What is Domestic Church
Domestic Churchis the family branch of the Light-Life Movement founded in Poland by Venerable Servant of God, Fr. Franciszek Blachnicki (1921-1987) with the guidance and support of his bishop, Karol Wojtyła (later Pope St. John Paul II).
Domestic Church is a movement for sacramentally married Catholic couples and families who want to grow in mutual love and pursue sanctity together. The Movement helps spouses in building true unity and in creating a truly Christian environment for bringing up children. It provides lifelong formation in personal, marital and family spirituality.
The beginnings of the Domestic Church date back to 1973 when the first oasis for families took place in Krościenko upon Dunajec and when Sister Jadwiga Skudro RSCJ (1914-2009) started to cooperate with Fr. Blachnicki in 1974. She was his assistant in organizing and leading the movement of family communities. She helped to establish many circles, led retreats, translated and elaborated formation materials. Since 1975 she was a member of the editorial staff of the Domestic Church’s magazine called: “Domestic Church. Letter to Family Communities”. In 2007, during the 4th World Congress of Families in Warsaw, she was honored for her long involvement in service to families. After Fr. Blachnicki’s death, she continued to care for the charism of the Domestic Church.
The DC formation program is based on the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the current teaching of the Church; it combines the formation principles of the Light-Life Movement (created by Father F. Blachnicki) and principles of the Teams of Our Lady (brought to Poland from France by Sister Jadwiga Skudro).
The symbol of the Domestic Church is a cross with Greek letters FOS-ZOE (LIFE-LIGHT) springing from two joined wedding rings put in the shape of a house. The DC also uses as its sign the Teams of Our Lady’s Icon of the Holy Family.
The Movement is accepted and supported by Polish Bishops and document “The Domestic Church Principles” has been approved and ratified by the Polish Bishops’ Conference.
The Domestic Church is growing dynamically not only in Poland, but also beyond its borders, reaching even the USA and Canada. There are also DC circles in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Holland, Great Britain, Ireland, Luxemburg, France, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Slovakia, Austria (Wien) and Russia (Moscow). There are 400 circles all together.
Liaison couples from Poland help them remain in unity with the Domestic Church in Poland.
At present, there are 3900 DC circles in Poland and they provide a place of formation for more than 17 500 married couples.
The Path to Holiness
What makes the formation of Domestic Church attractive is that it is not a novel approach to the faith or a new vision of Catholicism limited to a particular spirituality, but simply a way to access the treasures of the Church’s teachings on marriage, family life, prayer, Scripture, the Sacraments, etc. as spouses and parents, specifically utilizing the grace of the Sacrament of Matrimony to do so.
The levels of formation within Domestic Church:
The best way to start formation in Domestic Church is to attend an Evangelization Retreat in order to experience the Good News in a deeper way, to have a personal meeting with Jesus and to invite Him to become the Lord and the Savior of your life. Afterwards, the couple may join a circle composed of a few couples and a priest.
Then, the period of pilotage takes place. It introduces the elements of marital spirituality and the methodology of the circle and the whole Movement. The aim of the pilotage period is to show the married couples the beauty of the vocation to holiness in marriage and to show them how to realize it in unity with your spouse. This period lasts for about nine months and a couple takes this time to decide if they will commit to continued formation.
Next, the basic path of formation begins. It is based on the following handbooks: “Domestic Church: The first year of formation” and “Domestic Church: The second year of formation” (part A and B). The former one deals with particular commitments while the latter one deepens marital spirituality. Then, the permanent formation begins.
After the above-mentioned two years or so, the couple becomes a fully functioning member of Domestic Church. The formation builds toward giving back to the parish what the Holy Spirit has grown in each couple during those first few years. This process follows the Church’s vision of Catechesis for adults.
The circle meeting
The circles of families meet once a month and they work on an annual basis. Each meeting includes sharing life experiences during a symbolic meal, prayer and Bible study as well as formation. Meetings take place from September to June and at some point during the year, usually during vacation time, families take part in a retreat.
Taking part in various kinds of retreats is an important part of formation in the circles of Domestic Church. The retreat may be a 15-day retreat of the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd level (oasis for families), a short, three-day retreat for the animators of the circles (1st and 2nd level of ORAR), an evangelization retreat, or a retreat devoted to a particular theme.
The main method of the movement, which is at the same time a help for the circles, is the 15-day retreat called the New Life Oasis. This retreat is based on experience. It is meant to be a sort of family holiday with the main goal of experiencing the mystery of Church in a fraternal community.
The 1st level of oasis retreat is of evangelization-catechumenal character;the issues connected with marital spirituality are also discussed.
The 2nd level of oasis retreat deals with the biblical basis of liturgical initiation; the ways of celebrating liturgical periods as families are presented.
The 3rd level focuses on the Church as a community.
The 1st level of ORAR underlines the essence, aim, spirituality, and methodology of the Domestic Church as the family branch within the Light-Life Movement.
The 2nd level of ORAR prepares the married couples for undertaking the service of animators. It focuses on the importance and responsibility of the tasks of animator couples.
The means – commitments
The following elements of formation – called commitments or promises, taken from the Teams of Our Lady Movement, are to build the community within marriage and family:
- daily personal prayer (the Tent of Meeting)
- regular study of Scripture
- daily couple prayer
- daily family prayer
- monthly couple dialogue
- rule of life (systematic work on yourself, your marriage and family)
- participation, at least once a year, in a formation retreat.
