Now You Lay Them Down to Sleep ...

For many children, bedtime prayers are a soothing ritual that helps bring another day to a close.

Astute Catholic parents see in them something more: an opportunity to introduce their children to the devotional life.

Wisely used, those twilight wind-downs can prove some of the most formative and fruitful moments in all of family life. Bedtime can be nothing less than a school of prayer.

Incorporate Bible stories and traditional prayers, and lessons learned right before tuck-in time can serve the sleepy-eyed “student” for a lifetime.

Then, too, the dark stillness offers that rare quiet moment when children can learn to speak with God from the depths and intimacy of their hearts.

Here are some resources to help make the last moments of the day a time for sweet endings and spiritual beginnings.

BEDTIME PRAYERS

written by Jean-Yves Garneau

translated by Madeleine E. Beaumont

Liturgical Press, 2004

104 pages, $6.95

To order: (800) 858-5450 or litpress.org

In this gentle book, Father Garneau offers mothers and fathers prayers to say for their babies just before the lay down the little ones for the night. “May She Discover That You Love Her” and “I Put Him in Your Hands” are two of the more than 30 such prayers. In the second part, the priest introduces about four dozen prayers from which children can choose to read each night. These prayers reflect kids’ very real concerns about themselves, their families, their friends and the needy. Prayers of praise and contrition (“For Praising You and Saying Thank You” and “I Forgot to Pray to You”) are included. All ages.

A CHILD'S GOOD-NIGHT PRAYER

written by Grace Maccarone

illustrated by Sam Williams

Scholastic, 2001

28 pages, $10.95

Available in bookstores

“Bless my pillow / Bless my bed / Bless me, too / From toes to head.” This playful rhyme invites God's blessings on each of the small, and not so small, parts of a child's world. Watercolor illustrations work together with childlike banter in this combination bedtime story and goodnight prayer. A board book version is available for younger kids under the title Bless Me. Ages 3 to 6.

WHILE YOU'RE ASLEEP

written by Terry A. Sites

illustrated by Christine Huddleston

Pauline, 1998

32 pages, $4.95

To order: (800) 836-9723

or pauline.org/store

What happens while we sleep? Many things: Grownups talk, pets play, airplanes fly and the world rolls on. But the most important thing that happens while we're asleep is that Jesus watches over us and loves us, each and every minute of the night. A terrific companion to bedtime prayers, this book drives home a reassuring reminder of God's continual love and care. Ages 3 to 6.

NOW I LAY ME DOWN TO SLEEP

illustrated by Linda Clearwater

Standard Publishing, 2004

12 pages, $10.99

Available in bookstores

Little hands will reach out to touch the 3-D moon and shiny holographic foils accenting angel wings, stars and other sparkly things in this colorful board book. Moms and dads will enjoy reading aloud from its collection of comforting, well-known prayers and poems. One of our favorites (“Sleep My Child and Peace Attend You …”) brings the book to an evocative close. Each selection is coupled with a short Bible verse. Ages 18 months and older.

MY PRAYERS TO GOD

WITH LOVE AND JOY

edited by Rina Risitano, FSP

translated by Maria Healy, FSP

designed by Mary Lou Winters, FSP

Pauline, 2003

64 pages, $6.95

To order: (800) 836-9723

or pauline.org/store

As children grow, their prayers need to grow with them. This pocket-size resource provides an expanded repertoire of traditional and contemporary prayers for slightly older children.

Just right for bedtime and beyond, this bright, inviting collection includes prayers for many occasions, as well as an overview of the Rosary, tips for developing a spiritual life and a few well-chosen Scripture passages. Ages 9 to 12.

A KINGFISHER TREASURY OF BIBLE STORIES, POEMS AND PRAYERS FOR BEDTIME

selected and retold by Ann Pilling

illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton

Kingfisher, 2000

92 pages, $18.95

Available in bookstores

Stories from the Old and New Testaments are retold in an engaging way for children. “A Marvelous Picnic,” for example, recounts Christ's multiplication of the loaves and fishes in words that are easy for children to understand. An eclectic and appealing mix of psalms, poems and songs are interspersed. Among the offerings are traditional bedtime lullabies (“Hush, Little Baby”) as well as the prayers of St. Francis of Assisi (“Lord, Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace”), St. Ignatius Loyola (“Teach Us, Lord”) and Dietrich Bonhoffer (“A Prayer from Prison”). Ages 5 to 10.

MY GOOD NIGHT BIBLE:

45 BEDTIME BIBLE STORIES FOR LITTLE ONES

written by Susan L. Lingo

illustrated by Kathy Parks

Standard Publishing, 1999

208 pages, $12.99

Available in bookstores

Bedtime is easier, this author says, when kids have a predictable routine. And it is all the sweeter when that routine includes snuggling up and “sleeping on” the Word of God.

This book lays out a game plan. Get the kids in their pajamas, tuck them in and together sing the featured “Bedtime Rhyme” song. Read aloud to them one of the short Bible stories.

Point out “Night-Light,” the “special firefly friend,” who asks a question or two about each story. Talk to God together using a “starter” prayer inspired by the Bible story and, finally, sing the “Slumber Song” lullaby. Sweet dreams! Ages 3 to 6.

Kerry A. Crawford writes from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Patricia A. Crawford writes from Winter Park, Florida.

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito says of discerning one’s college choice, ‘There has to be something that tugs at you and makes you want to investigate it further. And then the personal encounter comes in the form of a visit or a chat with a student or alumnus who communicates with the same enthusiasm or energy about the place. And then that love of a place can be a seed which germinates in your own heart through prayer.’

Choose a College With a Discerning Mind and Heart

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito, assistant professor of theology at the University of Dallas (UD) and subprior (and former vocations director) of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas, drew from his experience as both a student and now monastic religious to help those discerning understand the parallels between religious and college discernment.