How to Make This Year More Meaningful for Your Family: 7 Ideas

This article is originally published at the IntegratedCatholicLife.org.

Perhaps you’ve made a number of resolutions already to make this year a personal best.
Here’s a list of some doable ways that you can experience more growth and fulfillment as a family this year.

1. Develop a mission for your family.

To avoid aimlessly wandering through another year, set aside time to come up with a central focus, a guiding mission or purpose for your family, that will help you live this year (and the years to come) more intentionally. There is a step-by-step how-to exercise in this book to help you come up with a mission unique to your family, or, in more free-form style, you can discuss your family’s gifts, spiritual goals, and desired relationship outcomes for the year and write them down in a brief, clear way, so that you can all refer to it and make decisions according to it throughout the year. (This idea is immensely helpful in keeping your family “on track” spiritually as the weeks and months go by. Examine your mission, strategies, or defined priorities regularly, and adjust your lifestyle and habits accordingly.

2. Hold family meetings.

Meetings seem to be way more common in the business world than in family life, but they can be extremely beneficial in helping your family have a more meaningful year, individually and as a unit. Here are some simple tips for how to hold a family meeting.  Regular family meetings, whether weekly or monthly, have so many tangible benefits, allowing you to
strengthen your spiritual leadership, sharpen communication skills in your family, intentionally pray together, inculcate essential family values, and reduce stress.

3. Live the liturgical calendar.

Make an effort to celebrate feast days—at least solemnities, the highest ranking of feast days in the liturgical calendar—at home this year with your family. Here is a helpful feast day email reminder service, with occasional feast day email alerts, articles to learn a little about each feast, and simple ideas to celebrate the solemnity at home. Living the liturgical calendar at home will help your family feel more connected to the celebrations and life of the Church throughout the year.

4. Pick a patron saint and a spotlight virtue.

Select a saint to be a special intercessor for your family this year. This saint name generator can randomly select a saint for you, if you don’t already have one in mind. Include this saint regularly in your prayers and learn about the life of this special saint as a family this year. Additionally, consider picking a “spotlight virtue,” a virtue that you will focus on growing in as a family this year (examples include generosity, patience, charity, hope, etc.). Consider displaying your saint and your virtue in a prominent place so as to serve as a reminder to pray for the saint’s intercession and to practice the particular chosen virtue on a regular basis.

5. Rejuvenate your marriage.
Make a commitment to liven up your marriage this year in some way. Consider setting aside time for a planned regular date night or a dedicated time interval every evening after the kids go to bed to chat and reconnect—even if only for 15 minutes—before you complete the remaining frenzy of tasks that the evening holds. The sky is the limit with this hack; think of some way you want to commit to marital improvement this year (maybe even by reading a marriage-building book together) and make it happen.

6. Refocus on keeping Sundays holy/peaceful.

Sundays are the key to personal and family peace. Check out these simple ways to “keep holy the Sabbath” and commit to at least a few of them in your home this year. It will really change the way you live and relate to one another and to God, not only on Sunday, but throughout the rest of the week as well.

7. Prioritize prayer and sacraments.

Start every day with prayer this year, even if it’s short. Pray as a family before you begin the hectic activities of the day (for example, an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and a Glory Be or The Morning Offering). Set aside at least 15 minutes a day for private, silent, reflective prayer; bring along your Bible to this prayer time for words on which to reflect! Consider having a short family prayer time after dinner, when everyone is already gathered together (a decade of the Rosary is usually a doable length of time, even for little ones). Finally, make sure to get to Mass every Sunday. Plan your whole week around it. Confession once a month will also have a drastically positive impact on your spiritual growth this year.

For a more in-depth look at how you can make your Catholic family life more vibrant and meaningful, read this book, which unpacks these 7 ideas (and more), offering practical strategies for implementing spiritual leadership principles at home.

 

How to Hold a Family Meeting

Pat Lencioni, Catholic father and CEO of the management consulting firm The Table Group, firmly believes in the need to put as much intentionality into family life as one does in professional life. When he and I chatted about some of the overlap between family organizational principles and business management, he mentioned something companies do that families often don’t do, but should: hold family meetings. Family meetings are intended to promote better organization, establish a climate for more effective teamwork, and build stronger relationships among family members. Holding meetings with your family on a regular—preferably weekly—basis ultimately helps create more authentic Christian culture in the home.

