Michael and Michelle Dizon are parishioners of the Archdiocese of Toronto. They are the parents of three young boys (with another child soon to be born). They share their experiences building a domestic church in their home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. During COVID-19 the term “Domestic Church” has come into the spotlight for many Catholic families. What has this term meant for your family before and during this pandemic?
Before the pandemic, it meant introducing our children to Jesus and God. We wanted to instill the fact that God is loving and that Jesus is His Son and our brother. We would do this by reading one of many simplified Bible stories written for the catechesis of kids before bed. Or we would show this in the way we helped each other with household chores or asked for forgiveness (or forgave others) in times of conflict, which demonstrated how to feel God’s presence.
During the pandemic, we were disheartened knowing we couldn’t physically attend Mass and receive Jesus. But the blessing that came from that was being able to engage in Mass “up, close and personal” through livestreamed Masses, which was especially joyous for the younger ones who normally couldn't really see what was going on at the altar. It gave them more of an understanding of what really goes on during Mass.
Daily, it has gotten all of us to follow our own rituals together: morning offerings, grace before meals and evening prayers (which is now including the “Act of Contrition”).
PHOTO CREDIT: ©2020 mddphotography Michael Dave Dizon
2. What opportunities were revealed to you, as parents, about passing faith onto your children?
With young kids (3, 5 and 8 years old), we have to find ways for the messages and understanding of our faith to be simple and comprehensive. Actually, when we were watching one of the "Star Wars" movies and a character was healing another, our youngest said: “Just like Jesus!” We took that as God telling us that we’re certainly doing well at our job as parents and faith-teachers.
We have found that our children are always asking us questions about our faith, such as:
We feel that even though some of our kids’ questions can be challenging to explain, it is great to know that they can come to us with their questions.
They also know that having lost three baby siblings (Benjamin, Micah and Emma), they acknowledge them still as their brothers and sisters who are saints in Heaven. So, they are included in our litany during evening prayers.
3. What has been your greatest joy and greatest challenge at home with your family these past several months?
Greatest joy - [Michael] Not having to commute to work means more time with the family after the computer is shut off. This also means more opportunities to grow together as a family (through thick and thin).
Greatest challenges - Being restricted at home with the same day-to-day schedule has made us be creative and find something “new” in order to alleviate our boys’ boredom.
Another challenge has been balancing screen time when some of our usual activities have been restricted. We understand everyone is in the same situation. We just do our best and hope it will eventually be weaned from the boys' daily routine.
[Michelle] Being pregnant throughout this self-isolating duration, back pain has limited the amount of activity I am able to do with these three active boys.
4. What are some positive changes that you’ve seen in your family’s faith life that you hope to continue after COVID-19?
More time talking as a couple. During the last several months we have been able to access a variety of faith-based conferences, including "Joyfully Ever After" a Catholic Marriage Summit where we watched talks from various married couples. It was nice to have had this opportunity to sit together and watch and reflect on them afterwards.
One blessing that came out of COVID-19, was that every week our family joined a Zoom meeting with five other families to pray the rosary for the end of COVID-19 and for each family's personal intentions. It has been a pleasure to see our eldest son lead a decade of the rosary (and some of the children from the other families have done so too). We hope that when the pandemic has ended, we can continue to foster this comforting practice of saying the rosary together as a family.
5. How has the churches re-opening with limited capacity impacted your family?
While we haven't been able to take our sons to Mass (just yet), we have taken turns going to separate Masses each weekend. It would be great to go together as a family, yet our current arrangement has enabled us to have some quiet time with the Lord to regroup, hear the message and prepare our hearts to receive the Eucharist. Before the pandemic, we were thinking of ideas to keep the kids well behaved during Mass. We discussed our expectations of them prior to arriving at church and had to continually remind them during Mass.
[Michelle] Due to back-pain at this stage of pregnancy, as well as limited seating, it has been easier to sit, listen and feel Jesus' presence. We will introduce the boys to Mass again in the upcoming weeks when our baby is born.