Tag Archives: family

Christ Does Not Call Us To Be June Cleaver

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On a perfect day, I would get up well before my family to get dressed and prepare a delicious hot breakfast. I would spend my free time putting the finishing touches on my living room that bears a striking similarity to the one in the latest Martha Stewart magazine, update my personal blog, and finish a sewing project or two. Lunch and dinner would be made entirely from scratch, and exactly as I had planned them out earlier in the week, along with a homemade peach pie for dessert. My “regular” daily routine would not be impeded by these lofty projects; I would still manage a 30-minute workout, a trip to the park, and an art project with the children that is both entertaining and educational. On the spiritual front, I would attend daily Mass (during which my children would sit quietly and be entertained by religious books), and pray the rosary with little to no distractions, internal or external. I would fall into bed at night, tired but fulfilled, with a perfectly clean house and joy in my heart at what the next day will bring.

A far cry from that idealism is a day that involves scrounging through the bare pantry for meals, spending half the morning in pajamas, piles of dirty clothes to wash and clean laundry to fold, dishes piled high in the kitchen, and a few distracted prayers tossed up. There may also be periodic check-ins to favorite home decorating blogs and wistful longings for the day my home will look like theirs.

To be fair, most of our days will end up somewhere in the middle of those two examples. But I still find myself feeling guilty if my day doesn’t more closely resemble the first – a mixture of June Cleaver and St. Therese. Why?

Perfectionism. Like many women, I have high expectations of myself, often unrealistic. And like many, I have subconsciously bought into the worldly idea of what a perfect mother looks like: always perfectly dressed and groomed, beautiful and organized home, excellent cooking, fantastically creative and crafty, ever-ready to volunteer.

But perfectionism is a GOOD thing, right!? After all, didn’t Jesus say “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”? (Matthew 5:48) It seems as though we SHOULD be striving for perfection. But what does Christ mean by “perfect”? From the Haydock Bible Commentary:

“Seeing then that we are thus blessed as to be called, and to be the children of so excellent a Father, we should endeavor, like Him, to excel in goodness, meekness, and charity; but above all in humility, which will secure to us the merit of good works, through the infinite merits of our divine Redeemer, Master, and model, Christ Jesus the Lord.” Haydock Bible Commentary on Matt. 5:48

So striving to be perfect means that we strive to be good, meek, charitable, humble: a spiritual kind of perfection. That’s a far cry from the “perfect” that the world calls us to.

We can often fool ourselves into thinking worldly “perfectionism” is virtuous. But perfectionism is a false humility. In true humility, we recognize the limits of our talents and abilities. In the false humility of perfectionism, we believe we should be able to do everything “just so,” that we can do it all ourselves, and we beat ourselves up when we aren’t able to achieve our lofty goals. Perfectionism causes us to do things for our own glory, rather than for the glory of God. With perfectionism, the end is the only thing that matters, and the path we take to get to that end is meaningless. However, if instead we do our actions for God’s glory, then the effort that we put into our work does matter, rather than simply just the finished product. St. Margaret Mary Alacoque said, “It is only necessary to say energetically ‘I will,’ and all will go well.” The path to our goal is as important, if not more important, that the achievement of that goal.

So how can we deal with the perfectionism that creeps into our daily lives, causing us stress and unhappiness, and thwarting our desire to do good?

Prayer. We must avoid worldly perfectionism in prayer; perfectionism is the antithesis of humility, and our prayers must spring from humility in our heart. We must not worry about saying the perfect rosary, completely free from internal distraction. Instead, when our mind wanders, we should gently redirect our thoughts back to our prayer. We should not avoid Mass because we fear our children will distract us and we won’t “get anything out of it.” God will supply where our human efforts fail, as long as we make the effort.

We should also not be discouraged if we cannot spend as much time in prayer as we would like. We are all busy women, many of us wives and mothers, and have many duties to attend to. St. Frances of Rome said,

 “It is most laudable in a married woman to be devout, but she must not forget that she is a housewife; and sometimes she must leave God at the altar to find Him in her housekeeping.”

