“Voltaire, eighteenth-century French philosopher and well-known attacker of Catholicism, once wrote, ‘If you want to kill Christianity, you must abolish Sunday.’
“Where the Sabbath rest and worship is forgotten, a weak to nonexistent practice of Christianity can almost inevitably be found. Conversely, those who take their spiritual life seriously know that Sunday is the key to personal and family peace, the lifeblood of Christian culture in the home.”
I’m still VERY much a work in progress when it comes to cultivating more peace in my life. I chatted about it with Matt Swaim on the SonRise Morning Show the other day. Can you relate to some of the discussion we had about downsizing and simplifying, and keeping Sundays a day for rest? You can listen here: SR Morning Show Oct 29-Peace.band
(WARNING: It sounds like I had three cups of coffee before I got on air that day. I don’t normally speak that quickly…see if you can keep up!)
As the Synod on the Family began in October, I realized how much I could use some easy tips – marriage and family life “hacks” – to help give me that boost I sometimes need in certain categories of my spiritual leadership.
So, I’m kicking off these new free, email-based 4-week Spiritual Leadership Challenges to grow -with you – through short hacks and quick ideas sent straight to your inbox, in living in a more focused way on our impactful roles as spiritual leaders within our marriages and families. For this premier Leadership Challenge, over the next four weeks, you will receive a few brief email reminders with simple but effective tips and strategies for strengthening your marriage. My husband and I will be joining you on this challenge also! Please pray for us, as we will be praying for you, and invite your friends to join in, too!
Our spouses don’t just need a breadwinner or a homemaker. They need us, as an irreplaceable husband or wife, committed to helping them become the person God created them to be.
Our kids don’t just need moms and dads, they need spiritual leaders. And they need their moms and dads to be those spiritual leaders for them.
In my recent book Head & Heart: Becoming Spiritual Leaders for Your Family, I discuss seven characteristics for becoming a stronger spiritual “head” or spiritual “heart” of your family, intending that this book will be an ideal resource in helping you (and my husband and I!) become a more intentional Catholic family man or woman at home. Whether or not you’ve read the book, though, this Marriage Leadership Challenge is a great and easy way to start more intentionally focusing (or improve your focus) on your marriage and spiritual life at home!
As Catholics, we know that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith, and Mass is really the pinnacle experience of Catholic culture that we engage in every week as a family.
So here are some strategies for making the most of Mass as a family:
Review the readings before Mass. This helps the readings “sink in” better when you hear them for the second time at Mass, and reading them ahead of time also gives you the opportunity to learn their context within the greater narrative of salvation history. Reviewing the readings before Mass is also immensely helpful if you have young children who may innocently divert family members’ attention away from the readings or Gospel during the liturgy.
Sit near the front. For some, it seems counterintuitive to sit near the front of the Church, especially if you have a pew full of little ones, but being near the altar is generally immensely helpful in paying closer attention to what’s happening.
If you have little ones, explain the Mass to them as it progresses. For older children and adults, learn about the Mass at home. Little children like to have the Mass narrated to them, so they can feel like they are “in the know” with what’s happening (“Now we are going to listen to stories from the Bible.” “Now you are going to go receive a blessing from the priest, while I receive Jesus in the Eucharist!”). For older children and adults, learning about the parts of the Mass and their Scriptural roots makes the celebration of the Mass even more meaningful and engaging. (Click the links for great learning resources about the Mass!)
Dress for the occasion! Wearing your “Sunday best”
signals to your family and to others how important the Mass is to you, and sets the stage for better concentration, appreciation, and behavior.
Participate! Sing the hymns, pray the vocal prayers – be engaged! Show your family through your participation how you want to be at Mass, and they will more likely follow your example.
State your expectations and the rewards of going to Mass. Talk to your family about how one should behave at Mass (for example: quiet voices, do not disturb others, stay in the pew…), and why you go to Mass as a family (Here are some great reasons.)
