The Family That Prays Together Stays Together

'A Short Guide to Praying As a Family' is an attractive and helpful guide.

(photo: Register Files)

The Family That Prays Together Stays Together. That was the message of Servant of God Patrick Peyton, the founder of Holy Cross Family Ministries who was best known as the "Rosary Priest."

Just in time for the World Meeting of Families, Saint Benedict Press has released a new book chock-full of ideas and inspiration for parents who want to lead their families in prayer. The Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia Congregation authored the beautifully illustrated hardcover book, titled A Short Guide to Praying as a Family: Growing Together in Faith and Love Each Day.

Photographs of nearly 200 stained glass windows will inspire even the very young reader to reflect on the things of God. Fr. Lawrence Lew, a Dominican priest of the Province of England, captured the photographs; Father Lew explained that the vivid colors in the stained glass recall a line from the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, "The world is charged with the grandeur of God."

Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M.Cap., archbishop of Philadelphia, wrote the Foreword. "If parents love God," he wrote, "children see and learn faith. Parents who pray together teach by the way they live that God is real; that he is present, listening, and eager to be part of our lives."

Some of the prayers contained in the book are familiar to Catholic families. Even the youngest child can understand the Sign of the Cross as a way of putting on our armor for the day. He can learn to understand the meaning of the gestures as saying to God: “Take my mind” (when we put our fingers to our foreheads); “Take my heart” (when we move our fingers over our hearts); and, “Take my whole self” (when we touch our fingers to each shoulder). And getting the left-right thing correct? The Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia suggest that one parent can stand behind a small child and move the child's hand from behind; at the same time, the other parent might demonstrate in mirror-image fashion, using the left hand instead of the right and allowing the child to follow the parent's lead. 

The Grace Before and After Meals, a Prayer Before Bedtime, the Divine Mercy Chaplet: All of these familiar prayers are explained in a way that brings them to life in the family setting. For children who have already celebrated the sacraments, there are several prayers to recite after receiving Holy Communion—including the Anima Christi, which dates back to the fourteenth century. There's the Act of Contrition and helpful advice for leading an Examination of Conscience before the family sets off for Confession.

But while the Short Guide to Praying As a Family recalls and explains the traditional prayers, it also recommends a few prayer customs which may be new to the average family. Creating a sacred space in the home, praying before a sporting event, the monthly family meeting, using holy water and other sacramentals, all help to make the Catholic faith alive in the home. Celebrating the liturgical feasts and seasons, visiting the cemetery to pray for the dead, planning a family “Media Fast” and doing something else instead of watching television—these are all ways that busy families can structure their lives to make time for daily prayer.

The authors offer a prayer which is an inspiration in itself. “May your family.” they say, “be the garden where Christ Himself is always welcome, where He always delights, and where He always rests. May He, the Master-Gardener, be the One who applies His gentle artistry to water (to bless), to prune (to purify), and to give new growth to your whole family.”

A Short Guide to Praying As a Family is an attractive coffee table book and a helpful guide, as your family embarks on a journey toward greater holiness. A quick application of clear Contact paper on the book jacket will ensure that it stays fresh, even as little hands reach for it again and again.