Saturday, September 5, 2015

Family Prayer - How We {currently} Make It Happen



I hesitate a bit to write on family prayer.
  
I worry just a little that it will be read that I think what we do others might think they should be doing, too.  But I remember not too long ago as a fresh faced (and overwhelmed and exhausted) mom of just one little baby wanting to know everything I could about how other Catholic moms were doing things.  I felt a bit lost.  I remembered some things from growing up but I felt like we needed to figure out things for us, with a different family situation and dynamic.  We've kind of lost that collective memory, haven't we?  Many of us didn't have family prayer growing up at all.  Many of us were raised in broken homes.  Many of us had their spiritual life stay within the confines of their Catholic school or religious education program.  Many of us just feel as adults and parents that we're kind of making stuff up as we go and that we somehow missed out on that natural passing on of faith traditions.  When we begin having children, especially, we begin to feel that void.   

As that young mom, I wanted to peer into the windows and see just how others I knew were doing things.  I wanted to get ideas and know that this was possible and just see how it all worked in real life.  Already feeling the tug to homeschool, I specifically wanted to see those Catholic homeschooling moms I knew who had years of experience under their belts and just seemed to know what they were doing.  While I don't think I can claim that yet (and those other moms would've probably said the same thing at the time!), I do want to share what we do both for my own benefit in future years but maybe also for that young mom in a similar boat who just wants to know what others do so that they can shape and form their own family prayer life consistent with their family culture.

And so I share.  Here's currently what we do:

MY Prayer Time
What works best for me (and consequently for my family) is if I get up far earlier than the rest of the family.  I hesitate to say need but I really really do better when I have an hour or two to wake up and have quiet and my own personal prayer and devotion time before I'm "on" for the rest of the day.  I'm just reclaiming that time now after the late pregnancy/newborn stage that throws this time off a bit.  There was a good chunk of time before Ben's pregnancy when I was waking up at 5:30 just to get that time in before the littles would start waking.  It's not that I don't need or want sleep but this time is even more precious to me than that.  Which is saying a lot.  I can go without a little sleep.  I can't go without that time of quiet with Him and that time with my own thoughts.   So within that time I try to do Morning Prayer from the Divine Office, have some sort of spiritual reading or Scripture, and just sit even for a few moments in silence and conversation with God.  And that's probably my best time for writing or at least starting to write…which explains why the posts have been few and far between these last few months.
  
Morning Offering
We pray the Morning Offering together before the boys are allowed to dig into breakfast.  We pray a traditional offering, add in our own special flair at the end, and then go right into the prayer before meals.

Heavenly Father, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we offer You all the prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world - for our Holy Father and His intentions, for all the souls in Purgatory, for all those who will die today, and for all of our priests.  We pray for all those suffering throughout the world - the hungry and homeless, the people in war, danger, nursing homes, prisons, hospitals, and orphanages and for all who need our prayers in any way today.  We pray for all unborn babies especially…  We pray that we can grow today in holiness, gratitude, obedience (insert any virtue we may be struggling with…) and for Papa, his work, and his clients.
Bless us, oh Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive, from Thy bounty, 
through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Blessings
Before Brian leaves for work he likes to use the holy water to make a cross on each person's forehead…almost always necessarily reminded by one of the littles.

The Angelus
Before the boys eat their lunch around noon we pray the Angelus together.
(During the Easter season this is changed to the Regina Caeli.)
Then we again go right into the meal blessing.  This time we do it in Latin because it's cool and it's a good opportunity to practice/learn their Latin in real life context.
We add in a little prayer to bless Papa and his work at the end.

Dinner
We don't do anything fancy at dinner except pray the meal blessing again.  For all of these meals, the rule is you don't begin eating until we've prayed together.  (Tying prayer into meal time is really helpful in establishing a prayer rhythm.  Also, getting to eat is a good natural motivator ;)  During Advent this is also when we do our Advent prayers and light our wreath.

Family Rosary
This has been sporadic throughout the years but over this past summer we've recommitted to praying a family Rosary before bed.  There were seasons where we just did a decade and years in the beginning where didn't do it at all.  But with recent current events and the climate of the country and everything going on, we've felt increasingly convicted that our family needs to be praying more and praying hard for so many suffering and against so much evil happening.  So before the three middles go up to bed, we pray in the front room together.  Sometimes Oftentimes it looks like a hot mess but I remind myself that we are trying and that God sees our hearts and intentions and to just keep on keeping on for our own good and the grace it can bring to us and the world.  If we are out somewhere in the evening we try our best to pray in the car on the way home so we can put littles right to bed.

The boys take turns with decades and I'm so happy that we've recently begun singing the Salve Regina at the end.  I've always wanted to learn it and do that as a family at night and the boys have really taken to it.

