“Living Stones”, Building, and Mystery

In his short time as Pope, Francis has used the image of “living stones” several times when referring to the need for building that seems to already be a significant theme of his pontificate.  In addition to using the image in his homilies, the Pope’s choice of names and the Chair of Peter on which he sits further speak to the theme of building.  After all, St. Francis was called by Christ to “rebuild His Church”, and St. Peter was told by Christ that he would be the “Rock” on which He would build His Church.  Furthermore, the image itself comes from St. Peter, the Rock himself:

Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (I Peter 2:4-5)

Obviously, Pope Francis means this for all Christians, but I especially believe that he is speaking to families, to parents, to the domestic Church, to you and me, as the living stones which will be built up into a spiritual household, the household of God, the Church.  First, one need only look at his coat of arms to see that the family is at the center of his attention.  Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, the Holy Family, fill up the shield – the sunburst with the Greek letters, “IHS”, representing the first three letters, JES, of Jesus’ Name, the star – the symbol of Mary, and the nard flower (it looks like grapes) traditionally used to represent Joseph and his purity.  Second, a house itself tends to illicit thoughts of the place where families live.  The word “house” was chosen, not “Temple”, not “Church”.  Again, “house” makes one think of a home where husbands, wives, moms, and dads live, work, and relate to one another.  If I’m right about his speaking to families, then these images of living stones and the theme of building should be both a rich source for meditation and a guide for practical application in our living out the Mystery of our Parenthood.  Here are just a couple of thoughts that should help each of us live as and raise up “living stones” for the building up of the Church.

1) Like the Church, our domestic churches must walk with, build on, and profess Christ, and Him Crucified. As parents, we must be His disciples.  And, as disciples, Christ Crucified must be the center, the source, and the summit of our home.  Pope Francis puts it this way, “When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we profess without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord.”  In fact, he points out that if we do not confess Jesus Christ, “nothing will avail”.  Jesus Himself says as much in the Gospel of John, “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

This points us directly to the mystery that each of us live in our marriages and in our parenting.  Do we really realize that apart from Him, we can do nothing?  At (or around) our home tonight, 3 children went to 3 different practices – two baseball, one soccer FYI, while another went to a Bible Study (thank God for a teenage driver – apart from him, we might have done better than nothing, but we certainly couldn’t have done everything), everyone ate a meal (albeit prepackaged – Chicken Nuggets and Creamed Spinach – and late – finished at 9:20, but everyone ate), the dishes were cleaned, the children went to bed quietly after only one visit asking them to stop talking, I’m doing this, and Steph’s doing her devotional.  That’s far from nothing.  I imagine that a great majority of our neighbors, perhaps even you, had a similar evening.  Many of them may not even be practicing Christians.  They did something.  Something availed.  Right?

Here’s where the image of living stones helps me to understand.  Sometimes I’m just a stone, not a living stone.  Stones all look very similar and seem to be doing the same thing, but living stones are different.  When I’m, when you’re, when we’re living stones, things may look the same from the outside – baseball practice, nuggets, and dishes, but something’s different.  When we’re living stones, we have the eyes of faith to recognize the mystery – the invisible realities behind the ordinary stuff of the day-to-day.  And, without that recognition, we really have done nothing.  We’re just stones.  St. Irenaeus stated that “the glory of God is man fully alive”.  A “living stone” is fully alive.  So, does being fully alive mean that what we do is always exciting?  Does being fully alive require climbing Mount Everest or vacationing on the Riviera or eating at the finest restaurants, or traveling to far away resorts?  Or perhaps does being fully alive mean recognizing something behind the ordinary everyday stuff?  I think Stephanie, my wife and love of my life, may provide some insight into this question.  When, in our home, she sees laundry baskets full (let’s be realistic, overflowing) with clean laundry and jokingly begins to fold the clothes that make up what she calls “Mount Neverest”, she is a “living stone”.

This point brings us full circle to Jesus again, particularly in the Eucharist- the source and summit of our lives.  There, in what looks like a wafer, a cracker, is the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Bread of Life.  Yet, if we only look at the outward appearances and fail to see the mystery, fail to see the Lord, fail to see the invisible because of the ordinariness of the visible, we are merely stones – stones that cannot be built into anything, stones that can do nothing.

