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Resources for your contemplative family

In October I put out a call for contemplative families and many of you responded that you’d like to join me in starting a movement of sorts. I am unfortunately not able to write on this topic more than once a month, because of the other subjects I cover on my blog. Today I want to share with you some resources that you can use in between. I am hoping that in the coming months many of the other bloggers and authors I am recommending will guest post here.

Share your links to our Pinterest board

First, I’ve created a new group Pinterest board called Contemplative Families. If you write about holiness for families, please request to become a pinner. All of us can benefit from the variety of resources shared from blogs and websites across the internet. I have already invited several others to join me. This is a great way to explore more posts on prayer and virtue without having to wade through Search results.

Inspiring and informative blogs

In this overview of resources that I have discovered recently, I must start with the blog of reader Jessica Fahy, At His Feet. On her homepage presently you’ll find posts on detachment, mental prayer, compassion, and the imagination–all written for parents of young kids. This is not your average Catholic mommy blog. Jessica’s writing is polished, her spirituality deep, her love for the faith prominent.

A few years ago I met Heidi Indahl at the Minnesota Catholic Home Education Conference. Some of you are familiar with Heidi from her blog, Work and Play Day by Day. There Heidi writes about her family and homeschool, including the two children lost shortly after birth. I was happy to see Heidi is now a blogger at a new site I want to recommend to you, Peanut Butter and Grace. This blog is the brainchild of Jerry Windley-Daoust, whom I met at last year’s conference. Jerry has written a book that I review briefly below.

Another writer at Peanut Butter and Grace has just published a children’s book about St. Therese. Becky Arganbright has also experienced difficulties with childbirth. I ran into Becky several months ago on Leila Miller’s blog in a discussion about trust. I believe Becky was reading Trusting God with St. Therese at the time. I have not read her book yet, but her blog posts are beautifully written and insightful. Peanut Butter and Grace is all about helping you pray, talk, celebrate, and serve with your kids.

Finally, I just read in the National Catholic Register about another initiative to strengthen Catholic Family life. Peter and Chantal Howard have started an apostolate called Heroic Families. They are currently traveling all across the US with their kids to minister to other families. (Dr.) Peter Howard is a fellow columnist with me at Heroic Families focuses on encouraging families in Marian and Eucharistic devotion.

Books for raising prayerful kids

77W pray coverbuild 1231pmAnother article in the latest issue of the Register was about Sr. John Dominic’s religious education program Disciple of Christ, Education in Virtue. Many schools and homeschools are using this program to teach the virtues in a meaningful way. Sr. John Dominic has just added a Disciple of Mercy Journal for this year of mercy. She also has a new Lectio Divina journal called Life of Christ. Sister’s approach is somewhat different from mine. I encourage you to give her journal a look if you have kids in middle school or older.

We each have different personalities, temperaments, family dynamics, et cetera. We don’t have to all do things the same way. But neither do we have to re-invent the wheel. We can share resources and all be the richer for it.

With that in mind, I’d like to recommend one of Jerry Windley-Daoust’s books, as I mentioned above. 77 Ways to Pray with Your Kids lives up to its name. There is truly something for every family in this book. Although each of the entries is (necessarily) brief, the ideas are concrete and easy to put into practice. You can try many different types of prayer with your kids to see what works for you. Then you might focus on other resources that will help you dig deeper.

Jerry explains how to practice Lectio Divina, do an Ignatian examen, pray the Rosary with kids, and even sit in silent prayer. Now the last of these you need to be cautious about. We don’t want to be afraid of silent prayer, for silence is a necessary component of prayer. But we do want to be careful that we don’t teach our kids to silence all their thoughts and feelings as in Centering Prayer. (And if you haven’t read any of my criticisms of Centering Prayer yet, you’re obviously new to my blog!) We use silence to prepare our hearts to engage with Christ, not as a substitute for that engagement. I’m not quite sure what Jerry’s thoughts in this are, since in the book he encourages just very brief moments of silence with your kids. That’s my only caveat.

I must also mention my book series A Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Children, which gives parenting advice for raising virtuous kids. I am writing one book for each of the four classic temperaments. Earlier this month I published A Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Phlegmatic Child, which joins the earlier Choleric volume. Both are available in paperback and digital formats. In these books I show you the method of mental prayer I taught my two oldest sons. They are praying about three mornings a week at school, besides the prayers they have chosen to do on their own.

