As you know, the Holy Father visited the United States this past week. During this historic time, Pope Francis attended the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. His visit gives us the opportunity to reflect upon God’s gift of the family. Tradition teaches the home is the domestic church. What does this mean? Parents are their children’s first catechists.
This is an awesome responsibility parents have been given. At times, it can be a bit overwhelming. Parents sometimes feel they may not have the knowledge necessary to share with their children. You might remember the words of St. Pope John Paul II when he shared, “Be not afraid!” There are numerous resources available to assist you as your family grows in faith. Where to begin? I would suggest we always begin with prayer.
David Letterman was well-known for his Top-Ten Lists. With a nod to Dave, the September and October issues of Faith Matters will discuss “10 Ways to Teach Children to Pray.” Today, one through five …
1. Sign of the Cross – As your children make the sign of the cross, remind them we give our thoughts to God as we touch our head, we give our love to God as we touch our chest/heart and we use our arms/hands to serve as we touch our shoulders.
It has been suggested that your children might use their whole hand to pray the Sign of the Cross, their three fingers or two fingers. The meaning of the three ways follows: using the five fingers symbolizes the five wounds of Christ, using three fingers symbolizes the Holy Trinity or using two fingers symbolizes the two natures of Christ, true God and true man.
2. Basic Prayers – Teach your youngest children the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, Grace Before Meals and Guardian Angel Prayer. Older children should learn the Act of Contrition and the Apostles’ Creed.
3. Reading the Bible – Reading the Bible is an important way to share the stories of God’s family. The Gospel readings are important; however, do not ignore stories from the Old Testament, especially stories of Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Moses, and Jonah. These stories are vivid and children enjoy listening to them.
Be sure to give your children the opportunity to share what they remember. You might reread a story at a later date; as you introduce the story you might say, “This story is about Noah. What do you remember about what happened to him?” Children love the opportunity to share their knowledge of our faith!
As you read the Bible to your children, give them the experience to meditate and reflect. After sharing a story, ask your child to choose a character. Ask them to share what that character might have thought or experienced in the story. As an alternate activity, you might ask your children if they could speak with Jesus in that setting, what they would say or what question they might ask of Jesus.
4. Gratitude – Once a day, on the way to or from school or at dinner, each member of the family shares one thing for which they are grateful. It is a good practice to build a spiritual life. You might wish to write these in a gratitude journal which can be a comfort when you encounter troubling times.
5. Attend Mass … the Prayer of the Church – God calls us to celebrate Liturgy as a community. It is the most important prayer available to us. Jesus taught when two or more gather in his name, he is present. Jesus is present in Liturgy in several ways … in the Word, in the Eucharist, in the priest as well as in the community. Mass is a powerful prayer. We invite your family to join in this most beautiful prayer of all!