Catholic Activity: Praying for Intentions
Encourage your child often to pray for others: this practice will also help him to develop an understanding of the Mystical Body of Christ.
Next come the petitions. "God blessing" is a sweet part of every child's prayers but it is a question whether they understand what it really means. It helps if they have a definite favor to ask with the blessings: "God bless my mother and father and help them with their work. God bless my granny and help her knee to get better," and so on. Then the rest of the family and friends, sometimes grouping them for the sake of brevity. And when the lists of intentions have grown so long it would take until dawn to name them, one can say, "all those for whom we have promised, proposed, and ought to pray."
Let us not burden ourselves or our children with the idea that our prayers are divided like so many slices of bread and applied in diminishing amounts in proportion to the number of people we would pray for. St. Thérèse embraced the entire universe with her prayer and left it to the mysterious ways of God to apply her love wholly and intensely for everyone on earth. Children must not feel that because of their littleness, their prayers lack power. Because of their stunning purity and their childlike love, their prayers are probably far more powerful than our own. We should encourage them to pray boldly, and point out all they can accomplish by uniting them to Christ's prayers for all men. This gives them the soundest, most mature, and most inspiring reason for acquiring habits of prayer. Of course they must know that their first obligation is to save their own souls, but people often find that their most inspiring motive for living and praying heroically is the need of others, all of which is intimately bound to the saving of their own souls.
Once explained, children do not find it hard to believe that God is able to "keep a list" of intentions and benefactors to be prayed for, and as long as they return from time to time to renew the intentions, there is no great danger of growing slipshod.
Then we add, "everyone who has been so good to us, everyone in the world, all the souls in Purgatory, and please help the Russian people to find God." This last poses a lot of questions and the easiest way to explain is by telling the story of Fatima, how Our Lady asked especially for prayers for Russia. For the Russians who have abandoned God, it means we ask that they will find their way back to Him. For those who have not abandoned Him, we ask for the privileges of Mass and the sacraments once again. The best way to raise children who will say the terminal prayers at Mass clearly and loudly is to remind them the whole Church offers those Hail Marys, the Salve Regina, and the others for the conversion of Russia.
All these requests for "everyone" play an important part in forming a child's understanding of his part in the Mystical Body of Christ in the Church. Gradually he will begin to see himself as a member, to see that on him also, as well as on the grownups, religious, the Holy Father, rests the burden of continuing the work of the Redemption, saving the souls of all men and restoring the world to Christ.
Next, "Please help us all to be saints."
I remember hearing someone tell that, asked in Confession if she didn't want to be a saint, she replied: "Oh, no, Father, I'll be grateful if I manage to get to Purgatory." But God wants us to be saints, which is a quite different thing from saying we think we are saints. When He has troubled to make it clear, "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect," and when He has left the Body of His Son and a wealth of revelation, prayer, sacraments, and grace at our disposal, it is a perverse kind of humility which prompts us to aspire to no more than Purgatory.
Children want to be saints. It is part of knowing God and loving Him, and wanting to be with Him in Heaven. We cheat them when we forget to teach them to ask daily for the grace to be saints.
Activity Source: We and Our Children by Mary Reed Newland, Image Books, 1961