A couple facts have recently dawned upon me regarding the attempt to offer daily bits of advice regarding the building up of a Catholic Family Culture:
- The average parent who would hopefully be reading such blog posts, tweets, or FaceBook posts probably doesn’t have time to be checking such things on a daily basis; if you do, that might be another issue.
- Being attentive to such things requires a bit of time which is not available to me either.
- I don’t need to be emotionally or psychologically bolstered by anyone giving daily attention to my Twitter feed or FaceBook wall.
That being said, I thought I would simply provide a more systematic and comprehensive presentation of the little, concrete ways in which families can implement their Catholic faith “at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest.” (Deut6:7) For the sake of ease, these ideas, collected from my experiences with a variety of families, will be presented over the course of a few blog posts.
It also should be said, before beginning, that I’m not necessarily recommending every family do all those things listed below. A friend of mine, who has done almost no running in the last several years, decided he wanted to run what would amount to a half-marathon. As he began his training, the advice given him was to start by walking a 1/2-mile at a brisk pace. That’s obviously a long way from 13.1 miles, but starting out expecting to log a 13.1-mile workout on day 1 would be foolish. In the end, he was able, little by little, to work up to those longer distances that enabled him to run that half-marathon. The key to success is starting with small goals, and by means of constancy, build up a habit that will make what was initially hard to become relatively easy.
This first round of little practicals has mostly to do with developing a prayer life within the life of a family.
- Make a morning offering everyday: This traditional prayer reminds us to give the day over to the Lord and seek to do everything for His glory. For more easily implementing this practice, attach it to something else you already regularly do such as brushing your teeth or driving to work or school. https://www.ewtn.com/Devotionals/prayers/morning2.htm
- Pray the prayer before and after meals: This is one we can easily forget, or perhaps prefer to avoid, especially in public, but let us not forget the words of the Lord: “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.” (Matthew10:32-33) http://www.aboutcatholics.com/prayers/grace-before-and-after-meals/
- Have a time set aside everyday, when everyone can spend some quiet prayer with the Lord. This means turning off the electronics and disconnecting from the world, so we can connect with our Heavenly Father (http://www.loyolapress.com/children-need-quiet-time-too.htm). This prayer time might involved individual reading of Scripture or other spiritual reading, or it can involve family prayer time with a recitation of the Rosary, a few decades of a Rosary, or vocal prayers of adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, and supplication/petition (ACTS). https://marysanawim.wordpress.com/2010/07/11/how-to-pray-a-family-rosary/
- Having images of Christ and our Lady, crucifixes and the like around the house: We like to have reminders of those we love when they’re with us (and sometimes even when they are with us). If we are to have a real, concrete love for our Lord, His Mother, and the saints, which manifests itself in our daily life, this seems a really good start!
- Dressing up for Sunday Mass: The way we dress for some event will normally dictate how we behave during that event. I’m (hopefully) not going to wear old jeans and a flannel or sweatpants to a formal dinner. I’m not wearing a tuxedo to play in a pick-up game of football in the backyard. Further, if I dress up for someone, it’s a way of expressing with my appearance that I think this is special and important. How appropriate that is with respect to our Lord!
- Sunday Mass as the main event, not one squeezed among other events: Too often we give in to activities – sporting events, meetings, etc. – on Sundays and let those schedules dictate how we as Catholics live our Sundays week-in and week-out. If it’s the Lord’s Day – not our day – shouldn’t we do what He wants on that day? Here’s some direction: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P7O.HTM
- Celebrating patron saint feast days: We like to celebrate, and Catholics have LOTS of reasons to celebrate. This one might require some work. Identify your patron saints (easier if you have a distinctly-Christian name, also include Confirmation saints); figure out their feast day (http://catholicsaints.info/); celebrate it! Go to Mass; go to confession; go out for ice cream; go play in the park!
- Celebrating Sacraments and Sacramental anniversaries: Again, celebrate. The Sacraments, especially our “Firsts” (Confession and Communion), are a big deal. We should express that with our actions. Since we celebrate good things, what’s better than celebrating the reception of the Sacraments?
- Praying the Angelus at 6am, 12noon, and 6pm to remember the single most important event in the history of the world: https://www.ewtn.com/Devotionals/prayers/Angelus.htm.
- Bedtime stories from the Bible or the lives of the saints. If we want people to be inspired to do good and to know how to do what is right in this life, we do well to learn from the best! There’s lots of books that can help you or simply pick your favorite stories from the Bible and get good at telling an interesting little story.
- Taking kids along for Eucharistic adoration, even for a little bit. Maybe your parish as a Eucharistic adoration program; maybe it doesn’t. Either way, get your kids interested in spending time with the King of the Universe! He’s just waiting for us to come spend some time with him, even if it’s just 10 minutes a day!
- Blessing yourself when passing a Catholic Church or chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is. It’s like waving to your friends or honking the horn when you drive by their house. We remember that we’re blessed that God has loved us so much as to come this close to us.
- Praying for the poor souls when you pass the cemetery. It’s a spiritual work of mercy, and during November, it’s got a plenary indulgence attached. Besides, you pray for them in purgatory; they’ll pray for you when they get to Heaven: everybody wins! Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace!
- Have a family Bible and Catechism of the Catholic Church and use them regularly! Pretty straight forward. 3-4 chapters a day will get you through the Bible, and 8 paragraphs a day will get you through the Catechism.
- Read 1 Catholic book a year (maybe as a family). Matthew Kelly (http://dynamiccatholic.com/) has some great ones as does Ignatius Press (http://www.ignatius.com/) and Ascension Press (http://ascensionpress.com/).
- Go to Confession regularly a family, that is, about once a month. I’ll let Pope Pius XII (Mystici Corporis, 88) explain why: to ensure more rapid progress day by day in the path of virtue, We will that the pious practice of frequent confession, which was introduced into the Church by the inspiration of the Holy spirit, should be earnestly advocated. By it genuine self-knowledge is increased, Christian humility grows, bad habits are corrected, spiritual neglect and tepidity are resisted, the conscience is purified, the will strengthened, a salutary self-control is attained, and grace is increased in virtue of the Sacrament itself.
- Going on a trip of more than 20 minutes? Instead of turning on the radio, pray the Rosary on the way. It’s way easy, and more edifying.
There’s more to come, but we’ll stop there for now. That should keep you busy for awhile! Godspeed.