A Family That Prays Together

 “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!

A Mother’s Retreat Weekend

I always thought it might be nice to have a day or a weekend retreat of sorts. Not really a retreat in the strict sense but more of a retreat-from-being-a-mama retreat. Please don’t think that I am this wild woman who cannot wait to escape her family. Not at all. I just thought it would be nice to carve a little time aside for myself to rest, refocus and spend a little time letting God nurture me and fill me up. I knew once Abigail was weaned that I absolutely needed to do this but didn’t know if we would really have the money or time for me to go away, what with moving into a new home and then all of the shenanigans that followed. We kept talking about it but it just wasn’t coming together. I finally just said, “How about next weekend!?” I made plans to stay in the guest room at my mother’s house and kept it simple.

My sister came to pick me up once our girls were in bed on Saturday night and we made our way out to my mother’s. Now, I do have to say that I slept terribly the entire time I was away. I am not a good daytime napper to begin with so that coupled with two bad restless nights of sleep and I was still pretty tired when Ben and the girls came to get me on Monday afternoon. That being said, I was so refreshed by the time they came. I had lots of time to just lay in bed, pray, read, knit, drink my whole cup of coffee in one sitting…it was a beautiful thing really. I had a few good cries, really letting down my whole, “I’m the mom, i’ve got to keep it together” mentality. I’m not sure if it’s because i’m the oldest child in my family that I have always felt that way but that’s just the way I am. I think what I enjoyed most out of my entire weekend was that I got exactly the thing I needed.

I spend every waking moment of my day living and loving for those around me. My mind is occupied with my two beautiful girls, my darling husband and those that I love and it is not often that I remember that I am more than wife and mother. God reminded me that I am those things and they are important but that nothing is more important than being His. I am His daughter. I am His beloved. I cannot tell you the sweet, sweet tears that I cried being reminded of this and knowing this truth the minute I felt Him remind me. For me, it isn’t about being the old Katie, you know, the single one that did what she liked, when she liked. It’s about continuing to be His daughter, no matter what else I am and what I am doing. How will I ever show my daughters how sweet it is to belong to Christ if I forget that simple truth in my everyday living. All that He does is for love of me. It’s so easy as moms to get caught up in this business of being in control. With little people all around us, we make so many decisions, so many choices all day long that it is easy to think that we are in control. When it comes to me and my well being I know that I need to let Him reign in my heart. I need to let go and let God as cliche as that sounds. When I’m thinking should I rest while the girls do or should I catch up on blogland, I need to remember that I belong to Him and He doesn’t want me getting burnt out. With the same care I take in teaching my girls to do good things for themselves to be healthy and safe, He is reaching out to teach me the same.

I made two lists while I was on my retreat. One list comprised of things I like to do and that give me joy/life. The other list was the same but things that bring our family joy/life. Now my goal is to incorporate those things into our calendar so that we have things to look forward to. One of the things on my list is knitting. It keeps me from eating junk food in the evening and keeps my hands busy. It helps me to concentrate on that one repetitive thing and put aside my brain that usually does not know when to be quiet. My goal is to always have some project on my needles. Whether I get one row done or 10 doesn’t matter. It’s good for me and is a practical way to make things for the people I love. One thing on our list as family is fellowship. I want to make a conscious effort to invite people into our home to share meals, play times, prayer times and to grow together in our faith. It is so important, especially for my husband who works in a secular environment every day and doesn’t have the same opportunities for fellowship that I am permitted because I am home during the day.

My weekend away was one I will never forget because it was my first one. There are perhaps things I would change for next time but it was a declaration of independance of sorts. It was me saying to myself, “you deserve time for quiet, and rest and refuelling” I am so very glad that I did this. I know that I will plan for one more retreat before we have another baby, probably next year sometime. I think that every mom is capable of doing this, even if only for an afternoon or overnight. I was able to wake up, drink coffee, pray in bed for an hour and a half, have a hot shower and go to mass alone. It was incredible. Even just that whole morning to myself might have been enough. God is so good. I know this blog post isn’t poetic. I wish I was that good a writer, but I just want to share what God did for me, knowing how many of my mama friends could really benefit from a good soak in His love, too.

