August 26, 2005

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Prayer helps families balance busy schedules

Another school year is starting again. Some parents are sending children off to school for the first time, while for others this beginning is a time-tested tradition.

Whether parents are rookies or veterans at sending children off to school, there seems to be a trend that poses a serious challenge to all of them.

For many families, the amount of time in a child’s life claimed by the school is increasing as the years go along.

There is an ever-increasing workload that students are required to do at home. Then there are the ever-growing demands on time that extracurricular activities make on a student’s life.

With all these claims on a child’s day-to-day life, maintaining a fruitful family life is difficult for many parents.

In the face of this trend, how do parents, who the Church teaches are the primary educators of their children, maintain a healthy balance in their children’s lives?

The looming nature of this challenge should first prompt parents and their children to turn to God for help. Fostering a life of prayer in the home is a necessary element to nurturing a healthy family in the midst of all of life’s burgeoning cares and concerns.

In suggesting this, I am not arguing that families dedicate a huge amount of time to this (although that wouldn’t be a bad thing). What is important, I think, is marking the day with prayer.

Before children leave in the morning for school, parents could pray over their children, asking that God might bless them through the day and bring them safely home. This would take just a few moments, but, in faith, we can trust that God will answer our prayers and make a difference in our children’s lives.

The end of the day is another time when parents can take action to nurture the life of their family. Having a supper when all members of the family can sit down together is hard to do with our busy schedules.

But having some time—even if it is earlier or later than usual—when a family can sit and share an evening meal together is crucial. Just as the eucharistic meal is the source and summit of the life of the Church, so shared meals in a family can be a primary source for renewing its life.

Having this meal when all family members can be fatigued from the day can be easy to avoid, so making sure it happens in today’s packed calendars requires a deliberate and disciplined choice on the part of parents.

Making the evening meal an important part of family life is simply good human advice. But our Catholic faith can add a layer of spiritual depth to it that has the potential to strengthen families even more.

As Catholics, we already view a meal as a sacred event. So adding a time of prayerful reflection to it can be a natural step to take for families.

Given the busy schedules that family members have apart from each other nowadays, perhaps its unity can be fortified by taking time at the evening meal to prayerfully discuss with each other the blessings and challenges that each family member experienced during the day.

I say to prayerfully discuss it because this family conversation can easily be summed up by offering up to God the high and low points of the day, in giving him thanks for the blessings and asking his aid to pick up the crosses the next day.

Nurturing a healthy family life is something that we can never do alone. Given today’s challenges, calling on God’s grace through prayer is all the more important. †


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