Monthly Archives: July 2013

A Different Approach to Family Prayer Time

Recently, we shook up our family evening prayers, and it’s been such a blessing that I thought I would share it.

My wife started a subscription to the Magnificat about six months ago, and that his been a great boon to her spiritual life. We were inspired a couple of months back to incorporate it into our family prayers, and it has evolved into something special. Here is what we do:

Setup
As always, family evening prayer takes place in our bedroom where there are no distractions of TV, computer, toys, telephone, or food. We have a little prayer corner with crucifix, statue of the Blessed Virgin, and a few icons as well as a Bible and Holy Water. To this we added two candles, the kind you find at the store, in tall glass containers with a picture of Christ on them.

Procession and Hymn
Yes, we have a procession! Mom, Dad, and oldest daughter sing the hymn, usually accompanied by music off of youtube (I continue to be surprised, finding music to almost every Catholic hymn on youtube). We will sing a capella if we have to. The younger three process in with the crucifix and candles.

Prayer Leader
Dad leads the prayers. We choose either the Magnificat evening prayer or night prayer, which are based on the prayers from the Daily Office. I start us off and pray the introduction as well as lead us through an examination of conscience.

Server
Our second son is the server. He is too young to be an altar server at Mass, but he longs to be, so this lets him live out that desire now. He takes the book from me and presents it to each reader in turn, bringing it back to me as necessary.

Readers
There are three key readings: the Palm, the Word and Mary’s Magnificat or the Canticle of Simeon. These are done by Mom, oldest son, oldest daughter, and even occasionally the younger kids with help from Dad. We have a special place in the room where the reader stands.

Intercessions
Dad leads the intercessions. After those of the Church, each person adds their own special intercessions.

Group Prayers
After the closing prayers, we prayer our group family prayers:
Our Father
Hail Mary
Glory Be
St. Michael
We will also add any others here that the younger kids have to learn for school, though that won’t be an issue till the fall.

Latin Prayers
Our summer project has been to learn our core prayers in Latin. We did the Ave Maria in June, the Pater Noster in July, and we are now working on the Gloria Patri for August. So at this point each person (even the 4-year-old) says their Latin prayer of the month as best they can. Then as a group we pray the Latin prayers we have already learned.

Collection and Announcements
Yes, we do a collection and announcements, but only on Sunday nights. Added on behest of the kids, we moved them to only once a week just to keep bedtime from getting too late. The kids are responsible for deciding what charity the collection will go to. The announcements are nice because they give the younger kids a little taste of public speaking.

Recession and Closing Hymn
And we end it with a hymn and a recession of the crucifix and candles. Then it’s off to bed!

The whole thing takes about half an hour. The blessings it has brought are:

1. All the kids are enthusiastic about prayer time. They have ideas for how to make it nicer and more holy.
2. The nightly prayers aren’t rote and they can’t be rushed.
3. Our nightly prayers are united with the nightly prayers of the Church, and the kids get a taste of the Divine Office.
4. Everybody participates and has a unique role.
5. We are praying more and better and enjoying it as a family.

So that is our new prayer tradition. I would love to hear about your family prayer traditions!

Thoughts on 20 Years of Marriage

My wife and I recently celebrated our twentieth anniversary. It was a good celebration, full of love and joy and happiness.

The sad fact is that most marriages don’t make it to twenty years. We are blessed to know people, including our own parents, whose marriages have lasted much longer. But more recent marriages often do not. It is important to reflect on the why of that, and not just to chalk it up to some half-imagined attribute that some have and some do not (good communication, for instance).

The first important thing to realize is that no marriage is easy. It is simply not true that the only marriages that work are marriages in which there are never conflicts and the couple is “made” for each other. The concept of the “soul mate” is on the top ten list of modern inventions most toxic to marriages. (Also on that list: contraception, no-fault divorce, legalized abortion, pornography, and so forth.) Every marriage has difficulties. Ours has. We have had our share of crises. We have gone through those moments where we really couldn’t stand each other, where we hurt each other in ways no one else had or could, where we desperately and seriously thought about divorce. Human beings are capable of great cruelty to each other, and we have been no exception.

So with that in mind, how did we survive? How does anybody.

Is It Faith?

Is it simply a matter of faith? Faith does help, of course. But the fact of the matter is that the divorce rate of Catholics who profess to believe the faith is really no different than the divorce rate of seculars. At the same time though, faith is essential. “The family the prays together stays together,” is not a falsity.

It all goes back to this: “Faith without Works is Dead” (Jm 2:17). A faith that remains unacted on cannot help our marriage or any part of our life. Only faith that is lived through daily actions and decisions can bring graces into lives or into our marriages. This is born out by other studies that show that couples who do not contracept or who actively pray together daily or who are active in their parishes are much less likely to have a divorce.