How my family dealt with tragedy

In case you haven’t see it yet, I released a video last week for Trusting God with St. Therese. I talk about my struggles with trust and how Therese helped me overcome them. My parents and brother share about the family car accident in which my sister died. You can watch the video on my homepage or on YouTube. I’d appreciate your sharing it with friends and family. Every family experiences tragedy or death. Everyone needs to learn how to trust God more fully.

Now, in the comments, please share any other resources you have found helpful for you and your family as you journey closer to Christ.

Connie Rossini

Note: This post contains affiliate links. That means I earn a small commission if you buy any of the books I recommend. You are helping support my contemplative family. Thank you!

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Becoming a contemplative family

File:The story of a thanksgiving day.jpg
Early 20th Century Bible card from the Providence Lithograph Company. Offering your family’s first fruits to God, Deut. 26:1-11. (Wikimedia Commons)

Last month I wrote a call for contemplative families. Now it’s time to begin discussing what that means. Here are a number of my past posts on praying with children, in case you have missed them:

YOU are your child’s model of prayer
Teach your children mental prayer

Mental prayer for adolescents
Sing the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary with children
Create a guided meditation for kids
Meditation for kids: the thankful leper
Teach your kids the one thing necessary
Meditation for kids: Manna in the wilderness
Meditation for kids: Jesus our healer
The powerful Sign of the Cross

As I quote in my temperament books, Pope St. John Paul II wrote about spiritual growth and the family:

What is needed is a continuous, permanent conversion which, while requiring an interior detachment from every evil and an adherence to good in its fullness, is brought about concretely in steps which lead us ever forward. Thus a dynamic process develops, one which advances gradually with the progressive integration of the gifts of God and the demands of His definitive and absolute love in the entire personal and social life of man. Therefore an educational growth process is necessary, in order that individual believers, families and peoples, even civilization itself, by beginning from what they have already received of the mystery of Christ, may patiently be led forward, arriving at a richer understanding and a fuller integration of this mystery in their lives. (Familiaris consortio, no. 8.)

What are some ways we can “patiently lead forward” each member of our family?

As parents, we must model:

  • Openness to God and His will
  • God’s plan for men and women (Theology of the Body)
  • Dedication to the sacraments, church teaching, and personal and family prayer
  • Gospel poverty, or what some might call simplicity
  • The need for the communion of saints, in all its aspects
  • God’s patience, love, and forgiveness
  • Humility
  • Continual striving for a closer union with God

Let’s begin this week by giving thanks for the blessings we have received. As you celebrate Thanksgiving with your family, look for opportunities to ask grandparents, aunts, and uncles about their faith journeys. Instead of simply asking each person around the table to state what he is grateful for, how about trying one of these questions:

  • What’s the greatest blessing God has given you this year?
  • How has God shown you His love and goodness lately?
  • Who among the relatives has most helped you grow closer to Christ?
  • What have you read recently that helped your relationship with God?
  • How do you find time to pray every day?
  • How do you plan to focus on God’s mercy for the coming Holy Year?

Let’s encourage each member of the family, young and old, to think about his relationship with Christ.

Please share in the comments other ideas you have for fostering your family’s spirituality this holiday weekend. Then share this post with others you think will benefit.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

Connie Rossini

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A call for contemplative families

File:Prière avant la récolte par Félix de Vigne.jpg
Prayer for the Harvest by Felix de Vigne (Wikimedia Commons).

On Sunday, October 4, the Synod on the Family convened in Rome. As we pray, with trust in the Lord, for real help for the family from the Fathers of our Church, we should do something else as well. The strengthening of the Catholic family must come not just from new directives from Rome, but also from families themselves. You and I, together with our families, can help change the outlook of the Catholic family for centuries to come. Today I issue a call that is the call of Pope John Paul II, “Family, become what you are!” (Familiaris consortio no. 17). I issue a call for contemplative families.

