Becoming a Family of Prayer

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When I read Kendra of Catholic All Year‘s Day in the Life post last week, I immediately asked if she would write about how she fits prayer into her family’s life. We just started trying a family Rosary again after taking a break since Baby Gwen was born, but I was inspired by how Kendra centers her family’s whole day around prayer. Enjoy! – Haley

(p.s. Our only computer died this week, so that’s why you haven’t heard from me in awhile. I’m borrowing a laptop while we figure out how to replace our ancient MacBook. Bloggers nightmare…OK…on to Kendra…)

Family of Prayer

I want perfection in prayer. At least I think I ought to want it. Raptures, ecstasies, levitation, my heart literally bursting into flame. That’s what a good prayer life looks like in my imagination.

In reality, I’m not a cloistered nun or a desert hermitess, able to spend hours deep in contemplative prayer. My prayer life has to happen within my vocation to motherhood. It’s stolen moments, and frequent interruptions. And it mostly has to happen alongside my children. So there’s no levitating, but there are requests for crackers, and bathroom breaks, and whisper shouting. But it’s better than nothing. It’s so, so, so much better than nothing.

That’s what I’m slowly coming to understand. If I wait for the perfect time to really get serious about my prayer life, I will never have a prayer life at all. If I wait for my children to be ready, they’ll be grown and gone and we won’t have started yet.

A perfect prayer life would be lovely. But since that’s not possible, we have found ways to incorporate prayer into our daily family routine. It’s very imperfect, but it’s happening.

1. Well Begun is Half Done

Morning Offering, Morning Offering, Morning Offering. If we get to nothing else all day, we get to this. Why? Because it gives purpose and meaning to the whole rest of the day. All of it, whether it’s saying a Rosary, or preparing a meal for my family, or a child finally learning to tie his own shoes, or getting stuck at every red light, all of it is purposefully united to Christ by my Morning Offering.

Here’s what we say, but there are many other versions, or you can always use your own words:

Oh my Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,

I offer thee all my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day,

For all the intentions of thy Sacred Heart,

In unity with the Holy Sacrifice of the Day, offered throughout the world,

In reparation for my sins,

And for all the intentions of the Holy Father.

I say it myself, immediately upon waking, before I even get out of bed. If I fall back to sleep, I say it again when I wake up again. Then, I say it again with the kids before school. Why the repetition? Well . . .

2. One Today is Worth Two Tomorrows

I’m always better off doing it now, rather than waiting for a better time. If the better time comes, I can do it again. But more often than not, if I put it off, I don’t do it at all. When kids are involved you just never know what’s going to happen at any particular moment.

I’d love for us to say a family rosary every evening before bed, seated before the crucifix in our living room, with the dishes done and the house tidy, and the kids clean and in their pajamas. But only rarely is that possible for us. Mostly our family rosary gets said in the car, a decade or two at a time.

Becoming a Family of Prayer

Even on days when I hope we’ll be able to say a rosary at home with Dad that evening, we still grab the opportunity to say a decade in the car if we’re out, because . . .

3. Half a Loaf is Better Than No Bread

My mental prayer involves altogether too much mental making of grocery lists, and wondering if that sound was a kids’ room door opening, and checking to see if it’s been fifteen minutes yet. But it’s better than nothing. It’s always better than nothing.

When my four year old brings me a drawing she’s done of me in which I have twenty-six carefully drawn stick fingers and no pants, I appreciate it. Is it a well-done drawing? No. But it’s the best she can do, and it was done with love.

That’s how God accepts my imperfect mental prayer, and the days when I’m so tired that I fall asleep in the middle of my Examination of Conscience. That’s how He accepts our partial family rosaries, and our wiggly family rosaries, and our family rosaries in which toddlers snap rosaries into multiple flying projectiles.

The most important thing is to DO IT! To have the goal of incorporating prayer into the day, while remembering that . . .

4. A Goal Without a Plan Is Just a Wish

I’ve decided what my goals are for daily prayer, and I have a plan for how we can fit those things into our day. “Hoping” to get to things is just another way of saying it’s not going to happen.