We can sanctify our souls through our works as well as our prayers. If we say the Morning Offering each day, we offer God all our “works, prayers, joys, and sufferings”; this encompasses everything we will do throughout the day, and thus, all of our works will be offered for God’s glory.

Reflect on the saints and model our lives after them. What were their goals? How did they achieve spiritual perfection, while abandoning the perfectionism of the world? Mother Teresa said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.” She teaches us to not be frustrated by our inability to do great things, but to embrace the small things we can do. She also says, more specifically, “We cannot do great things, only small things with great love.”

Baby Steps. On a practical level, many times we procrastinate and put off important things because we can’t get it all done – if it won’t be perfect, why bother? We must abandon that mentality, and realize that the small things DO matter, a lot. Our path to eternity is not one long paved road, but many small pebbles that build upon each other, each of those pebbles being our small daily efforts. Just because we’re too tired or busy to do a complicated art project with our children doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do anything with them – read a short story, or spend just a few minutes on the floor, playing with them. No time to clean the bathroom? Take 2 minutes to clear off the counter, pick the dirty clothes off the floor, and change the toilet paper. If we do each of these small things out of love for God, He will give us grace with each small effort. God doesn’t ask the impossible of us, He asks us to do what we can, when we can.

(For practical household tips, I highly recommend Flylady. She is a huge help for perfectionists, procrastinators, and those who just have trouble keeping a clean and organized house.)

Be realistic. We should have a realistic view about our talents. We shouldn’t compare our homes to those in magazines, especially if we don’t have an eye for interior decorating. If we do our best to make our homes comfortable and inviting, we are serving our family well. If we are not a great cook, then we should concentrate on making something that is healthy and filling, not 5-star restaurant quality, and we should be satisfied with it. That’s not to say we should do the bare minimum: we should certainly strive for excellence. But as the acclaimed P90X trainer Tony Horton says, “Do your best and forget the rest.”

We must remember that at the end of our life, we won’t be judged on how organized our house was, how delicious our meals were, or even how many perfect rosaries we prayed – we will be judged on whether we performed the daily duties of our vocation with love.

Do you struggle with perfectionism? Procrastination? How do you “let go and let God” in your day-to-day life?

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In Weakness I am Strong

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Ten years ago, I gave up my career as a publisher to be a stay-at-home mother. My first few years as a mother of three young children were, in a word, miserable. I was stunned by the unrelenting neediness of our children.

I had a non-Christian friend in a similar domestic situation, so we took turns talking each other down from the ledge. While we both were committed to the importance of staying at home with our children, my friend made it clear that all she could see in the sacrifices was pointless misery. Life would be great, she imagined, if those tedious and menial sacrifices were replaced with predictable pleasantness most of the time.

There’s only one problem with that line of thinking: with marriage and parenting, it’s all about the sacrifices.

As a Catholic, I know this. Theologically. But knowing the path and walking the path are different things. The truth is, I become angry, disappointed, or discouraged because my husband or children do not allow me to do what I want. I want a cup of coffee, but they want breakfast. I want to read a book, but I have to discipline someone. I want to go shopping, but my husband has to work overtime.

Would my life be more pleasant and easier if my children were always well-behaved or independent? If my husband always met my needs?. Of course. But would I be a better human being? Definitely not.

Unlike my friend, I know that the key to life is not pleasantness, but dying to selfishness. It’s hard to think of our desires as selfish, because we don’t see anything wrong with wanting a cup of coffee. And on its face, there isn’t. But we can easily pervert even a good desire. In my case, having coffee is a fine idea—until I allow my desire for it to take precedent over the needs of my family. Then the care I could have offered my family as their—and God’s—loving servant becomes instead a resentful obligation rendered by an embittered slave.

On the days when family life seems especially hard, it can seem like God sold us an oyster with no pearl. We hear the world whisper its opinion about our vocation and we begin to wonder if it’s really worth all the trouble to raise these kids or stick it out in this marriage. The burden can seem so heavy that it’s tempting just to set it down. It took me years to understand that I am not actually responsible for carrying this burden. All I really have to do is get my pride and selfishness out of the way and the Holy Spirit will gladly take over.