God has been putting this on my heart more and more. I hear from mothers who want to teach their children to pray, but don’t know how. From women whose husbands have abandoned the family and who are trying to raise godly children on their own. From grandparents who grieve that their grandchildren are not being raised in the faith. I do not need to tell you the challenges that face the family in the twenty-first century. You are the very ones who are facing them.

My dream is to see a renewal of the authentically Catholic contemplative life, but not just in monasteries. I dream to see it in families.

A new model for families

Portrait of Bl. Louis Martin from the Basilica of St. Therese (Wikipedia).

In the Middle Ages, the contemplative life was found among the hermits, monks, and nuns. This tradition reached its height in the teaching of St. Teresa of Avila. Then with the seventeenth century came St. Francis de Sales. He brought the contemplative life out into the world, directing individual lay men and women to immerse themselves in the Gospel, even while living out their vocation.

In the nineteenth century, Blessed Louis Martin sought to enter a monastery and was turned away. Separately, Azelie Guerin, as she was then, sought to enter a convent and was also turned away. The two later married and established something new. They established a contemplative family.

I know many lay men and women who desire a more contemplative life for their families. Some of them have moved near monasteries. Others have joined communities that seek to spread a monastic spirit to those living in the world. I myself was part of the Secular Order for Discalced Carmelites for seventeen years, starting when I was single.

As I married and had children, I found that the Rule that I had been able to follow as a single person became increasingly difficult to fulfill. It conflicted with the duties and obligations of my vocation as wife and mother. I began to understand why most of my Carmelite brothers and sisters were men and women whose children were grown. Eventually I had to leave Carmel. But my desire for a contemplative life did not wane. I thought then, as I do now, that the contemplative life should be available to parents of young children as well as to singles and older adults.

How can we live this out? How can families live the contemplative life as families, not trying to copy the life of cloistered religious, which would place on their shoulders obligations they could not fulfill without neglecting the duties of their vocations? This is the question I wish to explore, the question I would ask you to help me answer.

Religious communities are built on the model of the family with a father and brothers or mother and sisters. Should we build the family in turn on the model of the cloister? Can we not instead build up our own model of contemplative life, a life that flows from and supports the vocation of marriage, rather than adding unrealistic obligations to the ones God has already given us?

My house shall be a house of prayer

Fr. Peyton famously said, “The family that prays together, stays together.” With Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin as our models and patrons, let us begin with praying as a family. Let us pray the family Rosary, not just teaching our children the words of the prayer, but teaching them to meditate on the mysteries and to say each word with love and attention. Let us teach them to sanctify their meals with the Table Blessing. Let us pray as a family every morning or evening or both.

This is the beginning. But if this is all we do, I fear that we may become like the one in the proverb who gives a man a fish. We feed our children for the day. We pray with them and nourish them while they are with us. But what happens when they leave our homes, when they live on their own, with no family to support them in a daily Rosary? What then?

We must teach them to fish. Teach them to find their own nourishment to sustain them throughout their lives. We must teach them to pray. And by this I mean especially to teach them mental prayer.

The Church has a long tradition of mental prayer. If it is not passed down from one generation to the next, it risks being lost. We can teach our children to prayerfully read the Scriptures, listening to the voice of God speaking through His Word and responding to it with love. We can also teach them to practice the presence of God. Through these two practices, as well as growth in virtue, we can help them prepare for the gift of supernatural contemplation, an ever-deepening intimacy with God. This is the meaning of the contemplative family.

Mary taught Jesus to pray

The Catechism tells us that Jesus learned to pray from his Mother (2599). As fathers and mothers, it is our responsibility to teach our children to pray. We cannot abdicate. We cannot depend on schools or religious education programs to do this most important work for us. We must be active in teaching our children the way to intimacy with God.

Jesus was a rabbi, a teacher. He had disciples, students. He taught them to pray by His example, by going aside regularly to spend time alone with His Father. We too must take time alone with God each day and let our children know how important this time is for us. He taught His disciples the Our Father. We must teach our children vocal prayer. He taught them to gather together in prayer in His name. We must gather in prayer as a family. He offered Himself as the supreme sacrifice to God, and invited us to share in that sacrifice in the Holy Eucharist. We must teach our children the importance of the Mass and reverence for the Eucharist.

