“The family is the light that guides the way to heaven,” Father Ruslan Babii
August 1, 2023
Christian family is the foundation upon which a strong and united church community is built; it is also a domestic church where the family can practice their faith together, grow spiritually, and support each other on the path to God. We offer you an interview with Father Ruslan Babii, the parish administrator of the Church of the Dormition of the Mother of God in Ardeer.
In this conversation, Father Ruslan shares his thoughts on the significance of the Christian family as a domestic church and helps us understand how to make family life a strong foundation for spiritual growth, love, and unity in Christ.
— Father, recently at the Soborchyk for the Clergy under the theme ‘Hope to Which the Lord Calls Us,’ which took place in June of this year, one of the topics the fathers worked on was ‘The Christian Family — A Domestic Church.’ Besides participating in the discussions, you also delivered a presentation on this important subject. So, first of all, please tell our readers what was discussed about the Christian family during the Soborchyk?
— First and foremost, the pastoral plan proposed by the Patriarchal Curia for the year 2030 includes several topics that our Church could plan for its future activities on different levels. Naturally, the implementation of these themes in each parish may differ, so each Eparchy had its own Soborchyk. Our Eparchy of Melbourne also had its Soborchyk under the theme ‘Hope to Which the Lord Calls Us.’ This year, we worked on three topics: closeness to the poor, marginalized, refugees, and victims of war; healing the “wounds of war”; and the Christian family as a domestic church. I was specifically tasked with discussing the theme of the family. My main focus was within the framework of the document provided by the Patriarchal Curia, which elaborates on all the challenges and threats that families are facing today. The main objective we set for ourselves during the Soborchyk was to promote the role and vocation of the family in our Eparchy, helping them grow in faith, holiness, love, and service to others, as well as passing on the faith.
— Father, please share with our readers how you define the concept of a ‘Christian family — a domestic church’?
— Personally, for me, a Christian family is the foundation of being raised in Christ, it is a place where the love that reflects the relationships between the Persons of the Holy Trinity is present. In a family, a child should feel the love and closeness with God. Of course, for this to happen, parents must have a strong faith, nurture values, pass on traditions, set a good example to follow, engage in communal prayer, and have genuine, Christian perspectives on life. As a Church, it is essential to provide every family with the resources for a true Christian life, which they can pass on to their children. These resources include the Sacraments, through which a family becomes a true domestic church. Parents need to teach these to their children. After all, it is easier for a child to hear what their mother or father says. It is the foundation of faith, so to speak. A child discovers the world, and parents shape this world for them. Therefore, it is crucial for this world to be Christian, so that the child doesn’t see their life outside the Church, where there is not only education and leisure but also the development of their spiritual personality. Everything starts in the Church: first, the child receives the Sacrament of Baptism. From there, they take their steps in the Church and continue with their family. Thus, it is essential for parents to understand their mission and responsibility for their child. The Church places great hope on genuine parental upbringing.
— This is indeed a profound understanding of the family as a domestic church. Why do you believe that such an approach is crucial for the modern world?
— The modern family faces numerous challenges. The present world has its values and perspectives, and it actively promotes them. Naturally, every family seeks what is good for their children and themselves. However, it often happens that in pursuing this desire for good, a person fails to see the true truth, genuine goodness, and authentic values. Instead, these values are substituted with temporary joy and superficial relief.
As a priest, I often hear that young people find it difficult to attend church, and parents do not want to compel their children, and so on. In other words, the church is perceived as an inconvenience for parents and families. But, in reality, it all depends on one’s perspective because what calls and motivates us cannot be regarded as difficult; rather, it is an expression of God’s love for us.
Nevertheless, modern families find it easier to neglect their spiritual lives and merely spend their time as they please, doing what they enjoy. And, of course, the world bombards them with countless propositions, leading the family to feel a sense of emptiness.