Unfortunately, there is no formula that will effect a final surrender to God, that will help you give up the “I can do this just fine on my own” once and for all. But the first step is changing the way we think about our vocation. We want to believe we’re strong enough, that we only need God to swoop in and give us a boost once in a while. And we can even get angry with Him when we do all the “right” things like go to Mass, pray the rosary, and read Scripture and STILL struggle. But the problem isn’t God, it’s us. It’s our desire for control and desire to indulge our own selfishness. When we really surrender to Him—not just minutes at a time, bookended by our own will—we are able to be the loving, patient, amazing wives and mothers He intends us to be.

Surrendering to God does not mean using prayer as a talisman, thinking that a rosary will give me saintly, adorable children. Or even that I can exchange Bible-reading time for super-human strength to endure. God gives us nothing less than his own life, his own strength, if we will take it. Those days when I am a truly loving, patient mother, it is not of my own strength, but God’s. In my surrender, I become weak…and freed from the chains of my rebellion, the Holy Spirit loves my children as I cannot on my own.

Giving up control and the love I have for myself is the most painful experience of my life and it is a battle I never saw coming when I entered my vocation. I finally understand why Jesus said that “whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” When I surrender my will, and with it my sometimes all-consuming love of self, there is room for me to sacrificially and joyfully love others—and God.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9, St. Paul says,

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

For the sake of our families and ourselves, may Christ grant us women the grace to be weak. Only in surrendering to Him can we ever truly be free and “love one another as I have loved you.”

Prayer on Autopilot?

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One afternoon in February of this year, I left work to go to an ultrasound appointment.  Little did I know that day that it would be my last day at the office for over five months!

To make a very long story short: I was 21 weeks pregnant with twins and this routine appointment led me to be admitted to the hospital, I had surgery the following day, and was ordered to bed-rest until the babies were born.  Luckily, we made it to 36 weeks (Halleluia!!) and welcomed two healthy boys into our family.

One month ago, I went back to work.  What a strange, strange feeling!!  I had not been there in so long.  In some ways it was like I had never left and nothing had changed; in others it felt like I had been gone forever.

One of the hardest things for me was something quite silly.  I couldn’t remember all the keyboard short-cuts I had taught myself over the years.  Due to problems I had developed years earlier in my wrists, I always look for ways to stay on the keyboard and not move back and forth between the keyboard and the mouse.  I had figured out so many short-cuts on my own through trial and error as well as by accident that I hardly ever used my mouse when in certain programs.  My first couple weeks back at work I worked a bit slower than what had been my usual pace and I found myself stopping more often to contemplate the keyboard, knowing there was a better way to do … whatever it was I was trying to do.

Then just this past week I made a break-through.  I realized that I had to stop thinking.  I needed to be on autopilot.  I shut off my brain and my fingers just knew what to do.  I found myself suddenly typing weird combinations of key strokes and wondering how I knew what I was doing.  The moment I tried to think about it, there would be hesitation.  I had to just stop and allow myself to go on autopilot.

Being on autopilot was exactly what I needed to do to get my “groove” back.  That’s one of the great things about being on autopilot.  I’m sure we’ve all had those moments.  But autopilot is not always a good thing.  Unfortunately it often happens in our prayer life.  I know it does mine and I’m sure it has infected everyone’s prayer life at some point or another … or it is right now.

Time to switch it off!!  Believe me, I know that is easier said than done!

At the same time that I was having this epiphany at work, my husband and I started putting the babies in their rockers/bouncers at the kitchen table with us so they could see us while we ate.  It’s funny how the way we pray the Prayer Before Meals changed when the babies were with us.  We said it slower, more deliberately; we said the sign of the cross fully and didn’t just do it on our own at the end.  It struck me that we are usually just on autopilot because we do it all the time, at every meal.

I mentioned this to my husband and he simply replied that of course we do it better, because the babies will need to learn.  True, but why aren’t we doing it better all the time; shouldn’t we be more deliberate in our prayer regularly, regardless of if the babies are present or not?