As for my husband? He did a beautiful job with our children. They had fun, they had tears, but most of all they had special time with Dad and learned that it’s okay when mum goes away, because she comes back! I may have more to share about my time, I just need to pray about it a little more. Think about doing this ladies! I am refreshed and feel more relaxed than I have in a long time. God is good!!!

Seeking Joy

Several months ago, I made a recommitment to taking a daily time of prayer. It started out beautifully. I would wake up before the kids, get myself dressed and make my way to my favorite sitting spot in our living room, the rocking chair. I would usually get in about 20-30 minutes of prayer, and a quick facebook check before Abigail (my almost 11 month old) would wake up. Then, Abigail started sleeping through the night. I was happy about it, but suddenly she was waking up at 5:30am or sometimes even 5:00am looking to nurse and start her day. After a few weeks of this going on, I was wiped. I felt discouraged and felt like I may as well not even bother to pray since my daughter obviously had other things in mind for my morning time. I really let it get the better of me and when Abigail would wake up, I would wake up feeling bitter and irritated…not the greatest start to a day. I was very nearly ready to throw the towel in when it finally hit me, probably for the millionth time since I became a mother; God called me not only to be His, but to be a mother as well. If He has called me to this vocation, then surely He will give me grace to live it. 
My prayer time will never look like that of a Carmelite nun, nor should it. It would be selfish of me to spend hours in prayer, when my children are in need of my attention and affection. After talking it over with my husband, he declared that the day should start with, “Good morning God!” and not “Good god it’s morning”. He was so very right. It pretty much summed up the whole experience for me, smart man he is. If I could manage nothing else, I would at least start my mornings off by acknowledging the One who had called me to this very life. I am still getting up pretty early these days, lately it’s been between 5:30-6:00am, but I am doing it knowing that as I sit and nurse this baby-almost-toddler of mine, God is near and He isn’t afraid of early mornings.
With the start of the new year, I decided that I could at the very least take a few minutes to sit with my Small Steps for Catholic Moms book, before, after or even while nursing Abigail. Each daily reflection is made up of Think, Pray, Act. There is a quote from a Saint or scripture, then a short reflection (about a paragraph long) and then an act..something simple to feel like you are putting your prayer to action. It has really helped me to get back on track with my prayer. The beauty of it is that each day is a new page, a new Think, Act, Pray. I never feel like I have fallen behind if I miss a day, I just start fresh each new day. Each month has a theme and the theme of January is Joy. Boy, oh boy do I need me some Joy in these dark winter months ahead. I am inspired to continue striving for daily prayer. It is so worth it…He is so very worth it, and I need Him. This book would make a wonderful gift to a new mother, a dear friend or to yourself, to be honest. I am so thankful that I have stumbled upon it, because it has given me hope that no matter how short my prayer time, it can still have depth, give me something to spiritually chew on and also give me one simple act to put into practice.

With Joy being the theme of the month, it has got me thinking about the difference between joy and happiness. I always thought that if I didn’t feel happy, then surely I could never be joyful. I am slowly learning that joy has in fact very little to do with feeling. As Elizabeth put so beautifully, “We are children who know we are loved. We can look for joy and expect to find it. We are children of a loving Father. A child loved by God has faith in joy. I am a child loved by God. Joy is mine.” It doesn’t matter how difficult yesterday was, what argument I had with someone, how quickly and easily I lost my temper with the girls, or how tidy or untidy my house was at the end of the day…today is a new day, God still loves me, His Joy is mine for the taking.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:9-11
What more proof could I ask for that God loves me and wants me to have His joy? Not the joy of the world, that is fleeting and empty, but eternal joy, joy that lasts forever because it is all of His goodness and love in my life. As these days slowly get lighter, I will be here, smiling everyday at my little ones and making sure they know their mama is joyful, and also that they know the cause of that joy.

At the Breakfast Table

From where I sit this morning,
Hot coffee and eggs to start the day.