Hence, it is essential for the family to serve as the foundation for studying and practicing Christian values. Parents should foster strong relationships among themselves and help their children understand their purpose in God’s plan. It is especially crucial to pass on values and the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven within the family. Opening a child’s heart to comprehend, be conscious of, and love God is the basis for their spiritual growth. If we fail to pass on this heritage and instill love for God in our children, they may not understand how to interact with the Church and which path to choose in their spiritual journey. Living with God provides the family with a robust spiritual foundation, which helps them overcome the challenges of modern life and build a harmonious, healthy, and blessed life together.
— How does the Church, as a spiritual institution, particularly here in the lands of Australia, help families build their domestic church?
— One of the missions of the Church is to support and accompany families. The influence of the family environment on the spiritual formation and development of its members cannot be underestimated. It is from families that the nature of future generations as Christians depends, and the legacy we leave for the coming generations.
This interconnection between the domestic church and the universal Church helps us understand that spirituality is a necessary component in building a strong and harmonious society. It is essential to remember that a Christian family is not just a community of individual believers but also a domestic church that operates in unity with its parish, diocese, and the Church as a whole. Together, we can foster spiritual growth, harmony, and love, which are essential for our world.
During the Soborchyk, one of the tasks for us was to find ways to strengthen the bond between families and the Church in each parish. Another mission was to ignite the hearts of young people for God and help them embrace spirituality in their own way. In the modern world, where people are occupied with numerous things, especially in schools where social aspects take priority, conveying the significance of the Church’s mission of saving souls can be challenging.
Therefore, we emphasize what a Christian family can do for its children. We must not limit ourselves to mere formal religious activities such as prayer or attending liturgy once a week. Faith is a way of life, and we must live it not only through words but also through actions. Only then will our faith make us true Christians.
We must be attentive to the signs of the times and understand that people today need more than just the formal execution of religious rituals. Our calling is to support and inspire the young generation to encounter God and develop their spirituality. As Christ emphasized, by their fruits, you will know who is genuinely a good Christian.
— Father, what are these fruits in the context of a Christian family?
— Our family prayers during meals or evenings, expressions of gratitude, adherence to traditions — these are the details that bear witness to our faith.
Unfortunately, we often do not pay enough attention to these aspects. Perhaps we should focus more on communicating with our family members, children, and grandchildren to show them how Christianity can enrich their lives. We need to seek interesting ways to involve them in our spiritual practices rather than imposing them. Introducing them to God should be motivated by love and curiosity.
We also observe that some families have not transmitted their faith to their children, and in turn, they do not pass it on to their grandchildren. This could be due to a lack of understanding of Christianity and its role in our lives. There might be a misconception that faith restricts a person’s freedom. However, true faith provides us with direction, peace, and love, which can flourish in our lives.
Thus, we must find ways to convey this understanding to our children and grandchildren. If we focus more on practical actions that demonstrate our faith and seek approaches that pique their interest and encourage them to preserve and develop this path in their lives, only then will our families become true witnesses of God’s love and presence in the world.
— Father, please tell us more about practical steps that can promote spiritual development in families?
— First and foremost, it is important to understand that we live in a society where great emphasis is placed on material well-being, success, and wealth. However, our spirituality and connection with God are no less important than earthly matters. Therefore, we must prioritize God in our lives.
As parents, we should impart spiritual values to our children, nurturing them with love and respect for God. Our child is a gift from God, and we should teach them to seek communion with God, making spiritual development the foundation of their lives.
Communing with God can take various forms, from reading the Holy Scriptures or other religious literature to prayer, engaging in Christian games, or solving crosswords and contemplating thoughts directed towards Him. This is truly essential for our spiritual growth and understanding of God’s love. God desires close communion with us, and thus, we must place Him at the forefront of our hearts and thoughts.
We need to realize that everything we have — our family, children, good jobs, prosperity — comes from God’s gift. Therefore, all our thoughts should be directed towards our Creator. Let’s reflect on how much time we think about our spouse and children, and how much about God? Is this balance equal, or does one aspect outweigh the other?
