Since the advent of the Internet an explosion of information has been accessible to a majority of the world. Social media and the invention of the smart phone only continued the ability to learn new information quicker and at an earlier age.
As a dad to four children I am both excited and terrified of the new advancements technology will afford humanity in the next few decades. Technology by itself is neutral. Its implementation can be used for good or evil. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1656, “In our own time, in a world often alien and even hostile to faith, believing families are of primary importance as centers of living, radiant faith. For this reason the Second Vatican Council, using an ancient expression, calls the family the Ecclesia domestica (domestic church).” Faith starts in the home.
During the Baptismal rite, Catholic parents pledge to teach their children in the faith. In the minutes after the ceremony, it is easy for parents to feel empowered and emboldened by the Holy. “Nothing can phase us. We has the power of the Holy Spirit guiding us (and our child)!” I thought as I held my oldest son after his Baptism. I felt invincible as a dad. It took less than a week for the Enemy to take advantage of my pride. Sending us temptation after temptation the Devil seeks to wear us down. His goal is to get us to a state of despair.
Life gets busy, messy, stressful, frustrating, hopeless at times, and tons of other inconveniences bombard us daily. It is definitely easy to lose sight and forget about the Baptismal vows we made before God and the Church. I struggle at least every month. On the worst months, I feel the strain almost daily. Recently, I switched to working the night shift. While this schedule has blessed me with the ability to stay home with the younger kids and take the older children to school, the result is less time as an entire family fully together at once.
Fortunately, the Labor Day Weekend provided our family to spend quality time. My wife suggested that I write about the ways we have developed to maintain our church at home despite our schedule. This post will center on five specific and simple ways to build your domestic church with little time.
St. John Vianney once said, “Prayer is the inner bath of love into which the soul plunges itself.” If we expect our kids to brush their teeth and wash their faces before school, why should we not also expect them (and ourselves) to wash their souls with morning prayer. My parents were not superbly theological in their articulation about the faith.
In hindsight, I realized they actions and prayer life made a big impact on me. Every morning on the drive to school my mom (in elementary school) and my dad (in high school) would lead us in a daily morning prayer consisting of an Our Father, Hail Mary, and various other prayers at times. This simple practice to begin the day was instrumental in build our church at home. My wife and I adopted this practice now.
Playtime can be Prayer Time
According to Genesis 2:3, God rested after completion of creation. Certainly the creator of the Universe would not tire, it is important because God “rested” as a means to show humanity the importance of taking time away from work. Some days I am too tired to play with my kids. But it is an importance duty as a parent. Play is equally as important as working. “Dad! I want you to play a game or outside with me,” my kids constantly tell me.
St. Francis de Sales in Introduction to the Devout Life wrote, “We must needs occasionally relax the mind, and the body requires some recreation also” (Part III, no 31). Throwing the frisbee with my wife the other day and watching my kids play at the playground had a sacramental quality to it. I felt drawn closer into the Mystery of God’s grace as I calmed my anxious mind through the playful activities of the weekend. The Doctor of the Church lists out good and moral playful activities, all still relevant today. Francis charts out the following:
Walking, harmless games, music, instrumental or vocal, field sports, etc., are such entirely lawful recreations that they need no rules beyond those of ordinary discretion, which keep every thing within due limits of time, place, and degree. So again games of skill, which exercise and strengthen body or mind, such as tennis, rackets, running at the ring, chess, and the like, are in themselves both lawful and good.
Look to Your Family’s Patron Saint(s)
Another simple way to grow your church at home is to reflect on your family’s patron saints. Your family’s patrons could be either the saints that you, your spouse, and your are named after or it could be a particular saint you learned about later in life. For example, if your family enjoys camping in the summer look to Saint Pope John Paul II as your role model.
My family’s patron saints are Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, and Gerad of Majella. We also ask for help from the Blessed Virgin Mary and specifically are close to Our Lady Undoer of Knots devotion. Sometimes the “can’t man” or pessimistic attitude invades our house. Mary helps to undo our knots (nots) and turns them into “yeses”.
Celebrate your children’s and spouse’s saints feast days by making food specific to the nationality of that saint. Read a bedtime story about that saint’s life or print off pictures of your patron saint as a coloring activity. If you are super pinched for time that day, simply reflect on the life of that saint throughout the day.
Patience is a Virtue
A fourth reason to develop your domestic church is to exercise the virtue of patience. It is easy to tell yourself to be patient, but it is super challenging to implement on some days! Jesus told his disciples and us in Matthew 7:7, ““Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” If you are running low on patience ask Him. You will receive it. Ask. Ask. Ask. Your children may challenge your belief in that verse, but please know your struggles for the day will day—eventually!
Getting the kids ready for bed is the most challenging part for us. My wife tells me that she constantly prays the Rosary to help prevent her was losing her cool. Mary is an effective intercessor. Mary always will intercede for us and draw us close to Her Son for aid.
The last strategy to implement to similar to the first—end your day with prayer. Nightly prayer as an entire family may not be feasible daily depending on your schedule. Because I work the overnight shift throughout the week, I can only pray with my wife and kids twice a week.
Frequency is not as important as consistency. I aim to consistently pray as a family even though it is only a couple times a week. Praying a decade of the Rosary or listening to the Chaplet of Divine Mercy sung are two ways my family likes to end the day.
Family that Prays Together Stay Together
As corny as the saying is families that nurture a consistent prayer life do stay together. Jesus prayed for unity (John 17:21)—so should you for your family’s sake and for the sake of the Church. Saint John Paul the Great declared, “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” Serve God, your family, and the world use the time you have to foster the domestic church!