September 14, 2007

Religious Education Supplement

Families bring faith alive in the home

Our Lady of Lourdes parishioners Gary and Jennifer Lindberg of Indianapolis pray with their children, 2-year-old Clare, 4-year-old Alex and 6-month-old Jonas, every day in their home. They look forward to Sunday as a day of rest and relaxation.

Our Lady of Lourdes parishioners Gary and Jennifer Lindberg of Indianapolis pray with their children, 2-year-old Clare, 4-year-old Alex and 6-month-old Jonas, every day in their home. They look forward to Sunday as a day of rest and relaxation.

By Mary Ann Wyand

Crucifixes, holy statues and religious pictures displayed in many rooms of their house help Our Lady of Lourdes ­parishioners Gary and Jennifer Lindberg of Indianapolis teach their three young children about God and the Catholic faith.

“We have so many to show our kids we are Catholic and that we love the Holy Trinity and Mary,” Jennifer Lindberg explained. “Just like we put out ... pictures of family, ... we love them and want to be reminded ... to try to act Christ-like and that they are always with us.”

Four-year-old Alex, 2-year-old Clare and 6-month-old Jonas are used to prayer time every day in their home and during Mass at church on Sunday.

Alex and Clare “know that kneeling is prayer time,” Gary Lindberg explained, and is a way to show love and respect for God. They are learning to recite the Our Father and Hail Mary with their parents.

“I think it’s important that they see us pray,” she said. “Once they are able to participate more fully, it will be normal for them because they have always seen us pray.”

The Lindbergs keep the Sabbath holy by going to church on Sunday morning then enjoying a day of rest with family activities to help plant the seeds of faith and build a firm Catholic foundation for their children. To honor the Lord’s Day, they do not shop, eat out or do chores.

On Sunday, she said, “we enjoy God’s great world and … blessings he gave us.”

Like many Catholic parents, the Lindbergs teach their children mealtime and bedtime prayers as meaningful ways to connect their family with God every day. They believe that these family prayers form a solid foundation for teaching their children about devotion to God and the Catholic faith as well as preparing them for participation in the Eucharist on Sunday.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that “the Christian home is the place where children receive the first proclamation of the faith” (#1666).

For this reason, the catechism states, “the family home is rightly called ‘the domestic church,’ a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity” (#1666).

But for many families, the reality of busy schedules and the lure of popular culture often limit time for faith formation.

Even on Sunday, after Mass and dinner, many families often rush back into a variety of weekend activities that distract them from focusing on the sacredness of the Lord’s Day.

In his parish ministry, Father John McCaslin encourages families to keep the Sabbath a holy day and time for rest.

The pastor of St. Anthony Parish and administrator of Holy Trinity Parish in Indianapolis presented a day of reflection on “Reclaiming the Sabbath” last year at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis.

“The motivation for the presentation was an awareness that as a society and culture we have really lost our sense of need for sacred rest or Sabbath,” Father McCaslin said. “We fill our lives with activities, work, stimulation, pagers, cell phones, the Internet and Blackberries, and we are now expected to be accessible all of the time.”

For many families, he said, “Sunday has become filled with the sporting activities of children and the catch-up day at home to get all of the household chores and errands done.”

Sadly, “our great and timeless prayer of thanksgiving, the Eucharist, often becomes another chore to fit in and to get done as quickly as possible,” Father McCaslin said. “Silence in the Mass is seen as lengthening the Mass rather than an opportunity for an encounter with our Lord.”

Without sacred rest, people become physically, emotionally and mentally tired, he said, and their spiritual life also suffers as a result.

“We are less able to recognize the quiet movement of God within us and within our family,” Father McCaslin explained. “Sabbath calls us not to be busy with each other or busy doing things with others, but to be present to God and others free from distractions.”

Channel-surfing on the television is not the proper way to spend the Sabbath, he said, because the entertainment media fills our lives with noise and prevents us from hearing God’s voice or interacting with family members in meaningful ways.

“Reclaiming Sabbath in our lives is an intentional decision … to put God first,” Father McCaslin said, even if it is only for a few hours in the morning or afternoon.

“Within this presence, we can grow in intimacy with God and with our families,” he said. “What an important and wonderful gift to share with your children.”

What can parents do to refocus their busy family life on faith formation?

They can start by sharing prayer every day, Father McCaslin said, if prayer time isn’t already a daily family devotion.

The catechism reminds Catholics that “the Christian family is the first place of education in prayer” (#2685).

“Based on the sacrament of marriage, the family is the ‘domestic church’ where God’s children learn to pray ‘as the Church’ and to persevere in prayer,” the catechism explains. “For young children in particular, daily family prayer is the first witness of the Church’s living memory as awakened patiently by the Holy Spirit” (#2685).

Reading Scripture out loud together, Father McCaslin and the catechism suggest, and praying the rosary help form families in the Catholic faith.

He also recommends that families talk about the Sunday Mass during the week in order to better understand the importance of “meal sharing, sacrifice, coming together, the communion of saints, giving thanks, needing sustenance and nutrition, the Christian story in sacred Scripture, forgiveness, the gift of Christ, hope, love, faith,” and other aspects of the Eucharist.

“The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit,” the catechism notes. “In the procreation and education of children it reflects the Father’s work of creation. It is called to partake of the prayer and sacrifice of Christ. Daily prayer and the reading of the Word of God strengthen it in charity ...” (#2205).

“I think scheduling time for prayer or prayerful silence is something families could do even if they begin with just a few minutes,” Father McCaslin said. “They could pray devotional prayers like the rosary together or read a story from The Lives of the Saints. A family could read some verses from Scripture together and then share their thoughts on the daily Scripture or read a good commentary.”

Family members could also write in a prayer journal, he said, or spend time thanking God for their blessings that day and praying for those in need.

“A family could also remain in prayerful silence, allowing each person to pray as they wish,” Father McCaslin said. “Perhaps they can use some non-intrusive music to help them eliminate distractions. This may sound intimidating, but it is workable if you begin simply and grow into it.

“Pray as you can and not as you can’t,” he advised. “This is a wonderful opportunity for parents to be teachers of prayer and the value of prayer to their children and to each other.”

Prayer is a choice that people make every day just like all other life choices, Father McCaslin explained. “If it is important to us, we will find a way just like we find a way to do other things in our busy lives. Making prayer and the Sabbath a part of family life is one way which parents fulfill the promise they made to God when they had their children baptized.”

When parents make this choice to pray each day, he said, they give a witness to their children that prayer is important.

“As I have heard too many times,” he explained, “if you are too busy to pray, you are too busy.”

Meals are an important way to recognize the sacredness of time spent together as a family and understand the meaning of Sabbath, he said. “… This time together eating, talking, listening, laughing, and sharing thoughts and ideas is important in our understanding of the sacredness of family and what is happening in each other’s lives.” †

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