Interesting how this autopilot thing can be a blessing in some cases, but a hinderance in others.  I feel challenged now to turn off the autopilot while I pray, to allow the words to have more meaning to me and to really, fully understand them.  Have you ever stopped to think about the words you are saying when you recite the Creed at Mass?  I stumble over the Creed a lot more when I’m thinking about the words than I do when I just allow myself to say it out of habit.  It can be so easy to get into a habit and a routine, whether you are praying a standard prayer or praying in your own words.  Even praying in our own words can have a familiar routine that can also lose its meaning.

Are you also up for the challenge?  Have you sat back and re-examined your prayer life lately?  Do you, too, need to turn autopilot off in your prayer life?

Jesus loves the little children

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But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Matthew 19:14

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Recently, I found myself in the midst of an interesting, yet sensitive, conversation among friends.  It was with a group of Catholic Army wives, whom I love dearly and we were discussing a few of their individual feelings of disappointment over the recent decision of the parish priest on post (which my family does not often attend, but many of these particular friends do every week) not to approve childcare services during mass times.  Parish budget reasons aside, Father’s opinion is that the children belong in mass.  And I happen to agree.

To make this particular topic an even more sensitive one, many of these friends currently have husbands that are deployed and the long year of bringing several children to mass alone has worn on them.  My heart aches for them and I can personally relate to their struggles as I have been there before myself.  But I still stand firm in my personal conviction that my children need to be in mass with me.

This lead to a fruitful discussion of “tactics”.   How do you get your kids to behave in mass?  Right now my children are 4 years and 21 months (with our third due to arrive in February) and as I shared my personal strategies, I became aware that depending on age and family size, many different things could (or would not) work for different families.  I love when God blesses me with unexpected conversations such as these, that encourage me and fill me with new ideas and perspective (and a glimpse of what life might be like when my husband and I are finally outnumbered).  So, I thought I would share some of our personal approaches here in the hopes that you dear readers, might do the same.

This is one of our four-year-olds favorite books to bring to mass

1. Quiet distracters.  For my family right now, these are books.  We have a special collection of books for our kids that illustrate the mass or that are filled with photos and stories about the Saints.  Allowing them to choose a few to bring along helps them to sit still and be engaged in something during the parts of mass where we are sitting and listening, especially during the homily.  Our little one (21 months) has a few soft books that we used to bring along when she was more likely to bang them around, but she has been doing better recently with regular books.

2. Practice.  Trying to make it to daily mass at least once during the week is a great way to help familiarize your kids with mass.  Daily masses are usually shorter and in many cases have a smaller, more intimate crowd, which allows us to sit a bit closer to the front so that the kids can really watch what is going on up on the altar.  Even something as simple as kneeling next to bed for nighttime prayers can also be practice for the act of kneeling and praying in mass.

3. Full tummies.  Snacks in mass are a big no-no for my family.  They create noise and mess in mass and although our children are not old enough to receive the Eucharist yet, much less fast, it is still not teaching the regularity of the concept that we are supposed to fast an hour before receiving.  We find it much easier to be sure that everyone has a good meal or at least a good protein-filled snack just before we start dressing for mass.  Avoiding bringing food and drinks along also helps us not to have to make bathroom trips during mass.

4.  Prepare little minds.  When our children know where we are going, how they are expected to behave and what the rewards and consequences of their behavior will be before hand (especially the four-year-old), they are much more likely to be on their best behavior.  The drive to mass always contains a quick “reminder” talk, just so it is fresh in their little minds.  The actual rewards and consequences for our four-year-old change and grow with him and with our family, but they have included things like going for a trip to the frozen yogurt shop as a family after mass full of great behavior or losing access to certain toys or the privilege of watching a movie that night after poor behavior.   Really poor behavior also earns him some quiet time spent with Jesus at the family altar when we return home, asking for forgiveness and saying a few extra prayers. Talking with him about these things before hand and reminding him that it is his choice really takes a burden off of us as parents, because it is easier to remain calm and remind him that he is making poor choices if redirection is needed.