I use technology to help. I set a reminder on my phone to tell me to say the Angelus at noon, I get a daily email with a reading from the Bible, I have an app on my iPad with an Examination of Conscience.

As a family, we work our prayers and devotions into our daily routine:

  • Before I leave my room in the morning, I say the Morning Offering and do fifteen minutes of prayer.
  • We say grace before each meal, at home or out.
  • Before school, the kids and I recite the Morning Offering, the Guardian Angel Prayer, the Memorarae for a specific intention, and one other prayer that we are working on memorizing.
  • At the beginning of our school day, we light a candle and one of the older kids reads aloud a short section (less than 5 minutes) from our Children’s Bible. Then I have the kids all close their eyes and I do a two minute guided meditation with them. I help them to imagine that they were there, experiencing whatever happened in the story we just read. This is followed by two minutes of silent mental prayer. Then we each choose an intention for which to offer up our day, and a resolution — one very specific thing that we will do today for love of God. It could be, “eat my vegetables without complaining” or “hang up my towel after my bath” but not “be good, ” that’s too difficult to account for. Then we blow out the candle and begin our schoolwork.
  • At noon, we stop what we’re doing and say the Angelus. If we miss noon, we say it when we notice. If it’s already nap time, I say it on my own.
  • In the car, and/or as a family in the evening, we say a family rosary. If I’m in the car on my own, I go ahead and say it alone, because you just never know. If we didn’t get to it during the day, I’ll play a rosary podcast while I’m tidying the house in the evening.
  • Before bed, we all kneel down in front of the crucifix in the living room and say the Our Father and sometimes the Act of Contrition. Then we each choose one or two saints and say their names, then we all respond, “pray for us.” We note whether we fulfilled our resolutions for the day.
  • On my own, last thing before I fall asleep, I think back over the day, to see where I could have improved. And I ask for help for tomorrow.
  • We go to Mass each Sunday, and we also attend daily Mass on Saturday, and spend a few minutes in the Adoration Chapel before we head off to all of our sporting events.

To see how all that actually goes down in an actual day, you might like to read this: A Day in the Life.

Becoming a family of prayer has been a process of many years, but it all started by just deciding to give it a try, even though it was never quite the right time. We started with just one or two things, and as those things became habits, we added a couple more. Sometimes life happens and things begin to fall by the wayside. When we notice, we just brush ‘em off and start ‘em up again.

The easiest thing about it was that it was never going to be perfect anyway, which is perfect for us.

Kendra Tierney can be found tending nine chickens, seven children, and one husband in Los Angeles, CA. She wrote a book called A Little Book About Confession for Children, available now from Ignatius Press and Magnificat. She blogs at www.CatholicAllYear.com.

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Comments

  1. LT says

    Kendra’s family sounds like our family only about five years ahead in life :). I wholeheartedly agree — Pray everyday despite all the imperfections. It took me a while to figure this out. We do a rosary decade a day with the kids via Holy Heroes CDs of their praying children. Each decade is preceded by an explanation, and each Hail Mary is preceded by relevant Bible verses. My kids are quickly memorizing Bible verses along with their prayers. We also do the Holy Heroes Stations of the Cross on Fridays during Lent. And we match our rosary mysteries with the liturgical season. Right now, we are doing almost exclusively Sorrowful Mysteries. Easter season will be mostly Glorious Mysteries, Advent mostly Joyful Mysteries, Luminous Mysteries during Christmas, ordinary time a rotation of all them. My kids are 9, 7, 4, and 8 months. They now love praying so much that they remember even when I do not! Even the baby pauses and smiles at the start of familiar prayers and then goes back to eating her baby rosary :).

    The Rosary, Stations of the Cross, meal time prayers, bedtime prayers are part of our lives now. My next goal is to incorporate the Morning Offering — Thanks, Kendra (and Haley for hosting)!

    • Elizabeth says

      Sorry, I signed in as LT, and I usually sign in as Elizabeth. One of these days I’ll get a picture up too. I’m not really blog savvy :). I love that your family, Haley, is about 5 years behind my family in ages and Kendra’s family is about 5 years ahead of my family. I love to learn from other Catholic families and grow together — remember where we’ve been and see where we’re going, thrown together with all of our own unique family members, circumstances, and purposes in life.