I would like to begin to join together with other families pursuing the contemplative life as families. God alone knows where this will lead. If you would like to join me, please pledge your participation in a comment below. And if you have a blog that is focused on holiness for families, please provide the link. I may want to share some of your posts with my readers in the future. I hope to begin allowing guests to post on this topic. Then spread the word, so that other families may become what God made them to be.

God bless you and your family!

Connie Rossini

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Helping children learn patience

Patience is one of the virtues that we all struggle with. How many times have I been frustrated over my–or others’!–slow spiritual growth? St. Teresa of Avila said that perseverance is essential to growth in prayer. And perseverance means we have to be patient.

How can we teach our children to be patient? We can help them first with our example, refusing to be frustrated when the same discipline problems raise their head repeatedly. We can pray with them for friends and relatives who have left the Church, never giving up, no matter how long it takes.

Author Virginia Lieto knows about the patience of God. She spent years as an auditor before she heard God calling her to a deeper relationship with Him. She left her profession, pursued a masters degree in theology, and became an adjunct professor for Saint Joseph’s College of Maine’s Online Theology Program.

Then, with a little more patience, she went a step further, beginning to write books to help children grow in virtue.

Virginia’s first book is just out. Adventures of Faith, Hope, and Charity – Finding Patience, tells the story of a family with three daughters who moves to a new home and neighborhood. The oldest daughter, Faith, struggles to find new friends. Her mother prays with her and wisely councils patience.

Faith’s sisters join her in prayer. A new puppy lifts Faith’s spirits and helps her begin to trust God to hear her. Her trust is rewarded with a new friend, appropriately named Patience.

Carole Hahn Pazner’s illustrations will make you smile. Virginia’s story line will bring back memories of childhood struggles you can share with your children. Together, they make it easy for you to show your children that even patience doesn’t appear overnight.

To celebrate the publication of this book, the first in a planned series, Virginia is giving away five autographed copies. You can enter the contest here.

Connie Rossini

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Contemplation aboard the Dawn Treader


After a long break, I am writing another post for my series “Finding God in Children’s Literature.” The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis has been one of my favorite children’s books since I first read it in fourth grade. Recently I found myself pondering its profundity during Mass. Not the worst way to be distracted from the liturgy. Let me share what your kids can learn about the spiritual life by sailing along with King Caspian and his companions.

To understand Dawn Treader you must understand where it gets its name. C. S. Lewis loved to make references to the Psalms in his works. Here is the first part of Psalm 139 from the New American Bible:

LORD, you have probed me, you know me:

you know when I sit and stand;

you understand my thoughts from afar.

You sift through my travels and my rest;

with all my ways you are familiar.

Even before a word is on my tongue,

LORD, you know it all.

Behind and before you encircle me

and rest your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

far too lofty for me to reach

Where can I go from your spirit?

From your presence, where can I flee?

If I ascend to the heavens, you are there;

if I lie down in Sheol, there you are.

If I take the wings of dawn

and dwell beyond the sea,

Even there your hand guides me,

your right hand holds me fast.

If I say, ‘Surely darkness shall hide me,

and night shall be my light’

Darkness is not dark for you,

and night shines as the day.

Darkness and light are but one.”

For a lengthy discussion about symbolism and analogy, challenge your kids to find as many themes from this psalm as they can in the novel.

Where is God?

Aslan does not appear as much in this novel as he does in some of the other Narnia books. However, he is always in the background. His reach is everywhere–even into a non-believing household in England. He appears on the Island of Voices after Lucy recites the spell. He speaks to her through the albatross. He is the Lamb that meets the children at the end of their trip.

The journey–obstensibly to find the lost lords–becomes a journey towards Aslan’s country, continuing even after the last lords have been found. We could say it shows a longing for the Beatific Vision. Can the soul reach union with God without dying? Reepicheep’s poem holds the answer:

Where sky and water meet,

Where the waves grow sweet,

Doubt not, Reepicheep,

To find all you seek,

There is the utter East.”

From meditation to contemplation

But if the journey ends in divine union, it begins with much more mundane things. In fact, it begins with an ugly painting in an extra bedroom. Here again we see God’s omnipotence. He is everywhere and can use anything to accomplish his purpose.

I like to see a more specific meaning in the painting too. Spiritual writers have long suggested using images (paintings, holy cards, icons, or statues) to help them to pray. Even Solomon’s temple was covered with pictures of the cherubim.