5. Prepare little hearts.  It is equally, if not more important to prepare little hearts for mass.  Talk about what is going on in mass with your kids, explain the beauty of our traditions, prayers, and actions with them at home so that they when they hear them in mass they will be more interested and involved.  Practice saying the Our Father at bedtime each night.  Teach them the sign of the cross.  If possible, hold little ones during the Eucharistic prayers and direct their eyes towards Jesus.  I know it is nice to be able to have personal peace and focus during these prayers, but if you share these moments with your children, they will learn to love Jesus and to cherish Him in the Eucharist as you do.

I know this list sounds quite wonderful and idealistic, but trust me, most masses these days see one of us out pacing in the narthex with our lively 21-month old daughter.  Our strategies don’t always work, but I have confidence that they are still helping our children to learn and grow.  God created the spirit of a child beautifully wild – full of curiosity, adventure and movement and all we can really do is embrace them with love, patience and gratitude to teach them about this faith we so love.

So now it’s your turn to share.  What are some of your thoughts and strategies to encourage good behavior in your children during mass?

Mars, Venus, and… jackhammers.

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I’ll be honest – I’ve never blogged before.   I’m not much of  a writer, in fact the entire act of writing doesn’t come naturally to me.  I’m an engineer and I LOVE math and logic, so I know I come from a foreign breed of women.  But I’m still a Catholic first, so to many I know I appear to be a walking contradiction as a working mother.  So if I can figure out how to balance out my life and it’s many contradictions without grave injury, I’m hoping I can at least survive at this whole writing gig.  Forgive me, for this will probably appear to be rather sinful for an English major to read.

Now that we’ve worked our way through the Penitential Rite I think we’re safe to move forward into meat of the word.  So, how about a “word of the day” theme?  I can work with that.

Today’s word of the day… jackhammer.

Oh yeah.  There has been a steady cacophony of this lovely sound going on at my office building for a few weeks now.  Sometimes it hits that certain migraine-inducing level of insanity, but most moments I tend to drown out the noise.  My co-workers, however, (all male, by the way –  we’re engineers, the statistics are true) aren’t handling this well at all.  They have called HR to gripe and complain, others have left the office to go work from home.  It has definitely impacted our ability to have conference calls or meetings in this area of the building.

But for some reason, it’s just not getting to me like it does them.
First off, the noise – for whatever reason – makes the baby in my belly dance.  Also, I tend to have a really childish sense of humor about the whole thing – raising boys does that to you.  Every time the noise starts my first reaction is to say “excuse me”, as if I’ve embarrassed myself publicly.  I sit here and giggle to myself like a 6 year old boy.  I really don’t think my coworkers are impressed anymore.

I keep wondering,  why is this not bothering me!?  And then one day it dawned on me… I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m a mom.
Now, several of my coworkers are married with kids, so it’s not necessarily the general “family noise” that seems to make me immune.  Moms and Dads are just different.  
See, despite the fact that I work during the day I still have that standard maternal nature.  I go home, clean out lunch bags, help the kids with homework, snuggle on the couch, ask about their day, fill out permission slips and write checks, all while making a fully balanced meal.  Moms just DO that.  The constant music of “Momma, Mom, MOMMY!” rings in this confusing evening harmony that tends to sometimes sound a lot like Holst’s “The Planets”, which is beautiful but not very easy to dance to.

But yet… we do!  We dance to that kind of music!
Sure, it’s pretty stressful at times, and there are certainly outbursts of random notes that just don’t make sense.  But it’s beautiful – it’s LIFE!

Then, I got to thinking about women in the Gospels – really, not much has changed over the centuries!
Mark’s Gospel tells us that “Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint Jesus in the tomb” (Mark 16:1) – despite everything they were going through, they got up and did what needed to be done.  After learning about Christ’s Resurrection, Mary Magdalene went and told Jesus’ companions “who were mourning and weeping” (Mark 16:10).  Sigh – men.

I just find it so amazing how God works with both the male and female aspects in His creation. Both are so necessary, they balance each other out in such perfect harmony. What would God’s perfect creation of Earth look like without the great masculine and feminine of Mars and Venus balancing out the Earth in the Natural Order? God’s creation is truly miraculous.