If you are looking for a way to strengthen your spiritual leadership, sharpen communication skills in your family, intentionally pray together, inculcate essential family values, and reduce stress, then family meetings are your answer.

Ready to implement meetings in your family? Here are some pointers:

  1. Aim for a weekly gathering. More than weekly, and you’ll likely experience overload and burnout; less than weekly, and you will probably find that it doesn’t have as strong as an impact on your family’s spirituality and communication. Be sure to pick a time that works for everyone’s schedule. Sunday evenings works well for many families. Make the family meeting one of the top priorities of the week. Consistency is key, and eventually, holding family meetings will become an almost effortless activity on your family calendar.
  1. Decide, as a leadership team (you and your spouse), on a general outline for your meetings. Before your first meeting, come up with a plan of attack for your meeting’s structure, for example: opening prayer, topic introduction by the spiritual head, discussion, and closing prayer (in which everyone offers a special intention), a song, game, or dessert (or conclude with all of them!). It may take a few meetings to find out what structure works well with your family, given your children’s ages and
    unique personalities. Flexibility is critical! Your meetings may vary greatly in length due to attention spans and amount of involvement each time, and that is entirely okay.
  1. Pick a discussion topic. This could be just about anything. Be creative, and be open to discussing both practical topics (how the chore chart is working, who needs help with what projects, how everyone is getting along with each other), learning topics (a short book or article study, life skills lessons like budgeting, table manners, how to exercise good citizenship, or ethical decision making) and fun topics (sharing highlights of the week, things you are grateful for, or brainstorming family fun days). Whatever you do, involve everyone in the discussion. Family meetings are not a time for your children to hear you ramble. If you don’t engage them, you will lose their attention.
  1. Bring your faith into it. Find creative ways to center your meeting around faith. In addition to prayer, consider picking a “virtue of the week” that your family will focus on practicing better, and then you can discuss how you all did exercising the chosen virtue at the next meeting. Other ideas for infusing faith into the meeting include picking a saint’s life to learn about or reading and acting out a parable from the Gospels. The options to make your meetings God-centered are endless.

Family meetings are opportunities to strengthen your spiritual leadership and regularly benchmark how your family is doing relating to one another and to God. Use these meetings to evaluate what is working well in your family, what isn’t, and what little changes you can make or what small things you can do to become more loving, communicative, service-oriented, and happy family members in the week to come. These meetings should remind you that drawing closer to God’s will for your family is done one baby step—one week—at a time. Rejoice in the process, the progress, and in all of the little moments and memories in between.

How to Make Your Home a “Church in Miniature”

“Pope Francis has said, ‘Families are the domestic church, where Jesus grows.’ The idea of the domestic church or ecclesiola — ‘little church’ — the church of the home, dates back to the early Church, where Christians made their own homes sanctioned places to grow in holiness and discipleship. Still today, Catholic families make their homes ‘churches in miniature,’ imitating the actions of the larger Church in family life.” Read more from my recent article in the National Catholic Register, Fostering Holiness: Families Create Domestic Churches.

As Pope Paul VI noted in Evangelii Nuntiandi, “there should be found in every Christian family the various aspects of the entire Church.” What are some of those various aspects? In what ways does the domestic church mirror the actions and life of the entire Church? Here are some important tips for making your home a domestic church, imitating some of the actions of the greater – big “C” – Church:

