When I read Kendra of Catholic All Year‘s Day in the Life post last week, I immediately asked if she would write about how she fits prayer into her family’s life. We just started trying a family Rosary again after taking a break since Baby Gwen was born, but I was inspired by how Kendra centers her family’s whole day around prayer. Enjoy! – Haley
(p.s. Our only computer died this week, so that’s why you haven’t heard from me in awhile. I’m borrowing a laptop while we figure out how to replace our ancient MacBook. Bloggers nightmare…OK…on to Kendra…)
I want perfection in prayer. At least I think I ought to want it. Raptures, ecstasies, levitation, my heart literally bursting into flame. That’s what a good prayer life looks like in my imagination.
In reality, I’m not a cloistered nun or a desert hermitess, able to spend hours deep in contemplative prayer. My prayer life has to happen within my vocation to motherhood. It’s stolen moments, and frequent interruptions. And it mostly has to happen alongside my children. So there’s no levitating, but there are requests for crackers, and bathroom breaks, and whisper shouting. But it’s better than nothing. It’s so, so, so much better than nothing.
That’s what I’m slowly coming to understand. If I wait for the perfect time to really get serious about my prayer life, I will never have a prayer life at all. If I wait for my children to be ready, they’ll be grown and gone and we won’t have started yet.
A perfect prayer life would be lovely. But since that’s not possible, we have found ways to incorporate prayer into our daily family routine. It’s very imperfect, but it’s happening.
1. Well Begun is Half Done
Morning Offering, Morning Offering, Morning Offering. If we get to nothing else all day, we get to this. Why? Because it gives purpose and meaning to the whole rest of the day. All of it, whether it’s saying a Rosary, or preparing a meal for my family, or a child finally learning to tie his own shoes, or getting stuck at every red light, all of it is purposefully united to Christ by my Morning Offering.
Here’s what we say, but there are many other versions, or you can always use your own words:
Oh my Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer thee all my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day,
For all the intentions of thy Sacred Heart,
In unity with the Holy Sacrifice of the Day, offered throughout the world,
In reparation for my sins,
And for all the intentions of the Holy Father.
I say it myself, immediately upon waking, before I even get out of bed. If I fall back to sleep, I say it again when I wake up again. Then, I say it again with the kids before school. Why the repetition? Well . . .
2. One Today is Worth Two Tomorrows
I’m always better off doing it now, rather than waiting for a better time. If the better time comes, I can do it again. But more often than not, if I put it off, I don’t do it at all. When kids are involved you just never know what’s going to happen at any particular moment.
I’d love for us to say a family rosary every evening before bed, seated before the crucifix in our living room, with the dishes done and the house tidy, and the kids clean and in their pajamas. But only rarely is that possible for us. Mostly our family rosary gets said in the car, a decade or two at a time.
Even on days when I hope we’ll be able to say a rosary at home with Dad that evening, we still grab the opportunity to say a decade in the car if we’re out, because . . .
3. Half a Loaf is Better Than No Bread
My mental prayer involves altogether too much mental making of grocery lists, and wondering if that sound was a kids’ room door opening, and checking to see if it’s been fifteen minutes yet. But it’s better than nothing. It’s always better than nothing.
When my four year old brings me a drawing she’s done of me in which I have twenty-six carefully drawn stick fingers and no pants, I appreciate it. Is it a well-done drawing? No. But it’s the best she can do, and it was done with love.
That’s how God accepts my imperfect mental prayer, and the days when I’m so tired that I fall asleep in the middle of my Examination of Conscience. That’s how He accepts our partial family rosaries, and our wiggly family rosaries, and our family rosaries in which toddlers snap rosaries into multiple flying projectiles.
The most important thing is to DO IT! To have the goal of incorporating prayer into the day, while remembering that . . .
4. A Goal Without a Plan Is Just a Wish
I’ve decided what my goals are for daily prayer, and I have a plan for how we can fit those things into our day. “Hoping” to get to things is just another way of saying it’s not going to happen.
I use technology to help. I set a reminder on my phone to tell me to say the Angelus at noon, I get a daily email with a reading from the Bible, I have an app on my iPad with an Examination of Conscience.
As a family, we work our prayers and devotions into our daily routine:
- Before I leave my room in the morning, I say the Morning Offering and do fifteen minutes of prayer.
- We say grace before each meal, at home or out.
- Before school, the kids and I recite the Morning Offering, the Guardian Angel Prayer, the Memorarae for a specific intention, and one other prayer that we are working on memorizing.
- At the beginning of our school day, we light a candle and one of the older kids reads aloud a short section (less than 5 minutes) from our Children’s Bible. Then I have the kids all close their eyes and I do a two minute guided meditation with them. I help them to imagine that they were there, experiencing whatever happened in the story we just read. This is followed by two minutes of silent mental prayer. Then we each choose an intention for which to offer up our day, and a resolution — one very specific thing that we will do today for love of God. It could be, “eat my vegetables without complaining” or “hang up my towel after my bath” but not “be good, ” that’s too difficult to account for. Then we blow out the candle and begin our schoolwork.
- At noon, we stop what we’re doing and say the Angelus. If we miss noon, we say it when we notice. If it’s already nap time, I say it on my own.
- In the car, and/or as a family in the evening, we say a family rosary. If I’m in the car on my own, I go ahead and say it alone, because you just never know. If we didn’t get to it during the day, I’ll play a rosary podcast while I’m tidying the house in the evening.
- Before bed, we all kneel down in front of the crucifix in the living room and say the Our Father and sometimes the Act of Contrition. Then we each choose one or two saints and say their names, then we all respond, “pray for us.” We note whether we fulfilled our resolutions for the day.
- On my own, last thing before I fall asleep, I think back over the day, to see where I could have improved. And I ask for help for tomorrow.
- We go to Mass each Sunday, and we also attend daily Mass on Saturday, and spend a few minutes in the Adoration Chapel before we head off to all of our sporting events.
To see how all that actually goes down in an actual day, you might like to read this: A Day in the Life.
Becoming a family of prayer has been a process of many years, but it all started by just deciding to give it a try, even though it was never quite the right time. We started with just one or two things, and as those things became habits, we added a couple more. Sometimes life happens and things begin to fall by the wayside. When we notice, we just brush ’em off and start ’em up again.
The easiest thing about it was that it was never going to be perfect anyway, which is perfect for us.
Kendra Tierney can be found tending nine chickens, seven children, and one husband in Los Angeles, CA. She wrote a book called A Little Book About Confession for Children, available now from Ignatius Press and Magnificat. She blogs at www.CatholicAllYear.com.