The Importance of Family Prayer Time…with a bit of my conversion story thrown in.

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?


  1. Having observed large, Trad families in my years in the SSPX who all seem to have perfectly behaved children at family prayer time and otherwise, I still struggle with being annoyed that my own children don’t measure up to these standards. Why can’t we have a picture-perfect family Rosary? Why can’t they all be following Mass intently for all 90 minutes of it???

    Turns out, some of these children I used to know have since rebelled, lost the Faith, etc. It gives one a lot to chew on to consider that maybe underneath that veneer of piety and CONFORMITY, there is a hollow void and never a smile to be seen on any of those children’s faces. Not saying that some children/families are not genuinely devout, but that sometimes, in my experience, I think trad families succumb to the beat-the-religion-into-them system of child-rearing, and this is not something to be admired or imitated. So, I’ve learned to relax more about my ideals (at least in my mind). Sure, family prayer time is not a showcase event I wish to elaborate about to you and my other friends. Our family doesn’t need to “measure” up, so to speak.

    Like your esteemed husband, we are liturgically conscious. Sounds like we do a lot of the same particulars. I try to incorporate elements of the Divine Office too since this a communal prayer, not a private devotion, and we’ve had a little success getting the older two to sing Compline at night, though it’s been sporadic. We’ve managed to do full Rosaries in the last two years, often adding a Litany according to the month (e.g. Litany of Our Lady in May, Sacred Heart in June), novenas, etc. You do what works and keep a continuity and consistency in the home to Sunday Mass, but I honestly believe the minute we start forcing our children into rote conformity, often with heavy-handed tactics, is the minute we have planted the seeds to future fallen-away Catholics.

    1. Yes, Tony would be in favor of incorporating the Divine Office more as well, however I don’t think any of us want to let him sing/chant.
      It is a struggle to find the balance between making the kids say their prayers and study their religion and accepting their willingness to lead prayers and engage in the liturgy. I can only hope we don’t swing too far one way or the other. I wonder how the example of the parents played into the spiritual development of the people you mention. When you force your child to say or do religious exercises you begrudgingly do yourself, if would be no surprise to see them turn away at the first chance. It is a joyful acceptance and abandonment that conveys the beauty of the true faith.

  2. This is perfect, I have to admit to sometimes being the giggler during the rosary!! We aim for the family rosary every day with varying levels of success, oftentimes it’s me, John & our eldest (who never misses a day) saying it late at night when everyone else has gone to bed. I don’t mind the small distractions though as it’s a family prayer and I’ll bet Our Lady gets a smile out of some of the suppressed laughter and the frosty face of the husband trying to concentrate in spite of the two year old who has copped onto the fact that everybody is willing to be distracted by her funny antics especially at that time. Lately she’s taken to joining in on the answers…Oh dear, if that’s how we sound to her we need to seriously slow down. BTW, speaking of the rosary, that was a bummer with Fulton’s op being postponed, continued prayers heading his way.
    Jen xx

  3. Oh!! What I actually meant to say was that when the family rosary is done more regularly I notice a palpable difference in the general harmony in the home and in the children’s interactions with each other. When it’s put on the long finger there’s a definite all-round drop in standards. (same with regular confession)

    1. Thanks for the continued prayers Jen. “Frosty faced husband.” HA! I love it. And I agree with the regular routine of prayers vs sporadic prayer and confession. It’s why I’d love to integrate more prayer into the day-to hopefully make things run even smoother around here!

  4. You and I sort of grew up together, and like you, I left the UMC for another religious life, though I rediscovered my family’s assimilated Jewish heritage.

    My experience there parallels yours, but thanks to the same youth dude, I questioned for an altogether different reason. It was his explanations of Wesley’s take on grace (why not just go straight to the Augustinian source?) as well as Methodist doctrine that lead me to believe that the Truth, as it were, was not to be found there.

    I found Chabad Lubavitch, and Orthodox Jewish group, when I joined the Army, and they immersed me in a world with intellectualized faith, with rich and storied liturgy, and long, deep Talmudic study sessions. My relationship to G-d truly began through books, rather than some nebulous spirit with a shifting definition depending on which decade of seminary produced this or that pastor. What deeply attracted me to it was the communal relationship to G-d absent of the core concept I could never understand and never will, a derivative intercessor that defied the core tenet of Torah – and the family prayer my daughter and I say together each night, which speaks to G-d’s unity and G-d’s inability to be defined by mortal understanding.

    I agree wholeheartedly with you that family prayer time and religious pursuits outside of services and education are vital to keeping our children ensconced in faith as we grow up. Like you, prayer wasn’t a factor in our household growing up, and our religious education was largely a pageantry of names and events. When time came to “think” about what a Methodist approach is, I realized that the utter lack of distinguishing attention to doctrinal matters on the part of the laity meant that there’s a reason why so many Christians can float between what on paper are conflicted denominations. What does it mean to be a Methodist? Is it, “well, we could always be Papists/Unitarians/Lutherans/not what we are?” On the other hand, I firmly believe that you and I, even if occupying different strata of the religious spectrum, can answer to the particularism of our respective faiths.

    No stronger argument for this premise can be made than looking to the ascendancy of “Christian Non Denominational” – they don’t have a doctrine other than being “saved” and that any other stream is insufficiently bathed in the blood of the lamb. How does one effectively bequeath something so poorly constructed to future generations?

    1. Brian, what a nice surprise! Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I would assume Orthodox Jews are even harder to come by in Lancaster than Catholics.
      “How does one effectively bequeath something so poorly constructed to future generations?” Ah, you can’t! As evidence by the dwindling number of people who still attend our childhood church. It seems Protestants follow pastors rather than a core set of beliefs. A continually evolving message, designed to be “relevant” to some ideal group, is never relevant to everyone and thus, sends people searching something more comfortable; more in line with their “feelings.” (The fact that many Catholic priests tried to “update” the faith to reach more people “where they’re at” has led to a similar decline in many Catholic Churches.) Accepting religious tradition, from your experience or mine, means accepting what may be uncomfortable at times and putting aside personal feelings for what is right. It is an understanding that we cannot understand or grasp it all, only abandon our will to His own. Traditional books and inspiring people living holy lives will convert more souls to truth than big screens, praise bands, coffee bars and hipster ministers. When our children see that we willingly make sacrifices in order to live out our faith, the importance of our beliefs is conveyed to them. How can our children learn religious belief is vital when it is cast aside for convenience, material gain and social acceptance?

  5. By the way, your blog is simply wonderful. I will continue to read…my mother forwarded it to me a couple of posts ago and I’m hooked.

  6. Wow, we have very similar backgrounds. I too was a Methodist and converted. I was sixteen and though I knew my husband then, he wasn’t the deciding factor in it. I am also from Upstate NY and have family in Lancaister. However, we live in the sunbaked “tree held up by wire” flat Midwest.
    (I went to PA this summer and am still having withdrawl!) Anywho, love the blog!

  7. Just linked to your blog via Camp Patton. I know what church you attend, and my husband brought me to a Mass there once! It was beautiful, and I’m pretty jealous of the strong community you guys seem to have there (we also attend the Traditional Mass in our city, and there’s been a fair amount of drama there of late). Anyways, I hope to homeschool my kids in the future, and I like the idea of a classical approach. I’m looking forward to reading your blog and hearing about your experiences in educating your children, and raising them in the Faith!

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