You know when you were younger and you actually had way more time to pray and you even felt that you were (ha! HA! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! HA!) rather holy?
Remember what it felt like to pray a rosary or go to Mass in total silence without anyone skrieking about broken crayons in the background and no small person was breathing on your neck about how they “Hafta make a two in da potty”?
|Take the plank out of your own eye, lady. After all, you forgot your pants.|
Yeah. Let’s talk about that.
First I’m going to play a little music in the background and let you have a healing cry. No more of this white-knuckling nonsense, ok?
You just go ahead and let it out.
Ok that’s enough.
We’re going to talk about family prayer time.
Praying with young children can be a real trip, can’t it?
Now that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. We should definitely do it.
I mean, Jesus said “let the little children come to me”, right?
When Jesus said that, He didn’t mean for us to just drop the kids off at the Church door so we could speed away to our zumba class at the Y.
|Just kidding. He’s got this.|
Bringing your kids to Jesus is something you do as a family. We have to be the example and show our kids what that means.
Truth be told, that part scares me. I know I fall short in a million ways.
The first place to start, besides going to church, is prayer.. aka conversations with God.
Prayer is essential in the life of a Christian.
I say that, but I really struggle to pray. I seriously have the attention span of a mosquito.
Like I’ll be sitting there praying, and then I’ll look at my kitchen table and think “Hmmm.
I’m going to paint the legs on that thing. Maybe turquoise. Red? No, a light blue. Yeah. Light blue.”
|“Yeah..anytime you wanna pay me some attention, that’d be greeeat…”|
Imagine if you were in the middle of a conversation with a friend and you just completely stopped talking all of a sudden and stared at your table for five whole minutes with your head tilted to the side.
It’s rude, right? I know.
In our home, we say grace before most meals ..except for breakfast because WHAT. I’m guzzling my coffee while the children mill around aimlessly with waffles in their hands.
Yeah, you heard that right. Waffles. PLAIN waffles.
If you want baked tofu kale muffins and breastmilk smoothies, then you best head on over to your local sanctimommie’s house, and don’t let the door and the keebler elves hit you in the trunk on your way out.
I (try to) pray with the kids before we start school each day.
Sometimes we take our kids to Adoration.
That doesn’t always work out so well, but I know that Jesus loves it.
We also do a family prayer time before bed each night.
Each child has a prayer that they lead for the family.
JP does the St Michael the Archangel prayer, Lucie does the Memorare, and Jude does two Gaurdian Angel prayers.
Some of my protestant friends just fainted.
Guys, it’s ok. I know you might be freaked out, but we’re simply asking our “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) in Heaven to pray for us.
Just like you’d ask a friend or family member here on earth to pray for you.
By the way, just a note about Jude’s prayers…one is the Angel of God prayer, a totally legit prayer.
The other one, however, is this thing:
“Matthew Mark Luke and John
Bless the bed that I lay on
Four corners to my bed
Four angels round my head
One to watch, one to pray and two to bear my soul away.”
Um? What the heck is that?
It’s not really a prayer, is it? It’s more like a nursery rhyme.
Plus I can’t tell you how many times we’ve accidentally said:
“Four corners to my head
Four angels round my bed”
Dan and I used to try praying the entire rosary with the kids before bed.
This was a terrible idea, because it turns out that usually, one decade of the rosary is what our family can handle at the end of a long day.
Sometimes we can’t even handle that. Three Hail Mary’s and off you go, kids. Lights out.
Little kids tend to be very distractable, and parents tend to be very tired.
It reminds me a little of a Steubenville retreat I went on years ago in Attleboro, Massachussets.
They did not have beds or dorm rooms for us to sleep in on this retreat.
We all had to sleep under the big tent. Hundreds of people sleeping under a tent.
They really wanted us to cling to God, I guess.
I must admit, it worked.
There was a men’s tent and a women’s tent. In the women’s tent, nobody would shut up….
which is surprising to no one.
We were laying in rows, literally like sardines.
It was horrible in that way in which the only method of coping is inappropriate laughter.
Luckily, innappropriate laughter is something I excel in. In fact, it’s one of my specialties.
Everyone has their special gift.
Silence was demanded of us many times, but to no avail.
Finally, a woman announced that she was bringin’ out the big guns.
She would lead us in the Rosary.
|Gentle woman, quiet light.|
This decision was probably made because she was ready to kill someone and desperately needed God’s grace, since a Catholic youth retreat is a distasteful place to commit a homocide.
