Praying With Children…

I was raised in a convent from the age of 12-18½.

Living with an order of nuns taught me that they turned to God for everything,

The promise of a fine day for the Bring and Buy,

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healing for a sprained ankle after hockey practice,

peace for the agonized soul.

I was envious of their unshakeable faith when I had so many doubts and questions.

I wanted to push the limits of their rules…

…and their God.

I was angry and unhappy.

In return they showed me how to sing the Lord’s song upon an alien soil, (psalm 137).

I learned at a very young age how to dig deeply into myself to find ways to get through each day and face graciously the deep longing for my family.

Many, many years later I understood that the stone walls and stained glass of the convent that protected me were not my prison but my haven;

Thornton

The Convent of Jesus & Mary

the place where I had subconsciously made friends with God, who became my rock, my fortress and my strength for the rest of my life.

A treasure hidden deeply within my soul.

Pearls

When I grew up I made a home of my own with my husband and I became the mother of four.

I had a fulltime job as a manager at Ticketmaster and worked terribly long hours.  Sometimes Hubs was around to pick up the slack.

Mostly he was on the road touring for months at a stretch.

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I relied heavily on babysitters and when I was home I was so busy I had to add, ‘take a shower’, to my to do list.

And of course, teaching my children to pray was furthest from my mind.

For some reason I assumed that the interior prayer life I’d absorbed during my more than six years at the convent had been magically passed along to them through my umbilical cord….

Yes, I took them to church twice a week, imagining that was enough, but I soon came to realize that householders, as opposed to nuns, spend about 90% of their lives in places that aren’t church trying desperately to sort out the nitty gritty of their days on their own…

…with no time set aside for talking to God.

Then a series of events happened that brought me back to the conscious pursuit of finding God in the ordinary.

I left Ticketmaster,

My husband lost his job,

Our 5 year old daughter failed a test to get into the gifted and talented school her brothers were attending and…

I met a homeschooling family who sowed a seed that ultimately removed me permanently from the job-market.

Talk about an almost impossible scenario.

In my experience I find that God seems to choose impossible moments to further His Kingdom.

My children were aged tw0, four, six and eight when we dabbled our toes in the homeschooling movement and after a  couple of years I was asked by one of the Mums I’d befriended what I did for bible study?

I looked the woman straight in the eye and thought,

‘Are you serious?  With four children underfoot and a curriculum bursting at the seams with reading, spelling, writing, Latin, math, history, science, geography and Sesame Street I pat myself on the back if I remember all their names and get a hot meal on the table once in a while!’

I wisely bit my tongue and looked away, I didn’t want to admit to this faith-filled woman that I had no time for God.

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I went home that day disheartened.  I had spent my formative years in a convent where I’d taken prayer and bible study and God for granted.

Here I was modeling my home after the one I’d grown up in where faith was very private,

The bible gathered dust on a shelf and

We never bowed our heads in prayer together.

For some reason the verse,

Seek ye first the kingdom of God… (Matthew 6:33-34),

(beautifully sung this morning by the Cherub choir at mass)

kept going round and round in my head like the irritating theme tune for Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.

I gave in to God, closed my eyes and took a great leap of faith.

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I began to read bible stories to the children (and Hubs when he was at home) at the breakfast table.

Notice I was multi-tasking here, the children were eating, I was adding Religious Education to my academic list.

Months later I wrote a morning prayer.

Then we began memorizing psalms and praying for people.

Because we were together most of the time the children and I found moments for reflection during lunch… while they ate I asked about the highs and lows of their day…I see a pattern here, when did I eat I wonder looking back?

I fully expected some subjects in my curriculum to fall by the wayside…but that didn’t happen.

Somehow I had time left over at the end of the day for me…

God caught me smiling and shaking my head.  He knew what I had needed to do.

I found the most important thing about praying with my children was the notion that if we offer up the whole day to God then eventually our whole day will become a prayer.

Then before we know it we will grow to feel His presence in everything we do, our ups and downs, our ordinary moments, the nitty gritty of everyday living.

Our home slowly became the place where we all made friends with God who became our rock, our fortress and our strength.

Today I have full confidence that my children will eventually have their own ‘come to Jesus’ moment as I did and discover the treasure tucked away within their souls when they were young.

The treasure Hubs and I hid there by example,

firmly rooted in prayer and the familiar.

One tool I used to bury that treasure in my children’s hearts is a prayer developed by St. Ignatius 500 years ago for his followers.

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Spiritual director Mark E. Thibodeaux SJ writes this,

“In the Examen, we review our recent past to find God and God’s blessings in life. We also look back to find moments in the day when things didn’t go so well—when we were hurt by something that happened to us, or when we sinned or made a mistake. We give praise and thanksgiving for the blessed moments. We ask forgiveness and healing for the difficult and painful moments. Having reflected on this past day, we then turn to the day yet to come and ask God to show us the potential challenges and opportunities of tomorrow. We try to anticipate which moments might go one way or the other for us: toward God’s plan or away from it. We ask for insight into what graces we might need to live this next day well; patience, wisdom, fortitude, self-knowledge, peace, optimism. We ask God for that grace, and we trust that he wants us to succeed in our day even more than we do.”

St. Ignatius considered this prayer to be the most important moment of the day because it affects every other moment.

Add the app to your phone and try it for yourself.

I promise you, there is time and by nurturing your own prayer life, your children will benefit too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1 Comments

ElRay

2018-10-23 23:10:38 Reply

Great Wisdom and memories and happy 34th anniversary my darling.

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