A significant problem today is also the lack of communication within families. For example, during a shared meal, children may be engrossed in gadgets, while parents may be preoccupied with various concerns — communication is absent. It is essential to build lively communication within the family. My advice is to be open to each other and express thoughts and feelings. Be active participants in each other’s lives, share joys and difficulties. Pray together and strive to learn and develop as a Christian family. Do not hesitate to support each other in times of faith crisis, and in doing so, build a strong foundation for mutual growth. Faith, love, and harmony are the keys to a happy and harmonious Christian family. When a child grows up in a family where everyone knows how to listen and be heard, where they pray, understand, support, and, ultimately, love each other, they will have a solid foundation for a Christian life and will be able to pass it on to future generations.
— Father Ruslan, in your opinion, what could be the cause of dysfunction in families?
— There is one significant cause, as spoken of by Christ, and that is sin. Whether we acknowledge it or not, sin is still present in our lives. The world often turns a blind eye to sin and may make it acceptable or justify it. However, this mindset ignores the importance of spiritual life. If there is no spiritual foundation, a person may seek comfort and entertainment in various things. These actions may temporarily ease suffering but do not address the root problem.
The Church preaches love for God and neighbor, and it provides us with guidance and support in this regard. As Christians, we must understand that in the Church, we find consolation and support from our neighbor, but the Church also provides this support through God’s grace. One must consciously open their heart to Christ and give Him the first place in their life. In His love, we find true freedom and the purpose of life. His presence gives us a new perspective, but we must open our hearts to His work. Only then can wounds in families, youth, and society be healed. Additionally, interaction with Christ enables us to be effective and capable of helping others.
— I completely agree! It has been a very engaging conversation with you, Father Ruslan. Now, let’s talk about prayer in the Christian family. How can prayer become a special means of strengthening the bond among family members and help in resolving problems?
— Prayer is a powerful tool in the Christian life, especially within the family. It brings people closer together, helps share their deepest thoughts and feelings with God and with one another. Prayer creates a community of spiritual connection where family members can collectively seek from God what they need and express gratitude for His blessings.
Additionally, prayer helps focus on essential aspects of life, such as mutual forgiveness, honesty, and respect. When family members pray together, it fosters an atmosphere of mutual support and enhances their ability to help each other solve problems.
— This is indeed very important. However, some readers may have doubts or concerns about their ability to pray together as a family, especially if there is a lack of spiritual life. How would you explain to them that prayer can be relevant and essential for every family, regardless of their level of spirituality?
— That’s an excellent question. It is essential to understand that prayer is not limited to formal religious practices. Prayer is a dialogue with God and can take various forms in different families. Even a simple expression of gratitude for food, well-wishes, and safety for loved ones can also be a form of prayer. It can be straightforward and uncomplicated, yet still valuable and significant.
Also, it’s important to remember that the family serves as an environment for mutual spiritual growth. Families can explore spiritual topics together, read spiritual literature, discuss moral aspects of life, which, in turn, fosters growth in faith and a closer connection with God.
— Thank you for clarifying that, Father Ruslan. Before we conclude this interview, would you like to share any other helpful advice for our readers?
— Of course, I would be happy to share. My final advice is to remain open to learning and change within your family. Life is a constant movement and transformation, and this applies to family life as well. Do not be afraid to improve both yourself and your family. Seek knowledge and truth because everyone who seeks shall find.
Remember that the family serves as a guiding light to heaven, and by learning from Jesus Christ, you can confidently and happily walk this path. I wish that every family finds joy in close relationships with one another and with God, and together, they discover their place in God’s plan. Christ takes special care of families that build their foundation on His Word and opens up wonderful opportunities for their growth, happiness, and spiritual progress.
— In conclusion, thank you very much, Father Ruslan, for this insightful and meaningful conversation. I believe your advice will indeed help many families build a true domestic church, with Christ as its head!
— Thank you for the conversation. I wish everyone blessings in their spiritual development and growth!