July 27, 2018

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Sharing family stories can help children grow in holiness

Sean GallagherSome of the best moments that I share with my sons are at bed time.

Mornings are a little more difficult. In the summer, they might still be asleep when I leave to go to work. During the school year, there’s often a rush in the morning to get out of the house on time. Supper time can bring its own swirl of activity, with a flurry of either requests for—or refusals of—the food served.

But bedtime is a slower and more quiet time when Cindy and I pray with our boys. We’ll read the Gospel passage from the Mass for the day, pray a decade of the rosary and say a bedtime prayer.

Then each of us goes through four prayers: who we want to pray for; what we want to give thanks for; what we did well during the day for which we give thanks for God’s help; and what we want to say we’re sorry for.

Finally, we end our time of prayer with an act of contrition.

Now, before you think that our family is the model of piety, please know that we have our fair share of frustrations at prayer time. Sometimes, difficulties can crop up when one or another boy’s attention needs to be drawn back to the task at hand.

All in all, though, I think we’ve developed a good pattern of prayer with the boys over the years. With the help of God’s grace, it will be the foundation of a good habit of daily turning to God for my boys as they grow into adulthood.

After prayer, either Cindy or I will spend time with Victor, 11, and Philip, 9, telling them stories or reading a book. Right now, we’re slowly making our way through Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain, a series of youth adventure/fantasy novels.

For my own part, I kind of prefer telling them stories that they like, which are usually family stories either about myself, Cindy or my dad, whom the boys call “Papa.” And even though I’ve told them to the boys again and again, they don’t seem to get tired of hearing them.

More often than not when I ask them what kind of story they want to hear, they’ll respond, “A Papa story.” They’re often about his adventures growing up on a farm, or later on in his work as an insurance adjuster.

Some of the stories give positive lessons to the boys, like the one about my grandpa taking my dad as a little boy to secretly give all the fixings for a good Christmas dinner to a neighboring family living in poverty.

At other times, they can learn what not to do from—how shall I put it?—Papa’s misadventures, like the time he and a friend set off a cherry bomb in their high school, and got away with it. (My, how times have changed.)

At supper time, we’ll pretty regularly read a short story of the saint for the day from the two-volume Saints for Young Readers for Every Day, published by Pauline Media.

While it’s good for parents to share the stories of the saints—our brothers and sisters in Christ in our family of faith—I encourage you parents and grandparents to tell your children or grandchildren stories from your own lives and those of your parents and other relatives.

As we recount those stories, you and your little listeners will naturally see how they might be funny, sad or, at times, hair-raising. Hopefully, though, all of you will learn how all in your family have strived after holiness or tried to learn from their mistakes, all in our shared pilgrim journey to heaven. †

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