  • Evangelization: The Church exists to evangelize, and so does the domestic church. Both within and outside the walls of the home, spiritual leaders recognize that their chief task as baptized Christians is to share the gospel and the love of Christ with their own family members and with everyone they encounter in the parish and community.
  • Sacraments: As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, “The seven sacraments touch all the stages and all the important moments of Christian life: they give birth and increase, healing and mission to the Christian’s life of faith. There is thus a certain resemblance between the stages of natural life and the stages of the spiritual life” (CCC 1210). Spiritual leaders keep themselves and their families close to the sacraments, making the practice of them a habit that gives “birth and increase, healing and mission” to their families over the course of their lives.
  • Adornment of the church home: If you were to walk into the homes of many of the spiritual leaders I interviewed for this book, you would know you were in a Catholic home right when the front door opened and you crossed the threshold into the foyer. Like the Church is adorned with beauty that lifts one’s heart and mind to God, so do these domestic churches remind you of God’s presence in the church home.
  • Sacramentals: “Sacramentals are sacred signs instituted by the Church. They prepare men to receive the fruit of the sacraments and sanctify different circumstances of life” (CCC 1677). Through blessings (which hold a pride of place among sacramentals) and other forms and articles of popular piety (like crucifixes, rosaries, icons, statues, and holy water), the domestic church is enriched in its family life and grafted more fully into the life of the Church.
  • Tithing: Whether or not we like to face the fact, Jesus spoke a lot about money in the Gospels. Just read the parables. Giving of one’s “first fruits” to God is critically important for spiritual leaders—through the tithing of their treasure, talent, and time.
    The domestic church is made a more active cell within the greater Church by generously giving a portion of what they have been blessed with by God.
  • Prayer: Strong spiritual leaders are dedicated to prayer as the Church is dedicated to prayer, especially through the celebration of the Mass, the pinnacle of the Church’s prayer life. Prayer animates everything that the Church is and does, and so spiritual heads and hearts try to grasp that same animating prayer life in their own lives and families.

If a friend spent time in your home and then spent time in your local parish church, would they see a resemblance of activity and lifestyle?

A Simple Activity for Celebrating the Epiphany at Home

A few friends of mine recently asked how we are celebrating the Epiphany at our house this year, so I thought I’d share the main Epiphany activity in the Warner home.

On January 6th, after a few days into the New Year of reflection, discernment, and prayer, each of us will come up with the three gifts we’ll offer to Jesus this year, commemorating the three gifts offered to Jesus by the magi. These are essentially our “spiritual resolutions” for the coming months, which serve as ways to draw closer to Jesus and give Him the gift of ourselves, particularly exhibited in these three unique and sometimes more challenging ways during the remainder of the year.
As with most goals, including spiritual ones, we will aim to make our gifts:

  • Heartfelt and thoughtful
  • Attainable
  • Specific and measurable (maybe you’ll tackle one gift per calendar quarter – 4 month – period, so you really have time to focus on completing that gift/goal)
  • Challenging
  • Christ-centered
  • Written (I recommend writing your spiritual goals/gifts down and placing them in a box beneath the tree labeled “Epiphany Gifts for Jesus” or something like that. You can take turns sharing each of your three gifts with the rest of the family – which is great for encouragement and accountability throughout the year – or choose to keep them private, between you and Jesus. Just make sure you end up with a written copy of your gifts to look at on a daily or weekly basis so you stick to them this year!)

Here are just some ideas of gifts you can offer Jesus on the Epiphany:

  • Commitment to a new devotion: the Divine Mercy Chaplet in the 3 p.m. hour every day, daily Mass one or more times a week, adoration once a week, a daily Rosary, praying the Angelus before or after mealtimes, going to Confession once a month, and so forth.
  • Choosing a “pet faith-based subject”/a specific area of the faith you are interested in to learn more about and teach others about. (Here are some resources to help you!)
  • Commitment to join a new ministry, initiate a volunteer project, or participate in spiritual and corporal works of mercy at your parish.
  • Choosing and learning about a special/patron saint for the year. (Use this saint name generator to choose a saint for the year!)
  • Commitment to reading a spiritual book (or several) this year.
  • Completing this bucket list of ways to be merciful.
  • Selecting a different person to pray for, offer sufferings for, and show charity toward each day…even and especially people that are harder to love!

 

If you pop your name and email address in the box below this article, you can get access to some great free materials that will also help with this activity, like the Virtue-Focused Year and my Spiritual Goal Planning worksheet.

Be creative! This exercise should draw you closer to Christ this year and make you more attentive to the selfless act of gift-giving at the end of the Christmas season. Maybe you’ve received many thoughtful gifts from others over the past 12 days…this is your chance to offer something wonderful to Jesus!