Catholic Activity: Elementary Parent Pedagogy: Regularity in Prayer
The first step in teaching our children is regularity in the home, in things like sleeping, praying, eating and playing. Prayer in the home fits in this description, because establishing a habit of prayer is crucial for family life.
The first step we must take is to establish habits of regularity. We trained our babies in habits of regular feeding, sleeping, playing. Thus we made a good beginning, for the children not only formed good physical habits but also learned the meaning of discipline and restraint. Let us not lose that good beginning. Meals, sleep, play, study, prayer, — all these things should be arranged for and carefully adhered to as they were during the children's babyhood. Some mothers have the children work out a time schedule for their own day and pin it up on the door. Then in the evening they check off to see who has had a perfect day.
Habit for the Month
To start the year off well, we should stress the value of regularity in the formation of good habits of prayer. If we recall that God is with us here in this spot, now at this minute, we realize that of course one of the most valuable practices in life is the habit of turning the attention to Him often, but especially at fixed times.
Regularity is our watchword. Can your child throw a straight ball without regular practice in ball throwing? No! Neither can he learn to place himself before God and pray unless he does so regularly. See to it then that your children are absolutely faithful about the following:
- Morning offering upon awakening, using any form of expressing the idea: "My God, I offer myself and all I do this day to You." A home-made formula of offering may be the best.
- Morning prayer on the knees. The Our Father is to be included, since our Lord Himself composed it, the Hail Mary and the Acts of Faith, Hope and Charity.
- Night prayer on the knees, including the Our Father, Hail Mary, Creed and Act of Contrition. Be sure that the child has the habit of talking to God in a personal way, especially at this time when usually there is no hurry. The custom of praying for relatives and friends is a good one. The intention should be extended to include everyone in need on that particular day, for instance, people without work, soldiers fighting in wars, etc.
A chief concern of the parents in all prayer must be their own attitude. A devout, reverent manner in the parent conveys better than anything else the real meaning of prayer. If things have gone wrong in the house, you must make it plain that you turn to prayer time with relief. Say, "Well, now let us talk to God." Calm yourself, and drop all signs of irritation. Take refuge in God and your children will follow you to Him.
Habit and Manner of Prayer
How shall we pray? Last month we discussed the good habit of regularity in prayer and a reverent attitude when praying. Remembering that the good habit of regular praying is a virtue, suppose that this month we ask ourselves whether these regular prayers are all they might be. Do not let the children get into the gabbling habit. Short prayers said consciously to God are something to be greatly encouraged. Say often, "Remember, children, that prayer is talking to God. Look at Him, think of Him, and then speak to Him with love in your heart." With regard to the morning offering, — a habit easily established for life, — remind the children once in a while of what it means. Explain that they offer themselves and all their thoughts, words and deeds to God. They must then be sure to think good thoughts, say kind words, and do good deeds, so as to have plenty to give to God.
If we talk this way once in a while to our children, they like it. Do not do it every day and run the risk of boring them. If you have never yet talked of religious things and the children are now thirteen years old, it will be difficult to start; but even so it is possible to make a beginning now by saying that you have been reading how fine a thing it is to train yourself to turn to God the moment you awake. Tell them that you do it, and that they should also begin to cultivate the practice. "Just this once; let's make this one day perfect," is a good family watchword.
In many families, all pray together at night. As to this custom, the parents of each family must judge what is best. A good plan is to call the children together at the hour when the youngest go to bed, and recite the regular prayers together. Then say, "Now let each one speak to God by himself"; and have the children kneel in silence for a minute. The child from eleven years up is often best left to himself. The least sign of a desire for privacy alone with God should be respected.
Family recitation of the Rosary is a magnificent custom; but parents must carefully observe whether the practice tends to deteriorate into a gabbling or a mumbling of words in a rush to get through. A decade a day is often a nice compromise.
Activity Source: Religion in the Home: Monthly Aids for the Parents of Elementary School Children by Katherine Delmonico Byles, Paulist Press, 1938