  2. Kristin says

    Hi ladies! Great post. Question for both of you: what tips would you have for helping me with my 20 month old who now refuses to cross himself and pray at meals? Since he was old enough to do so, we’ve had him cross himself (toddler style) and while we say Grace, he would fold his hands and bow his head. After, it’s his job to say the Amen. This week he cries and tantrums when we ask him to cross himself and I’m left shrugging my shoulders. Thanks in advance!

    • says

      For a twenty month old, I’d try to correct the behavior without making too big a deal out of it. I’d probably stand behind him and pleasantly physically “help” him cross himself, without getting upset with him. Even if he protests, I’d just do it, then carry on with prayers. Hopefully it’s just a phase!

      • Kristin says

        Thanks for the feedback. I didn’t know if I should address it by politely forcing him to do it or by ignoring the behavior but still model family prayers in front him. I chalk it up to the “terrible two’s” and try not to take it to heart!

  3. says

    I enjoyed reading about your day and learning how you incorporate prayer into your daily routine.
    My morning prayer time is finally successful because I stay in my bedroom until I am finished. I used to head downstairs to the front room so that I could watch the sun rise while I prayed and meditated, but more often than not I would get distracted by someone or something.
    Fitting prayer time in during car rides is perfect for busy families. :)

  4. says

    This is such a great article! Thanks for posting it, Haley, and to Kendra for writing it!

    One thing—I think there is a typo in that Morning Offering (I recognize it because I say the same one). I think it’s supposed to be “Holy Sacrifice of the Mass” instead of “Holy Sacrifice of the Day.”

  5. Jill says

    tha.nk you I needed to read this today. My husband recently passed away and I have been having a difficult time finding time for prayer with my children. I have been having a difficult time praying myself. I know if we persever we will find health and peace in our prayer again. Thanks for the inspiration

  6. says

    I love the idea of choosing an intention and resolution for each day, and then “reviewing” how you did before bed. I think I might be able to start a simple form of this with my oldest :-)

  7. says

    I just read in St. Therese’s autobiography that she was completely ok with falling asleep during her mental prayer because God accepts and loves our frame, and we get sleepy! I loved that about her, so real. You are right on about just getting it done, it will be the perseverance that wins the race. :)

  8. Diane says

    You and Kendra are truly truly inspirational. I am so glad I stumbled on yours and then Kendra’s blog. The difference you have made in my life is absolutely amazing. Tonight, I am going to say a prayer thanking God for putting your blog in my path and your love of God in my mind. Ever since reading your blog, I feel so different inside. It’s the best feeling I have ever felt. You make me feel so honored for loving God as well. Thank you so much.

  9. Sandra says

    My children are considerably older than yours, Kendra, but I still have an 8 yo and 14 yo at home. Your family reminds me so much of mine when I first started homeschooling nearly 13 years ago. You are laying a foundation that will hold fast. I really like the one character trait to work on each day. That is something we can all do. It’s a short version of the Ignatian Examen. God be with you.

  10. Megan says

    Thank you so much for this fantastic, inspiring, and practical post! I’m not Catholic, but after reading this I was inspired to pray my first ever rosary (at 26, with multiple tabs open on the internet for references- I LOVE IT!). I’m working on incorporating some of these prayers into every day life. Thank you Kendra and Haley!

  11. says

    Thanks so much to Haley for asking Kendra to write this, and of course to Kendra for another wonderful post! I love that the tips are so practical and easy to implement immediately. It’s perfect timing for me too because I am working on updating our family schedule right now.

  12. says

    Kendra! This was awesome! I am hosting a playgroup next week regarding praying the rosary with kids. We’re going to make rosaries, visit our local Rosary Cathedral, and say some prayers using our Catholic Icing inspired rosary board. But I wanted to find a good resource on praying with kids, and this is exactly the kind of thing I wanted to share! Just in time, too!

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