In Christian prayer, the soul must act. She [the soul] must do all within her power to think about and love God. She uses what is available. She meditates on creation or gazes at a holy picture. Or perhaps, like Lucy and Edmund at the beginning of the novel, she reminds herself of all the wonders God has done in the past. She repeats God’s promises of future joy. She talks about him whenever she can.

In the end, only God can draw a soul to himself. He must step in to do the work the soul cannot do. He reaches out, takes hold of the soul, and immerses her in his own life. Three children get a dunking, and only two of them like it.

At first, everything seems magical and beautiful (to Lucy and Edmund, anyway). But soon the ship meets with danger. There are dragons, storms, and temptations. The children are nearly sold into slavery. They encounter terrible darkness. And they eat a feast from the heavens.

Doesn’t this remind you of the spiritual life?

They persevere. The water becomes sweet. The sun now acts as another symbol of God. It grows bigger and brighter. The travelers no longer need much food or drink as they are bathed in its light. They drink only the sweet water which is like liquid sunlight. They are becoming detached from everything they left behind. Caspian almost abdicates because he does not want to go back to the life he lived before.

Now they can look at the sun without hurting their eyes. They are beginning to experience union with God. Reepicheep enters his coracle and sails to Aslan’s country.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader is an excellent resource for teaching your children about the spiritual life.

Connie Rossini

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Welcome (back) to my blog

Signing Trusting God with St. Therese
Signing Trusting God with St. Therese
Preparing to speak on Working with Your Child's Temperament
Preparing to speak on Working with Your Child’s Temperament. (Notice how I tried to match my blog?)
Table 2
My lovely St. Therese poster (framed by my neighbor) and coming attractions.
A Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Choleric Child. Released May 15.
Friday night at the Curriculum Fair
Friday night at the Curriculum Fair


I have several issues to address quickly today. First, if you have been missing my posts for the last two months, I’m so sorry! In late March I sent out a survey so that I could segment my subscriber list. This means that I am trying to notify people about my posts according to their interests. I have 3 categories of posts now: Homeschooling and Parenting; Spirituality for Adults; and Books, Videos, and Events. Only a third of my subscribers completed the survey. Those who didn’t were supposed to continue receiving everything. However, I’ve learned from a few readers that instead they’ve been receiving nothing.

I think I’ve fixed the problem. So sorry if you’ve been missing my posts when you wanted to receive them!

If you wish to limit the emails you receive to one category, you can update your preferences by using the link at the bottom of your emails from me, or the signup box on my blog’s sidebar.

A successful homeschool conference

Welcome to all the new subscribers from the Minnesota Catholic Home Education Conference and Curriculum Fair!

I gave two workshops at the conference: Homeschooling Help from St. Therese and Working with Your Child’s Temperament. Both went very well. After the second, I had more questions that there was time for. If you missed the talks and would like to hear them, you can order CDs soon. I am just waiting for a link to the company who records them.

Thank you for your prayers for this event. I met a few of my subscribers in person. I also connected with other writers. I talked with many parents who are striving to raise godly children. I even sold some books! It was great fun.

A Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Choleric Child

If you have been missing my emails, you probably missed the announcement about my second book, which came out on May 15. A Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Choleric Child is available in paperback and as an ebook. You can find all my books and their details on my Book Table page.

If you have friends or family who could benefit from this book, please pass the word onto them. And if you have a homeschool or parenting blog, I’d be happy to send you a review copy. Just email me at crossini4774 at comcast dot net.

I have just started working on the second book in the series, on the phlegmatic child. But that brings me to my next point.

Blogging sabbatical

I have been going strong with my writing since long before I published Trusting God with St. Therese. My husband has asked me to take the month of June off from working on any books. Our home needs some attention!

I decided to also take a break from my weekly blogging here. That will give me time to write a few columns for and focus on getting the word out about the choleric child book. And do some laundry. (I’m phlegmatic, remember?)

My next post here after today will be on July 7.

What can you do in the meantime? Here are some ideas:

Don’t worry, I have lots of ideas for writing when I come back! Please don’t go away permanently. We’ll reconnect soon.

Connie Rossini