Guest Post by Dr. Peter Howard
Healthy families lead to solid vocations and a stronger and more fruitful sacramental life of the Church, which is its life-blood. If we want to know the needs of the Church, we need to know the needs of the family. And the greatest need of the human family today is creating a climate of prayer that permeates and supports all of the family’s other needs. It is not something accidental to family life, but essential.
This is why the devil’s number one tactic is to keep us busy with non-essentials, so that we never have time for prayer and if we pray, it is usually dominated by distractions and petitions related to all of these non-essentials. How many families do we know that fall into this … including perhaps our own? The soil in which God needs to plant and nourish His greatest works in our families is often an inch deep. And we don’t discover this until our families become torn apart or our kids abandon the faith. Let’s be honest. This is the reality for many.
So, what can we do to till the soil of our families so that our families have deep roots and can weather the storms that are raging against us? I recommend three practices that will unite and invigorate your family with a greater love of prayer.
1. Have a daily discipline that your family follows.
If we don’t plan our day around our priorities, we will never accomplish the more important ones because we are too bogged down with all lesser important duties. As many saints have said, including one of our favorites, St. Maximilian Kolbe: “Maintain order and order will maintain you.” At the beginning of the day, meet as a family before people leave for work and the kids are off to school. Spouses, don’t leave each other in the morning without having surrendered your day to the will of the Father and say the Lord’s Prayer together. You’ve set your day on the right track already. Fathers, bless your children often.
2. Make the family Rosary a staple of your family’s daily rhythm.
There are many reasons why the Church and Our Blessed Mother herself ask us to say this prayer every day, especially as a family. And it’s important to understand that there’s no one way of reciting the Rosary. Be creative and make it truly a family prayer.
First, fathers be there to lead it! Lead your family Rosary. This will inspire your children more than you will ever know. Second, make the prayer come alive as a family by asking the children not only to lead a decade, but read or create meditations based on the mysteries of the rosary. Now, they are part of the Rosary! Our family sometimes likes to mix it up and chant the Rosary
Byzantine-style (My wife, Chantal, was baptized in the Byzantine Catholic rite). Your children (or grandchildren) are now realizing the incarnational purpose of the Rosary — and believe me, you arrive at the end of the Rosary and it felt like you just started, even for your kids!
There is no one way or single time of day that dictates how and when the Rosary is to be prayed. We often like to do it when we are traveling in the car, and sometimes we split it up with two decades in the morning and the remaining three in the afternoon or evening. What matters is the intentionality and quality of the prayer as a family. Including your children in the conversation of how they like to pray the Rosary will actually get them to want to pray it more.
3. Pilgrimage as a family.
Experience the prayer life of the broader Church! I can’t express more strongly how much this repeated gift of my parents to me as a youth and young adult impacted me and my desire to pray more. Experiencing adoration of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist with music, silence and contemplation; saying the Rosary with people from other countries and experiencing the Catholic Church for what it truly is, God’s universal family, will never leave you the same.
Pope Francis is asking families to take pilgrimages during this Jubilee of Mercy (especially to the Holy Doors) because pilgrimages remind us that our families have a common mission — to get to heaven. He tells us that the pilgrimage “represents the journey of life and symbolizes that Mercy is a goal to reach that requires sacrifice and dedication.” Pilgrimages themselves become family prayers and serve as marvelous unifying enterprises that leave indelible memories that will shape and strengthen your family for your whole life. I am so grateful that my parents made many financial sacrifices to send me on pilgrimage. I received some of the greatest graces in my life and acquired a love of prayer from these experiences.
A family that is dedicated to a daily discipline which revolves around prayer, makes the Rosary a staple of that discipline and makes pilgrimages as a family will see its faith truly come alive, and it is this very vitality that generates strong, holy and joyful families. When each “domestic church” lives this way, the more vibrant, influential, faithful and joyful the Church at large will find herself.
It’s that simple and we see this all the time in those families that are truly thriving and producing the saints the Church desperately needs in these difficult times.
Invite us to your parish, retreat or conference to bring the message of Heroic Families to the heart of as many homes as possible! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Peter Howard is co-founder of Heroic Families along with his wife, Chantal. Peter, Chantal and their 5 five children are currently on the road for the next year dedicated to family to family ministry. Dr. Howard is a professor of Theology for the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation (avila-institute.com). Heroic Families is dedicated to the mission of “awakening Catholic families to discover God’s unique purpose for them and leading them to live it out with trust, courage and passion.” Peter is also a Catholic videographer (MEDIAtrix.tv), author and national Catholic speaker who has spoken at the 2015 American Chesterton Society Conference, 2012 Midwest Catholic Family Conference in Wichita, Kansas; the United States Air Force Academy; parish retreats and on Catholic radio programs such as Radio Maria and Relevant Radio. Peter earned his Doctorate in Sacred Theology (S.T.D.) from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas
Aquinas [Angelicum] in Rome, Italy. Dr. Howard’s theological expertise lies predominantly in Mariology and the teachings of Venerable Fulton J. Sheen. He is the author of the 2014 book: The Woman: The Mystery of Mary as Mediatrix in the Teaching of Fulton J. Sheen. Like his spiritual mentor, +Fulton Sheen, Dr. Howard is passionate about evangelizing families by communicating the truth and beauty of the Catholic faith as the answer to the challenges and errors of the world.