The beauty of SEVEN PROMISES or COMMITMENTS is that they are not specific prayers that a member commits to pray as individual, as a couple, or with their family, but the movement provides formation, using the Church’s spiritual tradition and official teachings, in how to pray, how to use Scripture in prayer, and how to grow in a real relationship with God, our spouses, and our children.
By practicing the seven COMMITMENTS, husband and wife get closer to one another and individually to God and within their families, and they make progress on the way of conjugal spirituality.
The aim of the PROMISES is to enrich internal life, to deepen conjugal love, and to create a truly Christian atmosphere in our families.
Acceptation and implementation of the seven PROMISES helps us develop sensitivity and perseverance in order to open our hearts to receive God’s love and recognize His will for us as a couple and for our family. Openness to the work of the Holy Spirit helps us transform our lives as individual persons and as a married couple.
Conscientious practice of all of them becomes the beginning of a deep Christian conversion in truth and unity. Faithfulness to the PROMISES enables us to experience a consistent renewal and deepening of our relationship with God, spouse, family and our neighbors.
Sharing the implementation of the PROMISES shows specific efforts of the married couples for the sake of the development of their spiritual life. The aim of this sharing is reciprocal brotherly help in the journey of transforming our lives. We always share our experiences in the spirit of love, we listen with patience and open hearts, we try to understand and support one another.
A detailed monthly deep reflection on our efforts helps us realize whether there is progress or regress in our spiritual life. It is important to look together for the source of difficulties and the ways to overcome them.
Sharing the PROMISES often results in the decision to give a clearly-defined help or at least support one of the couples with prayer and also encourages to undertake a specific effort
Venerable Servant of God, Fr. Franciszek Blachnicki (1921–1987) is the founder and the first national moderator of the Light-Life Movement
Light-Life Movement gathers people of various ages and vocations: children, teenagers, adults, families, priests, nuns, monks and members of secular institutes with the aim of forming mature Christians.
Fr. Blachnicki studied pastoral theology at the Catholic University of Lublin (KUL). He published many works in the fields of pastoral theology, liturgics and catechesis and was appointed as the National Clergyman for Liturgical Servers.
He based the Light-Life Movement on the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and found approval of the bishops. He instilled in his followers a vision of a parish as a living community of communities and a conviction that the renewal of the Church begins in a parish.
The sign of the Light-Life Movement is an early Christian symbol phos-zoe (Greek words light and life joined with the letter omega and forming a cross). This symbol illustrates the most fundamental principle of Christian life – the unity of faith and life.
The formation program is divided into three steps. The first one – evangelization – leads to the reception of Jesus Christ as one’s Lord and Savior, a conscious decision to follow Him and to live according to His law. The second stage is called deuterocatechumenate and corresponds to the early Christian catechumenate, a period of preparation to baptism. The thirds stage of formation, described by the Greek word diakonia, is the selection of a specific service and apostolate.
The structure of the Movement is compatible with the structure of the Church. Small groups of the members of the Movement usually form a community in a parish.
Priests belonging to the Movement serve as its moderators. They are responsible for the spiritual formation of the members and for the ecclesial character of the communities. The person responsible for the whole Movement is the General Moderator of the Light-Life Movement.
The history of the Movement dates back to the first oasis retreat organized in 1954 for altar boys. In 1958 the first Children of God Oasis for girls was organized and from 1963, retreats have been organized regularly. In 1973 the first retreat for families was prepared and it started the development of the Domestic Church, the family branch of the Light-Life Movement.
On 11 June, 1973, Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, Archbishop of Krakow (later Saint John Paul II), devoted the Movement to the Immaculate Mother of the Church.
Among many claims to fame, Fr. Blachnicki brought into being the Crusade for the Liberation of Man – in response to the appeal of Pope John Paul II in October 1978: “Oppose everything that conflicts with human dignity and degrades the morals of a healthy society, that may sometimes threaten its very existence and the common good, that may diminish our contribution to the common heritage of humanity, of Christian nations, of the Church of Christ”.
The Crusade was proclaimed in the presence of the Holy Father; it was offered to Him and blessed by Him during His first pilgrimage to Poland on June 8, 1979 in Nowy Targ.
It is a social movement to combat alcoholism, smoking and other modern forms of slavery and to encourage modesty and chastity. Crusade is an act of love, sacrifice and fast as it involves abstinence from alcohol as a personal gift made voluntarily in order to help those who struggle with addictions.
Among many works of Fr. Blachnicki, it is important to mention that he created a plan of Great Evangelization ‘Ad Christum Redemptorem’ – with the aim of proclaiming the Good News to each person living in Poland.
In December 1981, Fr. Blachnicki left for Rome to continue work on the Congress of the Renewal Movements and could not return to Poland because of the imposition of martial law. He settled in the Polish center called “Marianum” in Carlsberg (West Germany), where he organized the International Life-Light Evangelization Center. He also did pastoral work among the immigrants from Poland.
Fr. Franciszek died in Carlsberg on 27 February 1987; his mortal remains were transferred to the church of Good Shepherd in Krościenko upon Dunajec on 1 April 2000.
He was awarded posthumously with the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta and the Auschwitz Cross medal.
On 30 September 2015, Pope Francis signed the decree of heroic virtues of Fr. Franciszek Blachnicki.
For all the members of the Light-Life Movement around the world it was a day of great joy!
We pray for a recognized miracle necessary for the beatification of Fr. Blachnicki.
Although the Movement has been founded and developed in Poland, it has already spread to other countries: Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Belarus, Latvia, Ukraine, Great Britain, Canada, USA, Kenya, China and Pakistan. There are also small groups or communities in Norway, Sweden, Greece, France, Belgium, Luxemburg and Bulgaria.