So, here at work the jackhammers droll on…
But my little baby and I are dancin’, and laughing about fart jokes… all while the men-folk curse the heavens and run away crying.
It’s okay, that’s why God made women – someone’s gotta do the work!

Here I Am Lord, Send Me…As Long As It’s Where I Want to Go

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“There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.”  Ecclesiastes 3:1

The start of a new school year brings many opportunities to serve.  With 5 kids ranging in age from 16-5, who are attending 4 different schools, and all involved in all sorts of different activities, there is an endless list of good and worthy organizations that need volunteers.  Not to mention our amazing Church, which is alive and thriving, and overflowing with ministries constantly calling to the Martha in me.   My husband and I love to serve and especially together.  That is how we met and fell in love so many years ago, so it really renews our sense of purpose and togetherness when we are working together for the Lord.   Personally, I love to serve.  I love to be involved, and I love to be around people.  It is invigorating.

We had decided at the end of the last school year that we would continue to help with High School Faith Formation as our main service once school began again.  Other opportunities came by, and I said no because we already knew where we were supposed to serve.  I knew it would mean that my 12-year-old would have to care for her younger siblings on Sunday evenings, but I reasoned that it was ok because this is where God wanted us.  I knew that my 5-year-old might struggle a little with us not being home as she went to bed on Sunday nights, but again, I thought God could handle it.  We had a great year last year and started to build relationships with some of the young people, so we looked forward to continuing on the journey with them.  We felt peace and satisfaction, even knowing that there would be sacrifices on the part of our family.  Sometimes that is what God calls us to.

At our first HS Catechist meeting, our incredibly excited HS Coordinator laid out his plan for the new youth program, and my husband and I both got sinking feelings in our stomachs.  We quickly saw that this would not be something we could commit to.  It was a wonderful plan, and the youth will benefit from it, but it would require a large chunk of time away from our younger ones on Sunday evenings.  We worked through every possible scenario to see if there was some way we could divide and conquer the commitment.  After MUCH prayer and a little heart-break we discerned that this is not where God wanted us.  I was sad and disappointed and a little frustrated.

Once again, having a large family, with many different ages was keeping me from doing what I wanted to do, what I thought God wanted us to do, and what I thought we would be good at.  How many times over the years have I heard about something worthwhile, and  I couldn’t accept it, or even try for it because of my duties to my family.  What I want to do is different from what God is calling me to.  Which is crazy, because really in my heart of hearts I want to desire His will over mine.  I just get a little lost sometimes in the world of good intentions.  The world tells me that being super mom is what is good, but God tells me being my kids’ mom is what is good.  Giving to each of them all that I can, is what pleases Him most.   There are so many things I want to do or I want to be, and yet the commitment that I’ve made to God and to my kids is where my real sanctification is worked out.  It is in all the times I have to say, “No,” that I know the Lord is working out my salvation.  The Lord put it on my heart long ago to serve my family first.  Whatever gifts and talents He gave me are first for my husband and kids, and then for whomever He puts in my path.  It is in the anonymity of my home, where there are no accolades, that the Lord wants me to be salt and light.

So now that the year has officially begun and I haven’t officially signed up to volunteer anywhere, I realize that I am exactly where I need to be for this season.  As the school year opened up so did the flood gates of tears in my house hold, and I know that right now, right here, my kids need me more than any other group, no matter how good its mission is.  This semester, I am committed to reading to my kindergartener, making sure she gets to bed on time, helping my middle schooler navigate these new waters she is swimming in, not being too busy with “important” stuff to listen to my 4th grader tell me his struggles or listen to his excitement over his Lego creations, and being home in the evenings when my High Schoolers are good and ready to talk.

But, Dear Lord, next semester I’ll have a list ready of all the places you might want to send me.

The Family That Prays Together…

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We have all heard the phrase, “The family that prays together, stays together”.  How many of us though have ever really thought about what that phrase truly means?  How many of us have put the phrase into action?   As Catholics, praying together at Mass comes naturally.  But what about at home?  Does it come as easy to us?  Have we been taught to share our prayers with each other?  How often do we ask each other, “will you pray with me?” 