2)  The practical application for this insight and the way in which we participate in the building that Pope Fransis calls us to is found in the second half of the quote from St. Peter above – “like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ“.  The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council in the document Lumen Gentium (34) build on what Peter says:

Hence the laity, dedicated as they are to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit, are marvelously called and prepared so that even richer fruits of the Spirit may be produced in them.  For all their works, prayers, and apostolic undertakings, family and married life, daily work, relaxation of mind and body, if they are accomplished in the Spirit – indeed even the hardships of life if patiently born – all these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  In the celebration of the Eucharist these may most fittingly be offered to the Father along with the body of the Lord.  And so, worshipping everywhere by their holy actions, the laity consecrate the world itself to God, everywhere offering worship by the holiness of their eyes. (CCC 901, LG 34)

That offering, that “consecration of the world itself to God”, happens when we – moms, dads, husbands, wives – unite our folding of the clothes of Mount Neverest, our cooking of yummy chicken nuggets, our driving of children to baseball practice – that is, our day-to-day, ordinary events to the perfect, once for all sacrifice of “that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious” – that is, Jesus made present again in every Mass.  We offer our spiritual sacrifices “through Him, with Him, and in Him” at every Mass, if only we’ll be “living stones”.  Pope Francis points again to the value of the everyday when he stated, “with every movement of our lives, let us build!”

So, your assignment and mine going forward from our new leader is to become living stones by participating in the mystery that is our day to day lives as husbands, wives, moms, dads.  First, we must pray. We must ask God to open our eyes to see Him at work in the everyday in order that we might become fully alive, the glory of God.  Second, we need to offer our day to day in union with the living stone, with Jesus in the Mass.  When these two things begin to happen in each of our lives, the building up of the Church will be underway.  Let us build!





  1. Larry Vega says:

    I believe I struggle with always being the rock of my household. Taking kids (x 2) to long weekend baseball/softball tournaments, several practices a week and then weekly private lessons (and that is only during baseball/softball season). Sometimes I struggle with my decisions on whether I am doing the right thing for them or not. We still make time to attend mass and STAY every week, but I sometimes wonder if I am building a house with uneven rocks or maybe I am trying to juggle too many rocks.

    And yes, it is nice to have a teenage driver, sometimes.

    When my wife Cheryl (of 25 years) isn’t working she tries really hard to attend these extracurricular functions. But because she works every other weekend and is also taking college courses online it is difficult for her to enjoy that time with the us. Which makes me wonder how all of this is affecting her “Stone”.

    I laughed when you mentioned the nuggets/diner because it happens in my home several times a week. I often wonder, should we be sitting at the table every evening and having diner as a family? Is that something that made families stronger 40 years ago?

    During the past several years I have attended “That Man is you” and our weekly Bible study. It has made me feel closer to God. I think it is time for me to share that “rock” with my family.


    • Thanks, Larry, for your comment. Sounds to me like you and I have the same struggles- how much is too much? Are we doing enough to build a “sure foundation” for our children and for our marriage? The thing that encourages me most is when I realize that even the questioning can be offered to God as a “spiritual sacrifice”. He can do great things for anyone who is seeking and asking. “Seek and you shall find. Ask and and you shall receive”. The other thing that encourages me is that Christ Himself will build along side of me and Steph. It’s not all up to me. It’s not all up to Steph. His grace is sufficient in my weakness. I just need to listen to the Master Builder, defer to Him, and trust that He will help us with these questions. My prayer is the prayer of Divine Mercy – Jesus, I trust in You!

  2. DAVID KLAK says:

    Great analysis! Insight! Motivation! You need to write MORE Trey!

    I think the family is essential, and building the home with living stones is essential. I was re-reading Divini Illus Magistri recently, and, if I was reading correctly, Piux XI makes the same point about the domestic church without using the words. The home, the family, among others, are to become a kind of fertile ground, a renewing womb, built of these living stones which not only KNOW what the faith teaches but LIVES the blessings of this great grace! While we do the same things at home as everyone else, we are transformed into a living witness and touchstones to change the world around us.

    We often find ourselves wondering why with all we do, nothing seems to get done. My wife wonders if we’re raising our kids poorly because it seems so chaotic all the time. But then we have to remind ourselves that, when the lights go out and we spend a few minutes helping the kids unwind, reflect and pray, we find that in spite of all the ‘chores’ we think are so all-consuming, the kids are aware of God’s presence and gifts every day…. and it almost always has do to with relationships built or nourish during activities, than with the particular activities themselves. They almost see beyond the activities better than we do!!!

    Thanks again for writing this… and I think you ARE on to the Holy Father’s intentions as his pontificate is unfolding.

Speak Your Mind