Written by Fr. Joe Weigman
In December, newspaper headlines were declaring this Winter to be “The Winter That Wasn’t”, easy enough to say when temperatures in this part of the country hovered around 65 degrees. Now that temperatures are more seasonal, however, it’s clear that we’ll be spending more time inside, rather than outside. What follows are some suggestions for “inside” ways of spending time together as a family.
Games and Activities. Watching TV shows or movies or sporting events together are fine things; but because not much energy or creativity is demanded, they often become our “default” ways of spending time together. How about spending time in other ways? How about “game nights” of board games, cards or charades? Or, what about working as a group to solve crossword puzzles or play Wii, Xbox, or pool/table tennis? Of course, nothing beats the most informal way of spending time together as a family: conversation.
Some are intimidated by this because there is no structure to it, or because it seems “boring.” Maybe each person in the family could respond to the same questions: “How do you think this new year is going to be different from last year for you? What is happening in school or at work? What is your biggest challenge?” Brainstorm ideas to help meet the challenge, or tell stories of how past challenges were met (by you or by someone else). Some other suggestions: cook a meal together, fix things together, read and discuss a book together or share family stories together.
Pray. It’s been said that, “the family that prays together, stays together.” And truly, in families that pray together, individual members learn how to be in relationship not only with one another, but with God. As an act of shared intimacy, prayer creates family cohesiveness and strengthens the bonds between husband and wife, brother and sister, parent and child. Praying together as a family is an important thing that parents can do to pass their convictions on to the next generation. Kids need to see genuine faith acted out in their parents’ lives; this might lead to some meaningful discussions about spiritual things.
Family prayer can be formal or informal. For Catholics, one of the best formal ways is also one of the most traditional ways: the Rosary. It may seem that Rosary prayer is from a by-gone era; yet, families today are re-discovering this beautiful way of praying together. The repetition of Our Father’s, Hail Mary’s, and Glory Be’s has a calming effect on pray-ers; in addition, it’s hard to hold on to grudges and resentments when we’re on our knees together before the Lord. Need a “refresher course” on how to pray the Rosary? There are lots of websites dedicated to this very thing. Simply Google: how to pray the Rosary
Of course, prayers don’t have to be long, formal, or fancy. When you’re together as a family, offer up short, spontaneous, conversational prayers. This can be done in several ways; let creativity be your guide! One way to do this is to follow the acronym, IACTS. IACTS stands for Prayers of Intercession (for others), Prayers of Adoration, Prayers of Confession, Prayers of Thanksgiving, and Prayers of Supplication (for self, for family members). Perhaps each prayer session could be devoted to one of these types of prayer or perhaps each family member could choose how he or she feels called to pray in any particular session.
If your family is new to family prayer, avoid the temptation to manipulate or push. Remember, prayer is about relationship, and relationship is something you can’t force. Also, it may be helpful to “process” your family’s prayer experiences: What was helpful? What was challenging? What might be changed in the future?