(During Lent we replace the Rosary with the Stations of the Cross on Fridays.)

Intentions   
At the end of Rosary we add the St. Michael prayer and we each get a chance to voice any special intentions for the day.  (We used to also add in something they were grateful for from the day but at that point the attention (and, ahem, parental patience) is wearing down.)   They tend to pray for the same intentions which is fine because they're good ones.  We've started making sure that we specifically pray for an end to abortion and the conversion of all abortionists. 

Bedtime
When the boys are getting tucked into bed upstairs they pray the Guardian Angel prayer and do our family litany, i.e. asking the intercession of all our family patron saints.  This includes the first/middle/Confirmation name saints, our little Joseph Mary, a few other saints special to us, and if we know it, the feast day saint.  It's getting kind of long :)  I don't know where I learned this but we add the  lines "From simplest stain, o keep me free; And in death's sorrow near me be" to the end of the Guardian Angel prayer.  Then forehead blessings with holy water and g'nite.

Prayer as Husband and Wife
We'd like to improve in this area a bit.  But our goal is to pray well together before we go to bed.  I love the times we are able to pray spontaneously together.  It is beautiful and there is so much fruit that comes from it.  That said, we often put it off until we are already in bed and by that point our eyes are closing and we're practically unconscious before we can mumble out an Our Father together.  Perhaps the thing to work on next...

Another thing I've toyed with is to add an afternoon devotion such as the Chaplet of Divine Mercy at 3:00 or quiet Scripture or devotional reading.  That time of day is usually a hard one, though.  Often they are already busily playing or working on something and I don't want to interrupt...mooostly for my own benefit.  And that's the time of day when I'm feeling drowsy and sluggish so I just don't muster the energy to make it happen.  Something to pray and think about, I suppose.  We also have never done the prayer after meals that some do.  But it is a beautiful idea and one that maybe will happen in the future.

So, for now, that is our little family's prayer routine.  Every family will (and should!) look different depending on schedules, schooling, special devotions, job situations, personal devotion of the parents, etc. but every family has the opportunity to avail themselves of that grace somehow and be a conduit of grace for the rest of the world.  What a beautiful gift that is.  What a necessary lifeline that is in our world today.  The pressure on my heart in the last few months has been increasing that we families need to be praying for our world and for our own souls.  While we may never on earth know the fruit of it here, there will be eternal and beautiful blessings if we do.

I'd love to have you share in the comments the family prayer that works with your family.  Let's encourage each other and help each other become who we as families were meant to be.


"The dignity and responsibility of the Christian family as the domestic Church can be achieved only with God's unceasing aid, which will surely be granted if it is humbly and trustingly petitioned in prayer."  
Familiaris Consortio, 59



14 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Mary. So true that we need the lifeline that a family prayer life offers to give us (parents and children) the best chance of not being swallowed up by our scary culture. I'd love to incorporate the blessing with holy water here! We have holy water that we NEVER take out of the cupboard.... I've also thought about starting an intentions list in our dining room where it's very visible, just haven't actually DONE it yet. We don't all eat breakfast together so we miss out on that family prayer opportunity, but we usually start our school day with a prayer and hymn, which I like :)
    Also, I happen to LOVE the title graphic you made, and just wanted you to know :)

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    1. Ha, thanks :) I love the idea of an intentions list! It's so easy for them to be forgotten and it seems like new ones are always being added. I remember learning that Ven. Fr. Baker carried a little notebook around so that when people asked him to pray for something he could immediately write it down. I need to do that. I'll also need bigger pockets...

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  2. This is really helpful! We do a few of these but want to do more. Do you have to deal with kids being rambunctious and/or not paying any attention while you try to pray? We have 4 kids 4 and under, and I don't know how to react when they seem so disinterested.

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    1. Oh yes. Pretty much every day :) It's a balance for us because I don't want to be strictly forcing them to pray but I also expect them to be respectful and *somewhat* reverent. Just like I expect them to greet their grandparents and have conversation, I expect them to be able to have conversation with our Lord. BUT all while trying to be age appropriate. With all of them under 4 I would expect only very short prayers and attention spans. For many of the prayers we do Luke (3 1/2) is just now starting to be able to follow along and almost every meal I have to remind him that we wait to eat until we've prayed. We've *just* recently been able to pray the full Rosary with Luke around and there's a good deal of squirming and redirection and distraction (from all of them at times!) but we try to just keep on keepin' on. If they're being disproportionately distracting or rude for their age then they've shown us that they're too tired and they can go to bed instead.

