“The family that prays together stays together, and if they stay together they will love one another as God has loved each one of them. And works of love are always works of peace.” – Mother Teresa
Over the years, I have been inspired by the prayer lives of families. The funny thing about the prayer lives of moms and dads is that often they must turn to the Lord in the midst of interruptions and the needs of their children. For example, I have had the pleasure of spending time in Adoration Chapels in New York City, Guatemala, and everywhere in between. In many of these chapels, I have seen mothers and fathers come in with their families to pray. Inevitably, one of the younger kids will start to fidget. Then they will start to want their parent’s attention. Next thing you know they are tugging on their sleeves.
Often, we can think of prayer as something ephemeral that is the exclusive domain of people who wear different cloths and dedicate their lives to reflecting on the deeper aspects of life. Or, perhaps, we view prayer simply as a series of gestures and words that we perform as a kind of check list of things good people do. For parents, prayer must be an activity that enters into the midst of the interruptions and needs of their families. Although parents should try to have some quiet prayer time, often parents must learn to pray in the midst of the family.
Although there are many great books written on prayer and there are volumes that explore the intricacies of how we relate to the Lord, I offer a simple definition that will form the background for this book. I will define prayer as giving permission to God. Giving him permission to enter into the dynamic of our day and to have a say in how we do things and what we do. This permission need not be something dramatic. We do not have to run to our local parish or a monastery to make this happen. We can do this day in and day out, taking time throughout our day to let God in.
Of course, this definition needs to be expanded a little. For Christians, God is a Trinity. Thus, we need to give permission to God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. This book happens to also be written for Catholics, so we also want to invite all the saints into the party. We want to invite the Blessed Mother and all the colorful cast of characters which animate the history of the Church.
Throughout the chapters that follow, I will be offering you concrete ways that you can invite the whole host of heaven into your lives and into your families. This invitation must permeate all aspects of your lives if you desire to be the saint that God intends for you. This does not mean that at every opportunity that you must discuss God, or religion, or some pious thought. Rather it means that your family life must become enveloped in an awareness of how the infinite and eternal forms a backdrop for our lives.This awareness is a kind of intuitive sense that our lives are about more than our limited perspectives.
In this way, we come to appreciate that life is about more than our families and our limited interests. Faith, hope, and love become the context within which our lives unfold in a shared journey of communion. So our kids will still play soccer (my personal favorite) and they will still play video games and do the things that kids do. However, all these activities will become drawn up into the transfiguring light of Jesus Christ. As we develop the habit of inviting God and the saints into our lives, our families will be an icon of Christ’s unconditional love for the world in the midst of the ordinary activities of life.
But wait, there is more. Our lives will also help to transform and make the world a better place. This a mysterious element of God’s grace that through prayer God allows us humans to participate in his salvific plan. Our feeble attempts at prayer have merit and they actively work to shape the course of human history.
As you become mystic moms and dads, you will work to open the world to the explosive power of God’s grace. You can be a saint while planning your groceries for the week or taking your kids to get a haircut. The powerful thing is that through the grace given in Baptism, all of our daily activities have the potential to bring Christ to the world. We can be mystics in the midst of regular jobs and our regularly scheduled obligations. Pretty cool, right?
- What are some ways that you have invited God or the saints into your family?
- What traditions did your family have regarding faith growing up? If your family was not particularly religious, what were some ways that your family spent time together? Were there shared activities, etc.?
- What is the most important part of your faith life that you want to hand down to your children? Why is this important to you?