Catholic Activity: Loving and Thanking God
Cultivate a grateful disposition within your child by encouraging him to thank God for all the blessings in his life throughout the day.
Spiritual and temporal needs over with, they can turn to the joy that is simply loving God. "I love You, Blessed Jesus, and I love Your Blessed Mother." This must be the part He listens for the hardest. It is really all He asks, because if love is there and a right disposition, with grace the rest will follow. So we encourage them to say it over and over until their whole idea of God is bound inseparably to their love for Him.
After the loving comes the thanking, one follows the other with ease. "And thank you for . . ." each night a different blessing, from babies and books to lollipops and circuses anything and everything so that they will see that their world is full of blessings straight from the hand of God.
Gradually, as they grow older, the form of their prayers will change. If they attend parochial school and Sister recommends certain practices, we should help to put these into effect. They will learn formal prayers, prayers proper to each liturgical season, family Rosary, the Stations of the Cross, Mass preparations, much more. But the approach of their prayers remains unchanged, the contrition, asking, praising, and thanksgiving are in all these, and if they understand, above all, that prayer is talking to God, the knowledge will never leave them.
Knowing all this, however, is still no guarantee that children will always want to pray. Would that all grown-ups always wanted to pray. But they don't, and their own perversity is not always the reason. Many times God allows it to be hard to pray, simply to school us in applying our wills, to teach us that the value of prayer does not depend on the amount of emotion we can whip up. So when "Time for prayers" is greeted with moans and groans, it is time to explain that saying prayers when you least want to, simply because you love God and have a kind of dry respect and a sense of obedience, is to gain the greatest merit for them. Many times the saints had trouble getting excited about prayers, but they said them because prayers were due and their value had nothing to do with how eagerly they went about saying them.
"But with so many people in the world praying, I get the feeling God can't really be listening to me."
Here we can remind our children how Our Lord said that God counts even the hairs on our heads, and all the sparrows that fall. It is hard to understand, but we need not understand, only believe that every word and sigh and flick of an eyelash is watched and weighed and counted, and every word is heard as though we were the only one praying.
Morning Offering can be a simple form of gathering up the day and all it will hold and giving it to God. Our children say: "I offer You this day as a prayer of love and thanksgiving, and thank You for keeping me safely through the night. Please help me to be pure and good, and keep me safe from harm. Please help us all with our work." They can offer it for one or many intentions, or simply give it to Jesus and Mary and ask them to apply its merits as they wish. The "safely through the night" is not meant to imply that dying in the night would be the horror of horrors, but to remind them of God's watchfulness while we sleep and to teach that, if we have survived the night, obviously God's will for us includes another day of work and play and prayer to be lived as best we can.
When the older children started catechism classes (we have no parochial schools in our town), Sister taught them the traditional Morning Offering; so now they like to say that. But whatever form of offering they use, the important thing is to think of it like the net that strained with many fishes but still did not break. It will hold all the good a child can say and think and do in his entire day and give him a wonderful sense of having used every minute. Many times I have heard one or another of our children (who are really no more pious than other children) say: "There now, wiping the dishes is part of my prayers because I made my Morning Offering."
Activity Source: We and Our Children by Mary Reed Newland, Image Books, 1961