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  3. Do you all have each prayer memorized? Currently we just say a few prayers at bedtime. I didn't grow up in a family prayer home (one of those broken ones, too) and as a protestant, I of course never learned these Catholic prayers, litanies, Rosary, etc., so I'm still learning what they all are, actually since personal/family prayer was just not a part of my upbringing - any prayer was done at Sunday School or in church, besides some personal prayers for family members that I used to say before bed as a kid. One prayer we added last Nov. is the "Eternal Rest" prayer for all the holy souls in purgatory and I want to add the St. Michael Prayer this year (since his feast is coming up and we are BIG St. Michael "fans" here!) but it takes time to learn and memorize them, so it's a gradual adding on for us. Just wondering how you go about having the boys learn prayers or do the older ones who read use prayer books or have they, too, memorized them over the years? I'm also looking to learn more about seasonal prayers because we follow the liturgical year/feast days and keep a notebook of special feast days and the seasons for school/religion studies, so prayer and certain hymns to add would be good, too (we memorized the "Adeste Fedelis" a coupld years ago during Advent in time for Chirstmastide!) Thank you for this post - it was very helpful! :)

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    1. Oooops! "mrsarchieleach" is Krista! :)

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    2. Hi Krista! Right now we have all the prayers memorized but that definitely took a lot of time. We kind of built up to this routine we have now which I think is normal and natural as a family is growing. It sounds like you guys are doing a great job! So a few years ago we learned the meal prayer in Latin as part of our Latin curriculum…so we added that in at lunch. When the oldest was six or seven (I think?) is when we started the Angelus and I had to use a sheet to remember the parts. Now we just all know it. Same with the Morning Offering and the Regina Caeli (which I didn't know was even a thing til I was an adult). So it's all been built up incrementally to be what it is now and will I'm sure evolve more in the future. I love, though, that the littlest ones now just learn them from hearing them over and over and know them without ever being formally taught.

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    3. Oh, this is all good to know! About your little ones just picking up the prayers by hearing them - I found the Lord's Prayer that way with my daughter - she just knew about 3/4 of it before I added it to our "list"! :) I've toyed learning some of the prayers in Latin, too and the Ordinaries of the Mass in Latin (and Greek). We've got the Angus Dei and Kyrie and part of the Sanctus, so good start (in Latin, that is!). Yeah, I need to learn about certain seasonal prayers - definitely! We did do the St. Andrew Christmas Novena her Kindergarten year - that was fun to do and it sure helped us to learn it! We haven't done it since, but I bet we'd pick it up easily, though! More novenas and seasonal prayers this year! AS a former Lutheran, prayer wasn't really on the radar - formal prayer, that is. LOL - we'd learn the Angelus but we don't eat anywhere near noon (we're on European time! LOL!) and that would be a good time to do it - it would end up being right during schooltime or outside time at noon! Thanks again for your reply and blog post! :) Happy new school year, guys! ~ Krista

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  4. I'm SO glad you shared this. In my family of origin, we never prayed together, except for a hurried grace before dinner most of the time. As a convert from atheism, I have struggled a lot with how to pray and how to teach my children to do it. Currently, we say a prayer before we start school in the morning, we say grace before dinner, and we all pray together before bed by each stating our intentions and then praying a memorized prayer (we used to do an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be, but now we do the Nicene Creed and occasionally the Angel of God prayer), then we do a family litany similar to what you described. I have been thinking about adding in some more prayer throughout the day, and I love the idea of doing it right before meals as a way to incorporate it easily into the routine (and not forget). Thanks for these ideas!

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    1. It sounds like you guys are doing beautifully! Yes, the meal time thing is a HUGE help. I feel like it definitely works well to use that rhythm that's already built into the day to our spiritual advantage! It's easy to forget to pray but it's much harder to forget to eat!

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  5. Thank you so much for this. It is super helpful to me to see the ins and outs of how other families make this happen. In this area particularily, I feel I suffer from "prefect paralysis". Like I don't want to do it until I know it can go well. When the truth is that just starting is better by far than just waiting for a better time. And it will get better over time, as we all grow together as a family and get more comfortable with the prayers. Thanks again.

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    1. I TOTALLY know what you mean. It often looks messier than we want it to be or like not nearly "enough." It will never be what WE think is perfect…yet if it's where God has us and we're following His promptings within our own little imperfect families it's exactly what it should look like. I've been learning that lesson so much with so many things.

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  6. We just started praying the Angelus at noon and I love it! We're still stumbling over the words (in English!) but we're getting better. I don't usually wake up before the kids, but I DO find some time in the day to pray alone. It's critical, or mama would be a mess.

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  7. This is great! I love the idea of the morning offering at breakfast. I'm going to try that this week...or I might just have to add it before our decade of the Rosary while we do the morning school drop-off. Thanks for sharing what you do!

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