Families today are buffeted on all sides by the gale forces of modern culture. We face innumerable distractions — some benign, some far from it — and if we don’t guard our hearths, our homes can be consumed by relatively frivolous activities and amusements. This seems to be a particular problem for my family during the summer. I’ve heard the theme song to Star Trek way too many times this week, thanks to Netflix instant streaming. There’s nothing wrong with entertainment, but I don’t want to find out how many hours of Star Trek it takes before my kids’ brains start oozing out of their ears.
I’ve been reading Marge Fenelon’s lovely book Strengthening Your Family: A Catholic Approach to Holiness at Home and she’s inspired me to think about how I can deepen my family’s faith and prayer life this summer. I truly love the rhythms of the Church calendar. Each year I’ve been adding new customs and traditions at Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter to deepen our family’s Catholic identity and shared faith. During this summer Ordinary Season I hope to show the children that “Ordinary” means anything but “boring”. Ordinary Time can be a time to explore our Faith in ways that are best suited to our situations and the specific spiritual needs of our families. We might create a Scripture reading plan, learn to pray the Rosary together, or explore some summer saints. Where are we on our spiritual path as a family? Which areas need a little TLC?
In June our Little Flowers Catholic Girls Club discussed the virtue of hope. We possess hope by believing and trusting in God’s promises to us, especially his promise that we’ll find happiness in Heaven if we follow him faithfully. That desire for happiness is of Divine origin, placed in our hearts in order to draw us to the only One who can fulfill it. CCC 1718. The Beatitudes, which mark the opening of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, are very clear promises to us about the happiness we will enjoy if we endure all things in faith and love, sustained by God’s mercy:
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.
Blesses are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God.
Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
We don’t have to wait until we get to Heaven to enjoy the fulfillment of these promises. If we conform our lives to Christ’s example, we receive these blessings now. How’s that for real immediate gratification? And way better than a Wii game.
As there are Eight Beatitudes, I think focusing on one Beatitude each week will be a perfect summer spiritual exercise for my family. I put together a few resources to get us started: Beatitudes for Children by Rosemarie Gortler and Childrens Guide to the Beatitudes by Kathy Della Torre O’Keefe. Gortler’s book is great for younger children but older children may prefer O’Keefe’s. I can’t wait to share them with the children. Our Sunday Visitor has free discussion questions available for download to accompany Gortler’s book. In between swimming, wandering in our local nature reserve, and yes probably more episodes of Star Trek, we can spend time together thinking about each of Christ’s promises.
Of course, I don’t want my children to have only an abstract theological understanding of the Beatitudes: I want to instruct their minds but I mostly want to change their hearts. The Beatitudes are really about transformation. I hope my family can come to understand together how we can live the Beatitudes every day. Fenelon writes in chapter 9 of her book about how each family has a unique call to holiness. How is my family called to live the Beatitudes both within and outside our home? What might that look like? I want to explore this question with my family this summer. I honestly don’t know the answer yet, but I know my family will be blessed as we press on it, think about it, pray about it. I’ll keep you updated!
During my book search I came across two other books I couldn’t resist: Hooray I’m Catholic! by Hana Cole is a celebration of all things Catholic for young children. I’m a revert to the Church and I’m very on fire for the Faith so I’m always drawn to beautiful and fun books that show my kids how awesome it is to be Catholic! The Monk Who Grew Prayer by Claire Brandenburg is about a monk who becomes holy by praying while doing ordinary things like gardening and chopping wood. What a beautiful lesson for us all.