Recently I read the following article from “Mea-Culpa-Mama.” She shared her dreams of the perfect Catholic family. She also mentioned how her current family doesn’t quite look like that. Yet, it is exactly what the Church calls it to be.
This week we take a look at some practical – and very doable – ideas from a “wife, mom of boys, photographer, lover of truth, goodness and beauty, Child of God and sinner (not necessarily in that order…)
1. Daily Family Prayer Just do it. Set a timer, ask Alexa to remind you (we do this seriously) to have some moments of these days at home when you stop whatever you are doing and reorient yourself to God. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. It might not be pretty. It absolutely won’t be quiet or orderly. Do it anyway. Some easy suggestions would be to pray the Angelus at noon, a family rosary each day at an appointed time, a short version of night prayer. Or just have a moment of silence and offer a chance for each family member to say aloud something that they are thankful for and some special intention that they might have. Small children love the opportunity to voice their own intentions. They will pray for the cat’s tail and their imaginary dragon but they will also remember the poor and the sick. They learn from us so be vulnerable and sincere. Older children may act indifferent but come to rely on the regularity of this time together. In an age of incredible anxiety, family prayer is a source of comfort and constancy for everyone.
2. Individual Prayer You will have trouble giving what you don’t have. Let this time be the time you’ve always said you would devote to strengthening or developing a prayer life of your own, if you had it. You have it now. Same principle of family prayer applies. Just do it. Not praying at all is infinitely worse than merely awkward, short, inarticulate, or distracted prayer. It will get better. Make an appointment. Stick to it. Ideally, this should be done before the kids get up. Protect this time of prayer and protect it for your spouse. Don’t know where to start? Open the Bible. Read the daily Mass readings. Download an app like Magnificat or Hallow. Fill your mind with the word of God and then be silent. Give Him the space to speak.
3. Set up a Holy Space Make a special place somewhere in your home where you can display a cross or crucifix and any prayer cards or statues that you might have. Let the kids make their own pictures. There are no shortage of resources for holy crafts to include the kids. Check out this one, and this one. No, it won’t look like the pottery barn add. Yes, they will love it because they are a part of it. The purpose of this space is to be a visible reminder of the Holy. As they run by throughout the day they will catch sight of these visible reminders and their heart and mind will (even if just for a second) be brought to consider the things of God. It can also be a place where you come together for prayer. Light a candle. Make it a thing. In these weird times it can also be a place where you put your computer to stream the Holy Mass.
4. Gratitude The source and summit of the Mass is the Eucharist. The word means ‘thanksgiving’. It’s part of our identity to give gratitude for the gifts of our very being. This is what we do in Church and so it must be what we do in our domestic church too, with God and with each other. Good will and gratitude toward each other goes a LONG way in building fruitfulness. Start by, as I said before, naming out loud the things you have to be grateful for, each day. Then set the example of being thankful to each other. Thank your kids when they do something thoughtful. They will notice.
5. Play Take some time each day to play or be with each other. Be outdoors if you can. Throw the ball, make a puzzle, swing, ride bikes, walk, watch movies, laugh. We may not every get a time like this again where we can have an extended period of leisure with our people. Set a precedent, make memories. The fruit of those memories will last a lifetime.
6. Serve and Share Find a way, in the midst of this crisis, and after, to serve the needs of the greater church and to share the fruits of your little church. It doesn’t have to be big or fancy, it just has to be you. You can pray for those in need, FaceTime auntie Mae, color pictures, sew masks, cook a meal for a neighbor, anything really. Share your light! In these times that often looks like pictures or anecdotes on social media but it could also mean you lead prayer (digitally) in your community, make a song to lift peoples spirits or just be joyful outdoors where those who might be sitting on their porches can see and be inspired by your witness.
7. Fast and Feast together Finally, the Church thrives on liturgical seasons. Life has meaning and beauty because we share in the sorrows AND the joys of life. So too as a family there are times when we should fast and sacrifice together following the precepts of the Church and our individual and community needs. And there are times when we should celebrate together! The Church knows how to party and as a domestic church we should have a priority in celebrations as well. Cook special meals on feast days, take a break from schoolwork and work, sing and rejoice together.
I hope that these considerations and suggestions are something that can be fruitful for you and your family. Imagine for just a second if you are able to incorporate even one of these things into your family way in a profound and lasting way in this time of quarantine. Imagine how your family will be different on the other side of all this. May our little domestic churches sustain and grow us in this time of exile from the greater church community. May we all be changed as greater versions of ourselves by the end of this trial. May we see this as an act of mercy from a loving God who made us and wants us to be happy with Him forever.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)