I clearly recall my mother reading bedtime stories to us. We’d gather on the couch as she handed us our snack of sliced apples.
However, these stories were not about princesses, superheroes, or the like. We would instead curl up next to Mom as she read saint stories.
She would often read from the Catholic Children’s Treasure Box by the Maryknoll Sisters. We heard adventures about St. Therese, the Little Flower, missionary priests and nuns, or brave angels. My sisters and I were inspired to become like saints. The booklets also contained uplifting stories for my two older brothers.
These things started off simple enough: a story, a statue, a few words of wisdom. Before long, however, these yearnings were planted in our hearts. Little by little, we had a burning desire to become saints ourselves. Most of us took a detour in our teens and twenties, but, we all returned. (Imagine the fear in our poor parents until we were safe at “home.”)
It was not uncommon for the parish priests or sisters to visit our home. My parents often invited families under the Christian Family Movement banner. Our home became fertile ground for our Catholic faith.
Sadly, I look at many modern families who do not have the upbringing many of us did. Electronic games, iPods, and cell phones have taken over their time. Instead of reading about saints, children are tuned into whatever secular program is popular.
I feel a deep sorrow about that. Many children do not even know how much God loves them.
Therefore, I send out a challenge and an invitation to all of us to make our homes “domestic churches” as Blessed Pope John Paul II said. He and Blessed Pope John XXIII will be canonized April 27.
What an awesome concept: our homes should be like little churches where faith is in the very air; not in a false piety sense, but in a natural, down-to-earth way.
He said, “The family is the domestic church”. The meaning of this traditional Christian idea is that the home is the Church in miniature. The Church is the sacrament of God’s love…In the same way the family is a community of life and love. It educates and leads its members to their full human maturity and it serves the good of all along the road of life. The family is the “first and vital cell of society”. (www.vatican.va)
If we do not teach our children our beautiful Catholic faith when they are young, they will be led along the wrong path. We need to forge a strong faith in our homes. We also need each others’ prayers to sustain us.
This Lent consider making your home a “domestic church.” Here are a few helpful hints:
Start praying. The rosary is best; however, any small prayers will do for starters. Make a commitment and realize, yes, the children may balk, get loud, or even fight during prayer time, but persevere! They learn to sit still after a while.
Read inspirational books. There are many good Catholic websites to offer age-appropriate faith-filled books, coloring books, crafts, or rosary-making. Let them see that faith does not have to be boring.
Every moment can be a teaching moment. That angry look? A lesson in forgiveness and humility. Disturbed by sickness, homework, chores? A lesson in redemptive suffering. Cash from grandparents makes a good Sunday donation.
Go to Mass frequently. Sunday Mass is mandatory. Daily Mass is a necessary option, I believe. It gives us the grace to get through each day. If you cannot make daily Mass, at least find a chapel where your family can say a few prayers. This will keep your family strong even as children go their own way.
Persevere. Don’t give up as your children argue about the faith. Keep praying, fasting, and gently speaking the truth to them. They’ll catch on eventually.
Finally, call upon your priests, sisters, or other families to shore you up. It is hard to live the faith alone. Your children or young adults will at least see a Catholic presence in your home.
The Lord has called us all to be saints, not necessarily canonized ones. Let us boldly live His invitation to us. As Blessed Pope John Paul II said, “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.”
Copyright 2014, Mary Mitchell