From where I sit,
Two precious girls smile up at me and know I am their mama.

From where I sit,
The smell of carnations, a reminder that I am chosen by my husband

From where I sit,
A scene of the Holy Family on our wall. Parents of a new baby, they’ve been here before. Blessed to be tired from loving so much.

From where I sit,

Advent is nearly upon us and I am filled with new hope for the year to come and all of the joy that the Christ child will bring into ours hearts and our home.

Prayer cards

I’ve decided to follow my friend, Jaclyn’s lead this month and get crafty when I have some spare moments. Several months ago, I ordered this book online. It had some great ideas on how to teach toddlers about the faith on their level. One of the ideas I really liked, was the idea of helping your child start off their day in prayer.

Most mornings I roll out of bed and pray a daily offering before I do anything else. I thought it might be nice to start doing something similar with Lucy. In the book, “Guiding your Catholic preschooler”, the writer includes a short prayer for little ones to memorize through daily repetition. Although Lucy is generally very gentle with paper and books, I thought it would be wise to cover the paper with packing tape to protect it. I made little prayer cards by simply writing out some prayers on computer paper with markers, cutting them out and wrapping packing tape around them. This way, Lucy can handle them and I won’t be worried that they’ll get ruined.

I’m going to try and pray this little daily offering with her before we leave her room in the morning. Throughout the day, Lucy will often look at me with her little hands together and say ‘pray, pray’ and so we do! We pray for people, we pray to bless our food, to say thank you for the sunshine, and all sorts of things. It amazes me that my 20 month old would want to pray and gets so excited about pointing out ‘jeez’ (Jesus) on every cross. Do you pray with your kids? If so, what do you do? and do they seem to like it?

Quiet Mornings

I wake up nice and warm in my bed. I reach out to Ben’s side. He has already left for work. I look up at the alarm clock on his nightstand. 6:05 a.m. Do I try to steal an extra few minutes of sleep before the day begins? or do I get a head start on my girls? For almost 2 weeks now, I have chosen the head start. And my mornings have been blessed.

Having children has certainly changed many things about my life. One of those changes has been sleep. Lucy is usually the alarm clock as she calls out ‘mama’ or ‘o-meals’ (oatmeal) anywhere between 6:30-7:00 a.m. But lately, God has been blessing me with some really peaceful mornings. Everyday around 6 a.m. He wakes me up, with Ben gone to work and both girls fast asleep, I have a choice. I get up, pray a little, make my coffee and breakfast and enjoy it in silence. I check my Facebook, listen to some praise and worship music, read blogs and enjoy the time that I have alone. Some days it’s 10 minutes, others it’s an hour.


Growing up in a family with 4 children, I never really had much time alone or privacy. My sister and I shared a room until I went on N.E.T, and continued to share the room when I returned. Truth be told, the only time I have had my own room was for the duration of my stay in New Zealand. Even then though, I still had 3 housemates. I never pictured myself to be someone who needed alone time. I liked being in the middle of all the action. Then I did a second year of N.E.T All of a sudden I was craving time alone. On our days off, I would leave the house fairly early and then not come home until late in the evening. It felt so good to be in the silence and let Jesus slowly recharge my batteries. Ever since that year, I have desired some quiet time and try to make it part of my day when I can.

If you’re thinking i’m crazy for getting up so early in the morning, I don’t blame you. I have read many blogs were the women suggest getting up before your children, and I thought they were insane. I would think, “I’m already getting up too early!” Why would I do that?? I know my self well enough to know at this point, that I am more loving, joyful, patient and giving when I have had time to pray and relax. I am better able to care for those around me, and will likely be more generous, because I have already had my “me” time for the day.

Whether it’s sitting on your couch, on the beach, or taking a walk first thing in the morning, one thing I know for sure is that Jesus looks forward to seeing us each day. He loves us like no one else on this earth. All we have to do is rise and greet Him!

Here is something that may help you start your days with the same peace and refreshment that I have been starting mine with. Many Blessings to you today!