“So everything that goes on in your home has a good or bad effect on your children. Try to help them with your own good example. Try not to hide your piety from them.” -St. Josemaria Escriva
Here are 5 things you can do with your kids every day to help make faith a more integral part of their lives and to strengthen their connection to Jesus and to you:
Pray. Start the day with prayer, before your usual routine or school time begins. An Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, the Morning Offering, or a free-form prayer are all good options. In the evening, a decade of the Rosary, a chaplet, the Guardian Angel or St. Michael the Archangel prayers, or prayers of thanksgiving and intercession are powerful and simple prayers to say together after dinner or before bedtime.
Read the Bible. Get a hold of a great children’s Bible (or age appropriate Bible for your child) and read a story from it every day. The Bible has been such a routine part of my 2-year-old son’s day that he regularly requests Gospel stories and spends LOTS of time flipping through the pages himself in his own free time. When children are exposed to the Bible on a regular basis, they come to love it.
Tell them how much God loves them. Make sure you remind your child(ren) every day–if not multiple times a day–how much Jesus loves them. A good time to remember to do so is when you are telling them you love them. “I love you! Do you know who else loves you so, so much? Jesus!” The older they get, the more important this message becomes, as they brave the ups and downs of growing up: God loves you more than you’ll ever know.
Do something nice for someone else. Model for your kids this great practice of doing one simple, concrete act of charity or mercy for someone else each day, and encourage them (or physically help them depending on their age) to do that “something kind” for someone else, too. Ask them about their good deed at dinner or at night.
Spend quality time together/Give your child(ren) your undivided attention. Discipleship comes through relationship building. If you want your children to really learn the faith from you and to become faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, invest intentional time in them. Make sure that every day, your child(ren) get some of your undivided attention, where you spend time talking with them, reading to them, playing with them, attending their extracurricular activities (and watching rather looking at your phone), cuddling them, or doing whatever connects you with each other and strengthens your parent-child bond.
Bonus one: Take them to daily Mass! It’s pretty much the best way to combine all of the above into one awesome, faith-building activity that you can do together. If you have the ability to go to Mass together on a non-Sunday day of the week, do it. Over time, you won’t be able to live without it! Never underestimate the power of the sacraments to work wonders in the lives of you and your children.
Culture tells us that we are valuable because of what we do. It speaks to our senses, every moment of every day, telling us we need to do more. Our worth is based on what we accomplish, how we achieve, the number of hours we put in at the office, how much we make and how much we spend, and what we cross off our life’s to-do lists.
God tells us we are valuable because of who we are. He whispers in our hearts, every moment of every day, that he loves us because we are his. We are valuable because we are man, created in his image. Our worth is based on who we become—how conformed we can be to his will and the person he created us to be, the time we spend just being with him in prayer, how we love, what we cross off our life’s to-be list.
Some strategies for focusing more on being than doing as a way to make more margin for peace:
Sit – just sit – in God’s presence: Sometime this week, go to the adoration chapel, your parish’s sanctuary, or a quiet place in your home and just sit and “be” with God. You can read or do other “action-oriented” things in prayer later, but to start, just spend time in silence with God.
Pick a virtue to grow in this week: Virtues help us become the people God desires us to be, the kind of people that will make us truly content and at peace with ourselves. Pick a virtue (charity, generosity, patience, trust, faith, hope, prudence, fortitude…) that you will focus on this week to help you take one step closer to beinga saintly person.
Cross off an item on your to-do list: Look at your likely expansive list of things to do this week and determine if there is anything that can wait, making a little more margin for rest this week.
“I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” —John 16:33
Many of us know the Third Commandment given by God to Moses: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the sev- enth day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; . . . therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it” (Ex 20:8–11).
Unfortunately, knowing the commandment doesn’t mean it is well practiced. Full schedules, sports events and TV, open restaurants and shopping malls, and a general cultural habit of working too much and playing too little make it easy to let Sundays pass us by as just another day of the week. And it is not just another day of the week. If we want more peace in our lives, we need to reconnect with God, rest, and pursue leisure on the day made to recharge our peace: Sunday.
Tips for “taking back Sunday” as a day for peace in your life and home:
Prioritize Mass: Plan your whole day around the Mass, making it the “high point” of your Sunday. Read the readings before you go, dress up, linger to pray, and discuss and reflect on what you got out of Mass later that day.
Minimize distractions: Don’t allow errands, shopping, chores, overconsumption of media, and other distractions to hijack your Sunday, leaving you little time for the things that restore your peace and help you reconnect with God and family.
Plan rejuvenating, fun, and restful activities: Go for a day trip, read for pleasure, take a nap, watch a movie as a family, read the Bible together, spend time outdoors, celebrate a feast day with a craft or food related to the feast, say a family rosary, visit a distant or sick friend or relative, do a volunteer or ministry activity at your parish or in the community.
Make a plan this week to make the most of your upcoming Sunday, and the rest of your Sundays this month.
In his masterful work, Leisure: The Basis of Culture, Josef Pieper contends that leisure requires con- stant affirmation by our practice of it and leads us to an inner joyfulness that lasts. “This is why the ability to be ‘at leisure’ is one of the basic powers of the human soul . . . the power to be at leisure is the power to step beyond the working world and win contact with those superhuman, life-giving forces that can send us, renewed and alive again, into the busy world of work.”
The term “downsize and simplify” comes from my dad. When I was a little girl, he went on a retreat that changed his life. In front of the Eucharist, he heard the Lord speaking to his heart to “downsize and simplify,” leading my dad to leave his lucrative advertising year and begin working in ministry, first by founding the pro-life media apostolate VirtueMedia, and later by founding the evangelization media apostolate, Catholics Come Home.
Those of us looking for more peace in our lives and homes could always benefit from downsizing and simplifying in some way. Here are a few ideas on how to downsize and simplify and thus make more margin for peace in your life.
Downsize and simplify…
Your material goods: Maybe you could benefit from clearing out your closet and donating some of the clothes you don’t need to people who do need them, or maybe you can look around your home or office for other material possessions that you have in excess.
Your calendar: Perhaps your schedule needs some downsizing and simplifying to make more time for your family, for prayer, or for hobbies you would like to pursue.
Your meals: Have you considered downsizing or simplifying your meals from time to time, either in an effort to become healthier or to fast for someone who needs your spiritual support right now?
What are some other ways you can downsize and simplify in your life right now? Pick one strategy for downsizing and simplifying this week and follow through with it.
“For peace is a good so great, that even in this earthly and mortal life there is no word we hear with such pleasure, nothing we desire with such zest, or find to be more thoroughly gratifying.”—St. Augustine, City of God