Faith is a living, breathing, ever growing entity: it changes as we move through different liturgical seasons, periods of spiritual dryness, and different phases of our lives. The Year of Faith gives us the opportunity to consider how we can help our family grow in grace by embracing our relationship with God. The following are a few ideas that have helped my family’s spiritual life to thrive.
1) Make a written prayer and sacraments schedule.
This is the single most important thing I have done recently to keep our entire family’s spiritual life on track. Inspired by the book A Mother’s Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot, I wrote down a detailed daily, weekly, and monthly prayer and sacraments schedule for myself and our children. This includes a few different times of daily prayer, individually and as a family, daily scripture study, monthly set times to receive the sacrament of confession, monthly set times for my husband and I to enjoy Adoration, and Sunday and daily Mass times. You can discern what practices are most needed by your family and when you can fit them in. Write them down, commit them to God, and start today! When my interior life is in order, my exterior life follows.
2) Create a Catholic home.
I heard somewhere recently that if a total stranger were to enter your home, he or she should realize fairly quickly that a Catholic family lives there. We can do this not only by the way we treat each other when we are at home, but by displaying sacred art, figurines, and anything else that reminds us at a glance where our priorities should be as we go through our busy days. Our homes are not meant to resemble a church or a monastery, of course, but I find that a saint figurine placed on the dinner table can inspire all sorts of questions and discussions, a portrait of Mary reminds me to call on her aid in the difficult moments of parenting, and a holy water font by the door encourages frequent blessings and short prayers to abound as we come and go.
3) Give your children hands on lessons in faith.
I’ve always loved doing craft projects with my children. I also believe that the lessons I want to convey to them have more impact when they can associate them with something they helped make themselves. We’ve made Mary mobiles to represent her Assumption, kites for the Ascension of Our Lord, and during Advent, I like to let my kids make and color their own Jesse Tree ornaments. A resource I enjoy consulting for ideas is A Treasure Chest of Traditions For Catholic Families by Monica McConkey. There are also numerous resources available online.
Cooking with your children is another wonderful hands on activity. Building the Family Cookbook by Suzanne Fowler has wonderful saint stories to go along with each recipe. More than once I’ve heard the question, “Is this a saint meal?” as we sit down to dinner.
4) Be a living example.
Practice what you preach! Envision who you think God is calling your children to be and work on being that person right now. What virtues do your children need to work on? Make it a point to uphold those virtues yourself. Children are so perceptive of even the slightest indication that a hypocrite could be in their midst. Do you want honest children? Be honest yourself in every word and deed. Do you want chaste children? Live a chaste marriage. Take a Natural Family Planning class and learn more about the Theology of the Body. Do you want obedient children? Be obedient to God’s will for your life. So much of our faith is passed on to our children when the fewest words are spoken. Live what you want them to learn!
5) Build family rapport.
Our children will want to please us when they have a solid and loving relationship with us. Our lessons in faith will mean more to them if they fully believe in our steadfast desire to work for their good. Schedule family game nights, incorporate parent/child “date nights” with each of your children, and find time to simply have fun as a family. As Greg and Lisa Popcak convey in their wonderful book, Parenting With Grace, make your family time so appealing that your children wouldn’t dream of choosing anywhere else to be in those moments. Your house is the place that they should always want to come home to.
I still get overwhelmed by the number of ideas I would love to incorporate into our family’s faith life. I’ve found that I simply have to choose to make a small change and God provides the grace I need to move forward from there. Many blessings to you and your family during this Year of Faith!