Minimize distractions. This probably looks different for every family, but know what distracts you and your kids and then avoid those things! Some common distractors to all families include chewing gum, food, certain toys, or even bulletins (which are not intended to be read during Mass). My toddler has never needed toys during church (because he’s never had them offered to him), and is usually content with either nothing, or one religious book or a children’s rosary.
Go to daily Mass when you can. When people ask me why my toddler behaves so well (most of the time!) during Mass on Sunday, I respond, “We go to daily Mass; he gets a lot of practice!” Making the Mass a more regular part of your family’s routine is always, always a good thing.
Consider putting something in the collection basket, rather than tithing solely online, if you have kids in the pew. Have them participate by adding in a dollar (or a few) themselves. Watching you tithe is an important behavior to model for them.
Take turns discussing one thing you each learned from Mass that day. You can do this on the ride home or at a meal time that day, but for all who are old enough, share your one “take-away” from either the readings, homily or other prayer time during Mass and discuss how you might use that tidbit of insight or inspiration as you go through the following week.
“It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass.” -St. Padre Pio
I came across this article the other day and I thought it served as a great foundation for a quick list of Rosary “hacks” for Catholic families:
The first three ideas are taken from Fr. Cole’s advice (article linked above), followed by a few I’ve added, which, through personal trial and error and through hearing what other families do, have proven to be additional useful tips for giving the Rosary a more regular place in family life.
Pause before each mystery to reflect. Mention the mystery before you start the decade, and pause a moment to reflect on that mystery, reminding you to think of that moment in Christ’s life (maybe even through the perspective of Mary!) as you pray the following Our Father and Hail Mary’s.
Offer up each decade for a specific intention. Have someone in the family (or everyone) mention an intention they’d like that decade to be offered for.
Split it up. The Dominican priest, Fr. Cole, recommends that people consider praying a decade of the Rosary at different times throughout the day, allowing more time to focus on each one. He recommends this as a far better alternative to “rushing through an entire Rosary” just for the sake of praying it all at once.
Pick a set time. In our family, we usually pray a decade of the Rosary after dinner, since we are all gathered together then anyway. Warning: If it’s too close to bedtime, you’ll have sleepy pray-ers. Having a routine location is helpful, too.
Rotate voices. Maybe dad prays the beginning of each prayer and the family completes, for example. Give children the chance to lead, too.
Ask for the intercession of the saints. Have each family member ask for one favorite saint’s intercession before or after the Rosary or decade.
Set the atmosphere. Make a holy atmosphere around the place you’ll pray. Perhaps you can have a picture or icon of Jesus and the Blessed Mother nearby, and/or light candles.
“Many in the world have lost the sense of contemplation, but if it is recovered, prayer could greatly strengthen individuals and families….If it [the rosary] is done correctly, wow it can really strengthen a marriage. Because in a marriage [and family], you have to face trials and difficulties. You need patience and kindness – graces that the rosary offers us are there.” -Fr. Basil Cole, O.P.
Like what you’re reading? Get more posts like this in your inbox, including a FREE Catholic resource guide by entering below, and stay subscribed for more free resources, practical tips, giveaways, articles, and more!
For more tips on prioritizing prayer in family life, check out this book.
So glad you decided to read Head & Heart, either on your own, with your spouse, or with a group! It’s a great way for other couples desiring to be strong spiritual leaders of their family to motivate one another and exchange ideas. Here are some resources to help you as you journey through the book with others:
Head & Heart Book Recommendation Announcements: designed to be used as bulletin announcements, for diocesan/parish/ministry email blasts, and for social media, these brief descriptions of the book will help encourage others to grab a copy for themselves or join a discussion group.
The Catholic Resource Guide for Spiritual Leaders: a great free resource for readers of Head & Heart and others who are looking for recommendations for tons of top-notch Catholic websites, books, audio and video resources to help you better learn and share the Catholic faith.
Head & Heart Memes: designed for use in social media to help spread the word to your Head & Heart study group – or even just to your friends or parish community – about the importance of spiritual leadership in family life. Please save and share! Also, follow me on Facebook for more images and articles related to spiritual leadership and family life to share with your networks.