I have noticed that Protestants many times have a much easier time asking someone to come and pray with them.  I’m not talking about saying, “will you pray for me?” but literally taking someone by the hands and saying let’s pray about this right now.  I remember years ago when I went to a volunteer meeting at our local pregnancy resource center and at the end of the meeting one of the women came to me, took me by my hands and said, “I feel for some reason I am supposed to pray with you right now.  Can we pray together?”  Startled,  I shook my head yes, and I think I may have even whispered yes as she closed her eyes and began to pray out loud.  To say I was startled a little bit would be an understatement.  That night I went home and thought about why it shook me up so much.  I came to the conclusion that I had never been in a situation where someone wanted to pray with me instead of for me.  

I thought a lot about my upbringing in the Catholic faith.  Do we encourage prayer together outside of the Mass?  I know that I was never encouraged (I was never discouraged either) to pray with others with the exception of morning prayer at school and prayer before meals.  It made me a little bit sad.  I liked that the woman was so comfortable in her faith and prayer life that she could easily take my hands and say a heartfelt prayer for me.  It touched me and made me want something more. 

As the years have passed and I have tried to incorporate more prayer in my life I have also tried to incorporate it into my family’s life.  I want my children to always feel comfortable praying not only for someone but with someone.  I want them to be able to grasp the hands of another person and pray right then and there.  I want prayer to be ingrained in our lives so much that it is second nature to pray.   I have  gradually incorporated more prayer into our lives.  I thought I would share a few ways that perhaps you can as well.  As our children’s primary educators it is our duty to teach our children our faith and it is our duty to teach our children how to pray.

So, how can you bring more prayer into your family’s life?

  • Begin praying when your children are babies.  Pick a simple prayer and say it every night. 
  • Pray before and maybe even after meals.
  • As your children get older each night pray as a family and ask them what intentions they want to pray for.  You’ll be surprised at the prayer intentions on their hearts!
  • Have objects that are associated with prayer around your home: a bible, rosaries that the kids can handle, prayer cards, holy water, prayer books.
  • Set up a prayer table.  Make sure the prayer table has a special place in your home.   Place a crucifix, candles, a prayer box, perhaps a statue on the table.  Make it a special place they will want to visit.
  • Let your children see you pray!  Our children learn though seeing and when they see us in prayer they naturally turn to prayer as well.
  • When you hear of someone who has been hurt, or see a wreck, stop that minute and say a prayer as a family for the person in need, even if you don’t know them.
  • As time progresses at your nightly prayer introduce a new prayer.  It’s amazing how quickly our children learn prayers when they are said on a regular basis.
  • Pray the rosary.  If your children won’t sit still for a full rosary, pray a decade, but introduce them to the beauty of the rosary. Make sure each child has his or her own rosary to hold.
  • Allow your children to lead prayer.  Let them say either memorized prayers or ones that they make up.  Let their hearts lead them.
  • Pray quietly yourself and in private.  If we want to be able to teach our children to pray we must also be praying on our own. 
  • Pray with your spouse.  Nothing will bring a couple closer than praying together.  When your relationship is healthy and happy it helps the entire family be healthy and happy.

Prayer should be the of the center point of our day.    As St. Teresa of Avila  said, “Our Lord walks among the pots and the pans.”  This means that we can be in prayer no matter what we are doing.  Christ is present in Mass but he is also there when we are cleaning, running errands, sitting at our children’s ball practices… he’s always with us and always listening!   We should be in prayer throughout the day not just at Mass, at supper or at night before bed.   The more we immerse ourselves in prayer the easier it will be to approach someone, take their hands and say, “I would like to pray with you.”  If we start doing this in our own homes imagine how much easier it will be to approach a friend, an acquaintance or even a stranger.   Jesus encouraged us to pray.  He gave us the Lord’s Prayer and even modeled praying for us.   What a tremendous blessing it is to be able to pray with and for each other!

How do you teach your children to pray?