I’d really envisioned just writing a quick post about how ridiculous our family prayer time has become lately, but it got me thinking on other things… so forgive my long-windedness.
Growing up Methodist, somewhere along the line I got the impression that church and religion were Sunday things, but only when extremely convenient, and that prayer was a private thing between you and God, and it usually just happened as the words came to you.
The focus of our church service was the music and the sermon, and the highlight of the day was visiting with friends and family. Once I left the building, I don’t know how much I carried with me besides some cute songs and bible stories. It certainly wasn’t enough to sustain me when I hit my rebellious teenage years and started asking questions about everything. It didn’t help that the minister who interacted with the youth group was a real ……well, let’s just say we didn’t get along, and in answering my questions he typically tried to make me feel simple-minded and foolish.
Besides meal time prayers, I don’t remember my family ever praying together. In fact, I don’t remember ever really discussing religion at all. And on Sunday’s, children typically attended their own service or sang in their own choirs, so we rarely ever sat together. Even after being confirmed, I couldn’t recite the Apostle’s Creed or tell you what a Methodist actually believed or what made us different from other denominations.
By seventeen, I didn’t know what I believed in or why I should believe it and I didn’t feel comfortable discussing these things with my parents. It was then that I met my husband, another seventeen year old with a completely different outlook on religion.
Growing up in Lancaster, PA, my husband was the first Catholic friend I ever had. We hung out with a large group of mutual friends before we started dating towards the end of our senior year (I actually asked him to the senior prom.) In his car he kept a rosary, and his family’s house was adorned with religious art, palm branches, statues, the whole nine yards, which naturally led to lots of questions from me. He answered all of them patiently and almost instinctively, I knew what I was hearing was the truth. There was no question I put to him that he couldn’t answer, or wouldn’t quickly find the answer for. And it all made sense. Had I been more well versed in my own faith, perhaps I might have tried to challenge him more, but our relationship, from the very beginning, is what kept me from completely turning my back on Christianity. It was as if all my previous angst had left me an empty pitcher just waiting to be filled.
I’ve grown a lot in my faith from our early talks at his parents house, to my reception into the Church at a really, REALLY, liberal Ordinary form parish in Syracuse, NY to our home now at an Extraordinary Form parish in Berlin, NJ. I’ve never looked back with longing on my days as a Methodist. I’m so happy to be Catholic. For all the snark in my blogging, I hope that some of the joy I experience as a devout Catholic rubs off on people. I won’t win any apologetic wars with a Bob Jones graduate, but maybe one person will see my family and think, “huh, those papists might be on to something.”
And now the real point of this post, family prayers! Good heavens, with five kids under ten they’re a real nightmare sometimes, but almost every night, we sit down as a family and pray. The goal is to say at least three decades of the rosary for a specific intention, plus our family’s litany of saints and then any special prayers (currently a novena to the Holy Ghost.)
Tonight’s prayers got sidetracked early on by a discussion of Mexico and whether it’s safe to travel there, which got the husband and I off on a tangent about NAFTA, then drug smuggling, but not before I uttered the expression “pissing and moaning.” So then I got lectured by the husband for using such language in front of the kids..again…but not before I had to explain what I said, what makes it “coarse and crude” and how they’re never to repeat it.
“Can I just tell Frankie?,” asked Byron.
“I’m sure Frankie already knows,” I sighed.
“Can I just remind him?”, Byron asked.
“NO!,” said the husband, me and the oldest daughter.
When we actually started, Edie kept giggling because she was hiccuping, Fulton kept pointing his finger at someone and yelling ‘BANG!’ while the older two, who’ve taken to leading the decades, kept trying to pray louder than whomever was the current leader.
I then burped, which caused everyone to laugh, except my husband, which made me snicker……
And you get the picture. I actually consider this a good night because the yelling is in fun and there’s no crying. But, despite it all, I wouldn’t give up family prayers for anything. I honestly wish I could be more on the ball about keeping up with more prayers and devotions during the day, but so far, we’re failing miserably at our attempt at a daily Angelus. Thankfully, we are better at observing liturgical traditions, mainly because my husband, a devotee of Dom Gueranger, spearheads them. For example, we recently had a Rogation procession around our yard, complete with incense, to bless our gardens and animals. We’re also good at hosting dinner guests or parties on specific feast days (St. Martin of Tours and the Nativity of St. John the Baptist are two that come to mind.)
And, my husband and I, we’re still talking religion. It’s been an ongoing conversation for the last sixteen years, and now, we’re including the kids in it. Our Catholic faith is why we go to church on Sundays and so much more! It drives our decision-making, our dealings with others and, obviously, heavily influences our schooling choices.
I can’t assume my kids will become devout Catholics because we prayed together, but I feel confident in saying their faith would suffer if we didn’t. And I won’t assume that weekly attendance at Mass and CCD classes are a sufficient substitute for a rich spiritual home life. I hope we’re laying a foundation that will give them solid footing during those rough teenage years. Plus, maybe some memories and family traditions to pass along to future generations. Despite all the distractions and noise, I’ve come to the conclusion that family prayers are worth enduring patiently not only for the short-term blogging material, but as an insurance policy against future spiritual struggles. In 25 years, I’ll write the follow up to this post and let you know how it worked out.
What prayers does your family try to say together on a regular basis?