ways in which they may (or may not) grow, knowing that ultimately God is in the driver’s seat here.

Myth: Faithful Catholic families send their kids to (homeschool/Catholic schools).

Truth: Faithful Catholic families send their kids to public schools, charter schools, private school, parochial schools, and homeschools. In fact, we’ve had kids enrolled in four of the five! Just like our first myth, the real sign of a faithful Catholic family is that they are engaged and involved in the holistic education of the child.

Myth: Faithful Catholic families go to daily Mass (Latin Mass, pray the Liturgy of the Hours, etc).

Truth: Some faithful Catholic families have been gifted with a particular schedule and lifestyle (not to mention access) that calls them to participate in these devotions. These are all excellent practices, encouraged by our Church, but if your family doesn’t or can’t participate regularly you are not less of a faithful Catholic family. What all faithful Catholic families have in common is the sharing of a common faith through prayer, talk, service and celebration. That doesn’t look the same for everyone though.

Myth: Faithful Catholic families are crunchy.

Truth: Many faithful Catholic families do choose to breastfeed, make natural childbirth decisions, delay vaccinations, grow their own food, etc. I would argue many of these families likely consider their faith in their reasons for the decisions they make. But they are still individual family choices, which means God can call you (or me) to something different. Mary breastfed Jesus is straight up a bad reason to exclude the family using bottles and formula. Faithful Catholic families are crunchy and salty and sweet. They are wild and wonderful, quiet and loud. They live in big and small houses, drive all sorts of vehicles. Really, there isn’t a standard model!

Why bust the myths?

It’s easier to live our mission. God has a special and unique purpose for each and every individual family.  He has a mission and purpose for you, even if you haven’t figured that out yet! Some families are still discovering their unique charisms, others are more clear. By worrying less about what God has called other families to (aka judging or comparing), we are better able to live the mission we are called to live.

It is easier to build community. When we aren’t worried about someone else’s adherence to artificial rules as to what it means to be a Catholic family, it makes us significantly more inclusive. Inclusive is a bit of a buzzword, but that doesn’t make it a bad word!

Have you ever felt like you don’t fit in because your family doesn’t meet the Catholic ideal? Have you ever skipped out on inviting another family to an event because you felt like they might not be the best example of a Catholic family and worried it might get weird?

I’m guilty of both. Let’s not let it stop us from forming relationships.


2 thoughts on “What is a Catholic family anyway? Busting common myths

  1. K
    Kari says:

    Thank you for pointing this out to women of the community. I feel I get judged a lot for having only one child. Some have openly suggested that I should have more, while others it’s more of a look or a side-comment that hints as much. We have recurrent pregnancy loss. I have 4 babies in heaven along with the one blessing here on earth who I cherish with all my heart. And yet, we keep trying, month after month, in hope that God will see fit to give us more children. There is nothing that my husband and I want more than to raise a big family. Bearing the loss, sadness, and the disappointment of RPL is hard enough, without feeling like I am being judged unworthy and rejected by the women of my faith, who are supposed to be lovingly supporting me. Pregnancy and infant loss must be considered when we Catholic women look over each other and make their assumptions. Bearing children or not bearing children is not always a choice we as individuals have; sometimes it is entirely in the hands of God.

    1. Y
      Yvonne says:

      Kari, Thanks so much for your post. You are in such good company in both Sarah and Elizabeth, who I’m sure will continue to pray for the souls of all those who presume to unseat our Lord from the judgement throne. We live in such a judgy culture by default, that I often struggle to keep it Christian myself. It took some time, but becoming involved in the Moms’ group and with the greeters in my parish I thankfully met those kind, quiet, humble women who would not even think to question your family dynamics and are just present with their love and support. A model we can all strive for! I hope you find the support you need. Nobody should have to bear this kind of loss alone. Sometimes God has plans for us so very different from what we expected, and the perspective and strength of supportive sisters is so essential as we strive to discover the beauty and blessedness in this personal gift of God to us. Regardless of “choices” (what a terrible tone this word has taken these days), the life of every child, born or unborn, is always entirely in God’s hands, and so is our fruitfulness with the children we rear. And I applaud the article too, for so many reasons. As a mom who decided to allow her son to attend a public high school, I was appalled at my own urge to justify my decision to every person who asked what school he was attending. We made so many sacrifices to send him to Catholic elementary, but I am satisfied with our decision to send him into the world in this way when he is still living under our roof. Rolling eyes notwithstanding, we have enjoyed many teachable moments as he encounters a worldview which is now so very different from the Kingdom we are anticipating. Yes, there are definitely trade-offs, but we can be confident God will refine the ore we offer into finest gold. Soldier on Catholic Moms!

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