This lady had a bullhorn, and she was not afraid to use it.
I remember her marching around the tent, praying loudly into the bullhorn.
I also remember that it was hilarious.
“HAIL MARY FULL OF GRACE THE LORD IS WITH THEE!!!!”
she trumpeted. And then:
“AND WITH THEE OVER THERE! QUIET!”
She was really mad, but who could stop laughing at this? Not me.
“HOLY MARY, MOTHER OF GOD… YES YOU WILL PUT OUT THAT FIRE!”
I have no idea if anyone was actually starting a fire. Maybe someone was doing a poor reenactment of the descent of the Holy Spirit, I don’t know.
Nontheless, it is one of my favorite memories.
In our home, no one is lighting any fires during the rosary (not yet anyway), but most times I feel like the lady with the bullhorn.
“Hail Mary full of grace, HEY! You don’t chew the rosary! It’s a rosary! It’s not a box of raisinettes!! You don’t eat tha- WAIT. Why are there only 9 beads on that decade you’re holding?!?!“
“Holy Mary, Mother of SOHELPMEGOD you better keep your HANDS to YOURSELF and stop touching your brother’s EYEBALL.”
And so on. And so forth. Foreverandever Amen.
Have you ever tried to do prayer intentions with your children?
It’s a real crapshoot, isn’t it?
You just never know what these tiny people will say.
Some of their prayers will simply melt your heart and make you fall in love with your kids all over again.
One night during prayers, my daughter Lucie prayed that she when she grows up, she could “help the poor”.
She also added that would like to be a unicorn brusher.
This stuff is gold.
Sometimes your kids will pray things that are completely bizarre and you may have to suppress your laughter.
And some kids sort of miss the point of prayer time. This might be the funniest of all.
“MaryLou, who would you like to pray for tonight?”
“Ummm…I wanna pray for….you know that little girl who lives down the street?”
Mom: (so proud of her thoughtful child) Yes?
MaryLou: The one with the blonde hair? You know her, mom?
Mom: Yes I do sweetie. Would you like to pray for her?
Marylou: Yeah she has a really cute doll I like, it closes it’s eyes and pees it’s diaper and I wanna doll like that doll. I wanna pray that I get her doll.
Mom: oh. kay. Johnny, what would you like to pray for?
Johnny: I saw a cricket today.
Mom: Johnny? Who are we praying for?
Johnny: I ate it.
Or how about The Fast Pray-er or The Slow Pray-er?
You know what I’m talking about, don’t you.
Note:These aren’t just found in your own sweet family. These folks are at your parish.
You’re all trying to pray a prayer IN UNISON, and this person HAS to pray OUT OF SYNC with eeeverybody else.
Everyone: Hail Mary Full of ( Slow Pray-er: Hail….Mary….)
Everyone: The Lord is with thee (Slow Pray-er: Full….of ..Grace…..)
Everyone: We believe in one God (Fast Pray-er: WebelieveinoneGodtheFatherAlmightymakerofHeavenandEarthofallthatisseenandunseen)
Everyone:The Father the Almighty (Fast Pray-er: WebelieveinoneLordJesusChristtheonlySonofGodeternallybegottenoftheFather)
Tell me you do not want to strangle this person.
Sometimes I wish the priest would look this person in the eye and say, “Just stop praying out loud. You are annoying the entire congregation.”
You can’t really do anything when it’s a stranger praying the Creed at Mass (it’s wrong to withold the sign of peace, right?), but when it’s your own child, aren’t you just like “STOP THAT!!!ENOUGH!! I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!! Can’t you JUST. Pray. With. TheRestOfUS?!?!?!?!”
And see, there you just completely overeacted.
All you have to say is, “Son/Daughter/Honeychild, pray along with the rest of us.”
Instead – usually because you’re tired – you go batshit.
And your child’s eyes well up with tears and… welp, you just turned into Joe Jackson and ruined the Rosary for the entire family.
And you pay for it later, don’t you?
See, that’s why Dan and I just usually stick to praying a decade of the Rosary with the kids.
Because we know that we will become the Jackson Family if we don’t.
Some families have no problem at all praying a rosary with all of their kids.
|This picture makes me feel like such crap about my life, and I’m the one who drew the thing.|
“Why is everyone better than me?” you think. “What is wrong with my family? Are the faucets at my house lined with lead paint? Should I have all my children re- tested for Tourette’s?”
