Catholic Activity: Family Prayer
The importance of family prayer was taught by Our Lord himself. For he said: "Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, then am I in the midst of them." What a pleasing sight it must be to God, therefore, to see the family unit which He ordained gathered together to worship Him.
The beautiful practice of family prayer has been formally endorsed by the bishops of the United States in a pastoral letter to all American Catholics. As they have stated: "The presence of Jesus will surely be a source of blessing to the home where parents and children unite to offer up prayer in common. The spirit of piety which this custom develops will sanctify the bonds of family love and ward off the dangers which often bring sorrow and shame."
As we learned in childhood, we should pray at least upon arising in the morning and retiring at night, and before and after meals. It is much more beneficial to all members of the family, and especially more inspirational to the children, when everyone habitually says such prayers together. Because of different rising times, it may be difficult for all to pray at the same time in the morning. However, the saying of grace before and after meals should become a family habit. No food should be eaten until grace is said, and no one should leave the table until thanksgiving is offered after the meal.
Many families have developed the admirable habit of saying evening prayers immediately after dinner. Other families set aside a period just before the children's bedtime. Regardless of the hour chosen, the reciting of prayers at a specified time each evening establishes habits which will last throughout the years and will give a sense of kinship in God to all in the family.
An especially worth-while custom is the evening recitation of the Rosary. It was most earnestly advocated by Pope Pius IX, who in his last days said: "Let the Rosary, this simple, beautiful method of prayer, enriched with many indulgences, be habitually recited of an evening in every household. These are my last words to you; the memorial I leave behind me." Every member of the family will have a greater feeling of participation in the Rosary if the leader is rotated each evening or for each decade. One time Father may lead; next, Mother; next, the oldest child; and so on until everyone has had his turn. Then the cycle is repeated. Before each decade, the father might briefly discuss the meaning of the specific mysteries in the lives of Jesus and Mary which the Rosary reminds us of. The children should be taught to meditate on these mysteries so that they do not say the prayers without thinking.
A custom of some homes consists of the nightly reading of the Bible. Prayers are said before and after the reading, and there is a discussion by the father or mother of the particular passages read. Another worth-while custom is the reading of the Gospel and Epistle for the particular Mass of the day.
Family unity in prayer can also be achieved if the family attends Mass together. One of the most inspiring memories which many adults now hold is that of their father, mother, brothers and sisters lined up with them at the altar rail, receiving the flesh and blood of Our Lord as a family unit, and then returning home for a festive breakfast.
Activity Source: Catholic Family Handbook, The by Rev. George A. Kelly, Random House, Inc., New York, 1959