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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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
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