“Everyone knows that the Christian family is a special sign of the presence and love of Christ and that it is called to give a specific and irreplaceable contribution to evangelization. … The Christian family has always been the first way of transmitting the faith and still today retains great possibilities for evangelization in many areas. Dear parents, commit yourselves always to teach your children to pray, and pray with them; draw them close to the Sacraments, especially to the Eucharist, … introduce them to the life of the Church; in the intimacy of the home do not be afraid to read the sacred Scriptures, illuminating family life with the light of faith and praising God as Father. Be like a little Upper Room, like that of Mary and the disciples, in which to live unity, communion and prayer!”. – Pope Benedict XVI
I am a cradle Catholic. So is my husband. We both grew up in Catholic homes where we went to Sunday mass, attended catechism classes and were confirmed in the church. We both remember our parents praying with us before bed when we were small children. We both remember those bedtime prayers stopping when we were getting too big to be tucked in anymore. I say this not to criticize our parents, not even a little bit. Without our parents love and commitment to taking us (sometimes unwillingly) to the Eucharist week after week we would not be where we are in our faith.
When we became parents decided that we wanted to incorporate a family prayer time into our daily life. We knew that it should be something simple, realistic and age appropriate to our kids. Some families with young children pray a Rosary every evening before bed and more power to you but that is not for us right now. We would pray together every few days when Lucy was a baby but we never found the right rhythm until we moved back to Halifax and into our new apartment. She was 9 months old at the time and we were getting into a nice routine with her of supper, bathtime, nursing/prayer then bed.
The next thing we decided was that our family prayer time would happen in our living room. Now this may not seem like a big deal to some people and I ask you to please bear with me. We decided to do this in our living room because we don’t want to grow out of praying with our kids once they are too big to be tucked in. Our living room is where we live, we laugh, we fight, we play and we pray. Praying there also becomes a way of including others in our prayers when they visit and we ask them to join us for family prayer. It helps Lucy to point to pictures of people in the room and name them when it is her turn to bless others.
I want to share with you what our family does every night before the girls go to bed. After they have had their bath or just put on their pyjamas, we all gather in the living room. Ben and I sit together on the couch and we start..
We make the sign of the cross to start.
We each take a turn to give thanks for 2-3 things about the day.
We pray for anyone who has asked for our prayers or who needs them.
We say an Our Father, a Hail Mary and a Glory Be.
We say St. Matthew and St. Rosalie, pray for us! (These are our family Saints, babies we have miscarried).
We make the sign of the cross to finish.
There is nothing fancy about what we do. The most important thing is that we do it. Every night. Even when the girls don’t want to. Even when we don’t want to. Consistently. Sometimes it goes beautifully and Lucy is praying for people and telling Jesus wonderful things and other times she says things like, “bless our lamp”. Miss Abigail knows who Mary is now, she says Amen with us and does a funny arm movement as her sign of the cross but you know what? I love it. I love all of it. There is something so beautiful when you hear your children praying the Hail Mary and you think, “we taught them that!!!!”
We know that as our children grow older our prayer time may change slightly. We may work ourselves up to praying a family rosary every night. For now we want to focus on short, simple, consistent prayer time to carry us through this time of toddlerhood. Also, we can’t expect anyone to pray a rosary if they can’t pray a Hail Mary, right? We are really happy with what we do. Lucy knows about 1/2 of the Our Father and all of the Hail Mary and Glory be. We don’t say those prayers more than just that once a day usually, but over time it is amazing what young children can pick up.
If having a family prayer time is something that you’ve thought about doing but always felt like it would be too hard to do, try something simple. My kids don’t sit like angels on the couch the entire time and I don’t expect them to. They are 18 months and nearly 3 years old. At prayer time we give them each a rosary to hold and a few books with children’s prayers or holy pictures. It gives them something to focus on, if only for 5 minutes. This is how we begin!
The other part of the quote from Pope Benedict talks about reading scripture together in the home. I personally really LOVE scripture. I don’t read it as often as I should but the stories just make it all come alive for me. We recently went through our kids books and got rid of about half. There were some pages torn, or in rough shape and we widdled the bookshelf down to the ones they really love. Among those books we put in a few different Children’s Bible story books. My grandmother gave one to Lucy when she was a baby with really realistic but still cartoon images. They love it. We talk about Noah and the animals, she’s asked me about the picture of Abraham and Isaac. These two things, prayer time and reading scripture, really are possible and can be kept simple. God only asks us to bring the children to Him. He didn’t say they had to behave or always love it. He just asked us to bring them. We do this each Sunday when we go to church but can we find a way to bring them to Christ in our homes? Are we bringing ourselves to Christ in our homes? I mean no harm when I say this but, if we can’t find Christ in our homes, it’s unlikely that we will be able to find Him anywhere else.
We have found much peace in bringing family prayer to the front and center of our home. We pray that you and your families would know that peace as well. Bless you!