Our prayer lives often begin before we understand the word prayer or are aware of a world beyond the family. In our earliest experiences, the typical child of a Catholic is initiated into a whole world of symbols, smells, sounds, and other parts of ritual that teach the child the ways of God in ways that go beyond concepts and ideas. I have found great joy in watching mothers teach their children the world of ritual. Whether it being making the sign of the Cross or devoutly kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament, we do not learn prayer the way you learn 1+1=2. Instead, we are immersed in a whole rhythm of life that penetrates into the depths of who we are.

It can be a difficult challenge to overcome childhoods that have been robbed of such experience. God will, of course, provide sufficient grace to all people regardless of their family background, but such an initiation into the mystery is a vision that Catholic families should embrace. Such families are the schools in which we learn the art of living well. They teach that such a delicate path goes beyond a sense of duty or formality, and instead gets at the heart of what being a Christian is all about. They do this by being places of encounter in which Christ’s love for the world is made incarnate.

Many of you, my friends and readers, strive to create such schools of contemplation. I have learned about such things in my own family, and I have been blessed to witness them in yours at well. What makes the glue of such devotion is when a family has at its core a tender, nurturing mother who is essentially the first catechist and teacher of the faith. Long before a child will dare ask a Priest or Religious, the child will explore the faith in the context of their relationship with their mother. In this sense, mothers are also the first evangelizers.

Fathers do play an important role in the faith life of a family, and I do not mean to minimize their value. However, I think men will do well to support and nurture the spirituality of their wives. By giving them the opportunity to express their spirituality and flourish in this regards, they ultimately make an investment in a balanced, peaceful family. I have not come to this conclusion based on abstract theories or from literature on the subject, but rather seeing friends of mine who embody such support.

So today, let us be grateful for the role of mothers within the Church. Let us recognize and support this incredible vocation so that our communities might draw nearer to Jesus Christ, who is our happiness and the only font from which our hearts find satisfaction.