“Gradually you will begin to notice God’s gentle guidance to choose those things that bring enduring joy.”
God’s Presence in the Home
It is said that when Mother Teresa asked what she says to God when she prays, she answered, “I don’t say anything, I listen.” The interviewer then asked what God says to her. She replied, “He listens.” Mother Teresa’s answer reflects the knowledge that God was with her at all times. Creating a home that reminds a family of God’s presence can be challenging for those of us for which the language of faith doesn’t come easily, at least outside of Sunday liturgy.
There are simple things that we can do, however, that are not a far stretch from our regular routine. Below are some ways to try. You don’t need to do them all. Plan for success by choosing one that seems easiest. As you continue a practice, it will become a natural part of a holy home.
- Set aside a place for prayer such as a comfortable chair or area on the floor. Place items that invite prayer nearby such as a finger labyrinth, a cross, a children’s Bible, and a short book of prayers. Choose a time each day to sit with your child in that place. The first few days begin praying yourself. Soon your child will begin to pray by him or herself. Invite your child to add other things to the prayer space that help them be close to God.
- Create a basket with items such as coloring books, mandalas, picture books, blank paper and art supplies with symbols of faith or that invite contemplation. Keep the basket in the kitchen for your child to use after school or while you are preparing dinner. This activity is also a way for children to unwind from a busy day. Examples of coloring books are What We Do In Church by Anne E. Kitch (2004: Morehouse Publishing) and Four Key Coloring Books published by Vibrant Faith Ministries. Coloring Mandalas by Susanne F. Fincher (Shambala Publishing) has mandalas to color.
- Light a candle at dinner. Eating together is a daily ritual that binds a family together. Lighting a candle makes the meal special. You might ask one child to light the candle while another says grace.
- Have caring conversations at dinner. A conversation starter based on a spiritual discipline called the Examen is a set of questions reflecting on the day. An example is “For what are you most grateful today?” and “For what are you least grateful today?” Gradually you will begin to notice God’s gentle guidance to choose those things that bring enduring joy. Sleeping with Bread: Holding What Gives You Life by Dennis Linn et al. (1995: Paulist Press) explains this spiritual discipline in simple language and includes more question pairs.
- Pray with your children at bedtime. If you find praying a challenge, read Our Father: The Prayer Jesus Taught by Mary Joslin (2000: Loyola Press). Children delight in reading a book over and over again, noticing new details each time.
- Write caring notes in your child’s packed lunch or backpack. You are one visible sign of God’s love and presence.
- Bless your child when she or he leaves for school in the morning. A short blessing based on a poem in Numbers is “The Lord bless you and keep you.” Roy Pollina’s To Bless a Child (2009: Morehouse Education Resources) is a wonderful resource for learning how to bless your child during events of the day.
Jenifer Gamber, author of “My Faith, My Life” a book for teens and “Your Faith, Your Life” for adults is a popular speaker and retreat leader on spirituality and ministry with teens. She lives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.