Committment

We all know that a marriage is a committment. But there are the normal kinds of committments – lukewarm, only kept until things get difficult – and then there are the serious kinds of committments – the kind you keep even if it means suffering and death. The latter is the kind of committment both spouses have to have if a marriage is to be strong. It is basically an attitude that divorce is not an option.

That kind of attitude – that divorce is simply not an option – brings with it the will to do the hard work needed to make the marriage successful. It makes you willing to take marriage classes, see a counselor when needed, make changes to your own behavior, keep the lines of communication open even when you don’t want to. A champioship caliber football player has the attitude that nothing is more important than winning that Super Bowl. That attitude gives him the will and perseverence necessary to lift weights all summer, to stick to a serious diet regimin, to stay on the practice field long hours and keep the nose in the playbook late into the evening. We, as married couples, have to have that same attitude.

That is it, in a nutshell. An unwillingness to even consider divorce. That committment comes from living the faith, and that committment leads us to do the hard work we have to do to make it work.

And the beauty of all that? It is the happiness and joy that arises. I would not trade the twenty years with my wife for anything. All that work we have put into our marriage has been paid back ten-fold in happiness. She has brought me places in my life I never could have reached myself, and I know I have done the same for her. I pray that all married couples can have the kind of happiness that we have found. If they live their faith and keep their committment, God’s grace can make that happen.

Holidays or Indulgence Days?

Independence Day is now a few weeks past. Yes, I know this post is a bit out of date, but it’s been rumbling through my head and has to get out. We celebrated in our usual manner: the grandparents came over, and we all enjoyed hamburgers and hotdogs, then, way after bedtime when it finally got dark enough, the kids and I headed outside to set off a batch of rather tame but nonetheless beautiful and exciting fireworks. Purchasing the fireworks is a big part of the celebration, as the kids (including the big kid named “Dad”) enjoy walking up and down the aisles of the fireworks “megastore”, painstakingly selecting the best set of fireworks that will stay inside our predefined dollar limit and keep us within the legal limits of our city, while fantasizing over the truly big stuff.

It’s all fun, and the kids look forward to it for months. For the record, the family favorite remains the smoke bombs, primarily because they are accessible and not-scary even to the youngest. And they make lots of good smelly smoke that gets in our clothes and gets Mom just the right amount exasperated. As we were finishing, I looked and listened around the neighborhood and extended neighborhood. In just about every direction people were setting off fireworks. Most of them really big ones – big rockets and artillery shells that lit up the sky just like the city show that we never go to. (The city shows are just too late and too crowded for us with the little ones.) Anyway, I see it all, and I think of all the grill out and parties, all of the paid holidays taken, and especially all of the alcohol consumed. And I look at us, and our little stack of fountains and sparklers and the like. And I wonder, “What are we celebrating here?”

Are we really celebrating our nations independence? Are we really taking time to be grateful to live in a free country where we elect our own leaders and speak our mind and live our faith. Or are we just taking advantage of a paid day off and doing those things that our culture tells us are “traditional” for the day? I’m not trying to be cynical, but I am reminded of the standard complaint of Christmas, that it is “too commercialized”.

Well, I don’t think Christmas is becoming “too commercialized”. Independence Day is certainly not particularly commercialized, but it suffers from the same malady that Christmas suffers from. The same one that New Year’s Eve suffers from. The same one that Halloween and Thanksgiving suffer from.

When was the last time you went to a Veteran’s Day parade, or a 4th of July Parade? When was the last time you went to a cemetary on Memorial Day? Some people still do, but most do not. When I was a kid, virtually everybody went to the parades. They shut down Main Street. Nowadays most towns don’t have a Main Street to shut down, but that’s another story.

Holidays have become (or are becoming) just an excuse to indulge, and a way to liven up our indulgence by doing it in a way we don’t indulge on the rest of the year. People party and get drunk all year, but on Halloween, they party and get drunk in costumes and do it in houses with spooky decorations. People grill out all summer, but on July 4 they do it on a work day and shoot off fireworks. People overeat all year, but on Thanksgiving they overeat on a big turkey with stuffing and cranberry sauce and watch Snoopy make popcorn.

Even the days we don’t get off work have become days to indulge. Saint Patrick’s Day is a day to drink green beer and wear green clothes and pretend to be Irish. Valentine’s Day means candy and chocolates and fancy restaurants (and expensive jewelry). Fat Tuesday becomes a day to pig out, though most people forget about fasting on the next day.

We live in a world consumed with self-gratification, and our holidays have become extensions of that. None of us are immune to it, certainly not me, but when you recognize it, it all becomes a bit hollow. It doesn’t mean that next year I won’t buy those fireworks again: the magic in the kids eyes when a really good fountain erupts in our driveway is too good for me to give up. But I will find someway to better embrace the meaning of the holiday, so we’re not just enjoying a day off work.