(Side note: sometimes I wonder if I should be tested for Tourette’s.)
It’s easy to feel like everyone else has a normal family, while you are merely living on Chimp Island with a bunch of hairy beings that pick their noses and fling it at the walls.
Truth is, nobody has it all together.
You think just because people don’t air out all their dirty laundry in front of you, that means they don’t have problems?
Stop thinking that!
No one is gonna show up at the church family picnic and be like “Well, Jim got so drunk last night that he punched out another window. I can’t believe we even made it here today. He woke up this morning thinking he was a sailor named Charlie McGuiness and he asked me for a fish fry. Ah, it’s always something, isn’t it? Can you please pass the potato salad? It’s delicious! Is that paprika I taste?”
That’s a rather extreme example, but you know what I’m sayin.
Everyone has something going on that they wish they didn’t.
And that’s a major reason why it’s important to pray the Rosary, because we need help.
But sometimes you have to do great things in small doses…especially when you have little kids.
Then you can do a little more here, and a little more there…
you build on it over time.
I think a great way to get your kids to sit still during a family rosary is to let them each lead a decade.
We have some friends that literally feed their children candy during the rosary.
Hey, whatever it takes.
If it were up to me, the perfect Rosary candy would be cotton candy.
It’s high maintenance candy, and takes alot of energy to eat. When you eat cotton candy, you have to focus. You can’t jump around and be ridiculous when you’re trying to eat a small pastel cloud.
My friends however, are wiser than I. You know what else they started giving their kids, besides candy?
How genius is this??
Now they will always associate praying with S’mores.
Recently, I got some great advice.
A Priest was telling me about his mom and how she inspired him to pray.
He said that every day after lunch, his mom would send all the kids to their rooms or whatever so they could have a quiet prayer time for 10 minutes.
He said that helped him to eventually build a solid prayer life.
A few days after he told me this, out of the clear blue, my dear friend Janelle told me that she was reading a homeschooling book and the author recommended telling children to go and find a little hiding spot and talk to God there for 3 minutes.
I totally had the chills. I knew God was sending me a message.
My friend had started doing this. When the prayer time was over, she would ring a bell.
|YAY! The bell makes a comeback!!!|
You know that’s all I needed to hear.
A reason to use my beloved bell?!
Please. Say no more. I am ALL ABOUT IT.
If only I could find where Dan had hid the bell….hmmmm…
|This man has been traumatized.|
So I started doing this with the kids.
The first day, I explained what we were doing. They got really excited about finding a hiding spot.
15 minutes later they were still rushing around, trying to find a perfect little place.
I’m pretty sure I was yelling at them.
The next time I got wiser and assigned spots instead.
For three minutes (sometimes longer, I try to take advantage) the house is gloriously quiet.
GLORIOUSLY!!!!!!! My heart races at the thought.
I even get to have some quiet prayer time!!!!!!
It is a beautiful thing.
Some kids take the prayer time more seriously than others. They really sit there and talk to Jesus.
Other kids try to multi task. My 3 year old has taken a poop during our last three prayer times.
You shake your head in dismay, but I see a child with a unique talent for time management, and I say: Son, you have a gift.
He says he’s praying in the bathroom.
Who am I to judge?
The whole point is: small doses.
Don’t suck the joy out of a good, holy thing by being Crazy Joe Jackson, Tyrant of the Most Holy Rosary.
Someone once said “One Hail Mary well said fills the heart of Our Lady with delight and obtains for us indescribably great graces. One Hail Mary well said gives us more graces than a thousand thoughtlessly said”. (by the way, anybody know WHO said that? I don’t)
I believe God is just as pleased with one decade well said as He is with a whole rosary.
Besides, what’s the point of praying the whole thing if you’re seething through all of it and glaring at your littles?
Build good prayer habits a little at a time if that’s all your family can handle, and try not to feel like a failure about it.
God sees you. He sees your efforts. He sees your 2 year old writhing around on the couch while you try in vain to make him sit in an acceptable fashion.
He sees the sweat on your brow.
He knows you’re trying, and He is pleased when we try.
When we were younger, single people, we could pray the way we wanted to, when we wanted to.. on our own terms.
We may have felt pretty “holy”, but God is truly making us holy right now.
Right here in the middle of this beautiful chaos.
|Onward, Christian soldiers!!!|