As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live.” – St. John Paul II
Last week I wrote on the basics of spiritual warfare: the battle for our souls is real, something we must all engage in by virtue of our baptism, and Jesus is the only one who can win this war.
Not the Destination...
Right now I have family members who are putting their house on the market. They have been busy packing up and keeping things clean for their open house and subsequent showings. Their house needs to be in order so they are ready at any moment for someone to come take a look. They are busy preparing for when their house sells.
When parents of a newborn baby set out on the big scary adventure of tackling the myriad of challenges in caring for their baby, there's no shortage of advice from family and friends to help them on their way.
Some things that are very overwhelming about using NFP are: how much I don’t know how to use it, how much you have to abstain if you are really trying to avoid having children, and how hard it is post-partum. I have talked to many who are in the same boat, and are wishing someone would have warned them on how challenging it is instead of painting it as a romantic walk on the beach during a sunset.
Last week we talked about some ideas of how to pray throughout the day individually and as a couple. Today, I want to focus more on how to do this with your kids.
The best thing that I can recommend is family prayer time. This time brings you not only closer to God, but to each other. And a family that prays together, stays together!
For us, this is part of our bedtime routine sandwiched between getting jammies on and brushing teeth. Some families do it right after dinner. The important thing is to do it, and make it a habit! It takes time, but eventually the kids will get used to it!
Growing up, there are many family prayer times that I recall and enjoyed. We used to read short devotional stories or age-appropriate reflections. One year we did a saint-a-day calendar, and boy are there some unusual saints out there! One time I even cried because my family had prayer time without me.
Nowadays, our kids our young so we try to keep it pretty short, but we’ve been adding to it as the kids get older. We first started with praying the Our Father and Hail Mary. We’ve since added the Glory Be, Angel of God, and St. Michael prayer. We also have everyone say one thing their thankful for (although our 3 year old girl usually says closer to 30) and one thing (or person) they want to pray for and ask God’s help for. We’ve started to also read a few pages from the Children’s Bible with the older two.
Here are some other great ideas that other families do during family prayer time:
- Pray a blessing for each child
- Short bible study, study of virtue, etc.
- Lay hands on and pray for a kid going through a particularly hard time
- Praying the Rosary (or decade for young kids).
- Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet (I love to listen to this beautiful version in song!)
- Each person say a short thanksgiving and/or intention
- Singing a praise song or hymn together
- Read a story about a saint.
- Create a sacred space, using candles, liturgical colors, holy images or icons to show that this time is special. Have your kids help set it up, and use your senses to pray with your whole body!
Other Great Ways to Pray with your Kids:
*Pray when hear siren or helicopter. Children can pray, “God help them!” or “Lord be with them.” You can also say a Hail Mary asking for protection for whoever is hurt or in trouble.
*In the car, you can listen to praise and worship, sung prayers, saint stories, etc. For our kids, we like Cat Chat CD’s, Holy Heroes Glory Story CD’s, and Christian radio stations.
*Stop to say a short prayer at a certain time of day, such as the Angelus at noon or “Jesus I trust in You” at 3pm, the hour of mercy.
*Celebrate their Baptism Days - It’s their birthday into the family of God! Recite baptismal promises, have their favorite meal
*Celebrate the Liturgical year:
- Advent: Create an advent wreath to use during prayer time. Our kids love lighting and blowing out the candles! You can also make or buy Jesse Tree ornaments and add to the symbolism of the tree.
- Lent: do the Stations of the Cross either at Church or in your home. We love these Stations of the Cross eggs!). Do sacrifice beads, a crown of thorns, or Lenten Adventure by Holy Heroes.
- Easter: Garden Party of the Good Shepherd
*Don’t forget to celebrate other feast days throughout the year with parties (and some prayers! Holy Days of Obligation require going to Mass, but there should be some feasting that go along with it!) Here is a great blog from last week on doing just that!
In short, there are so many ways that you can invite God into your child’s day and show them how much God loves them, and how He is always present with them. Having a set time for family prayer is very important, but they also need to know that while sometimes prayer is very serious, sometimes it can also be fun! The beauty of using the liturgical year is that there are times of fasting and feasting, which help our kids to enter into a relationship with God in a very real, daily way!
Good resources for liturgical living with kids:
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve long had a hang-up with perfectionism. And for a long time, I really struggled with Mary. It just didn’t seem fair to me that Jesus made his own mother perfect, but left the rest of us to struggle. Why couldn’t he have made the rest of us perfect, too?
Pope St. John Paul II once wrote in a book, entitled The Way to Christ that: “Men must be taught to love, and to love in a noble way; they must be educated in depth in this truth, that is, in the fact that a woman is a person and not simply an object.”