Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Blessings of praying as a family...

Back in June of this summer I began to ask Mary to pray for me that I would find an inspiring way to help us pray as a family regularly. Several years ago - something like 14, we had begun the practice of praying the Rosary nightly. It was not long before we felt the benefits in our family life. More peace, more order as well as a sense of well being simply because we were praying as a family, almost every night of the week.

Then about 18 months after we had begun this wonderful routine, we had our sixth baby, moved, and my husband's hours changed at work adding more hours to a day we had just lengthened with a 90 minute commute. In short, evening prayer fell apart as I coped with being a mother who felt as though she were single so rare was the time my husband now had to spend with us. And even then, his hours were spent trying to finish off the basement so that we could enjoy the views of the lake, as a family, while basking in front of the ancient wood stove that smoked down there diligently trying to heat the three stories above it. The 5 ft high windows, on either side, framed the lake and maple trees through their wide panes. The following summers, his spare hours were spent building and repairing outbuildings for the animals on our growing 5 acre hobby farm.

Meanwhile our prayer life remained in neutral and our wheels, as a family, began to spin. Then my husband discovered Opus Dei and I truly could feel the blessings of his time spent in prayer and learning with this very holy society. After many months of his weekly hours of recollection I found that I would notice a lessening of graces that seemed to flow from God through Hugo to me on the occasions he could not attend Opus Dei. I wonder sometimes what kind of graces our family could have obtained had I been less stubborn about the necessity of Hugo being present so we could pray the rosary as a family.

Months turned into years and we were transferred to the US. We sold our animals, and put our little house on the lake up for sale. Nortel paid for our belongings to be packed up and we were moved lock, stock and barrel to NC in January of 1997. A new beginning like that would have been an ideal time for us to start new habits such as praying daily again as a family. Instead, we discovered that once again hours at work were such that my husband could not even continue with Opus Dei, nor daily Mass. Or at least we convinced ourselves of this. We began a long journey into the dessert, but just were not aware yet that that was where we were. We did make an attempt to sponsor a weekly Rosary on Sundays at our house with some of the members of our new Parish. Yet, the will required to make prayer a part of our daily routine still eluded me. The years marched on solidly, children grew and more lovely babies joined our family, some in quick succession.

Our oldest children, now teens, joined a local youth group and while some of them began to pray the rosary daily, as a family, we remained in the dessert unaware of how badly we were thirsting for the graces that come from daily prayer.

God decided to jolt us awake from our slumber in June of 2002. My husband lost his job and I was pregnant with our eleventh child. Thus began our journey with Job, but without his saintly patience. We were more of the attitude of his neighbours and wife. What had we done to offend God? What terrible sin had we committed?

Terrible health problems ensued, attacking especially my husband. Despite great pain, poor health and lack of medical care, my husband pushed on working un-godly hours, building a business in hopes of keeping a roof over our heads and food on our plates, never mind diapers on the bottoms of our babes! Did I yet clue in to the need to start praying as a family? No - I succumbed to bouts of depression and fear. Marilla, of the Anne of Green Gables movie, puts it so well when Anne asks her "Have you never been in the depths of despair?" and she replies” No - to despair is to turn one’s back on God." Well - if that is so, than I gave my back to God as completely as one can, and indeed fell into the depths of despair. I have never felt more alone in my life, and could not wish that misery on my worst enemy.

Then to add to our sadness our eldest daughter went though an incredible crisis of faith and ultimately left the Church. Then this spring, when it was time to baptize our newest baby one of the siblings we asked to be a God parent told us that they did not think they could be a God parent as they too were having doubts about our faith. I was so crushed. Which brings me back to this June. I sat there on my bed in tears asking God, and Mary, what had we done wrong? We had taught both these children their faith so well, we had attended church faithfully… Both children had been so in love with their faith that they had both considered the possibility of a religious vocation. I was filled with fear - what of the other children? Would they too suffer in this way and stray from their faith - possibly never to return?

The answer came to me in one simple word.


I had failed my children by not praying for them daily. And I was continuing to fail them - daily. By not praying. I needed to pray for their faith, for their future vocations and for those who would be called to married life - I needed to pray for their future spouses. If only I had done this the past 12 years, perhaps some of this pain and suffering incurred by my beloved children could have been avoided.

Then and there, I determined not to fail them any more. So I began to pray for inspiration. I knew I was weak and would not pray daily alone. I needed to find a way to encourage all of us to pray, preferably the Rosary. I like praying the Rosary with the family as it is precise, easy to follow and something even the youngest child, who can lisp, can follow. Also - it is Mary's vocation to bring us to Christ and this is done so beautifully through the mediations of the Rosary.

Still – how to do this in a way that would inspire us and keep us on task. I suddenly thought of how we had first begun the habit of the daily family rosary when Gabriela was a baby, 14 years ago. I had drawn a huge rosary on some poster board and bought some flower stickers. For every night that we prayed, we applied on sticker on a bead. The reward for covering all the beads with flowers, or in other words, praying the Rosary as a family for 59 nights, was a trip to Madonna House which was nestled up in mountains of Ontario, in a little community called Combermere.

Each child also had his or her own rosary to fill during the same time that we filled the family rosary poster. If they felt they had prayed well, they were permitted a sticker for their rosary. Once their own rosary was complete they would be allowed to purchase a new rosary on our family trip to Madonna house. Eight to ten weeks later, we set off for Combermere – each of the four oldest chattering happily about what kind of Rosary they wanted, and of course, often punctuating this with “Are we almost there YET?”

Well – back in Canada we were only about three hours from Madonna House, but here in NC we were looking at a two day drive, one way. A lovely thought – but incredibly unrealistic. I could think of no other place similar to Madonna House that was close enough to spend only a day visiting. Then I thought of… the Zoo. Okay – it was not exactly a religious pilgrimage, but it would inspire the children and I knew we needed every ounce of inspiration we could get. I certainly needed it.

Not wanting to wait until I had time, and a car available, to buy poster board; I immediately tore a huge piece of white paper off a large roll that we have. I drew a large Rosary on it and on my first trip for groceries bought flower stickers. I was ready in a day or two, and after discussing it with my husband announced to the children our plans. I have posted a picture of our rosary poster so that you can see how we have been progressing.

Ideally we would be finished now, but we have missed the odd night and have actually forgotten several times to add our flowers to the beads on nights we have prayed. In less than two weeks we will have earned our trip to the Zoo. Mary has already provided the money for the gas – it arrived in a paper envelope the same week we started praying daily.

Best yet – I can actually feel the graces flowing once more. Life is still difficult and money often short. But the graces to bear these difficulties are there in greater abundance than ever before. And I feel so much better knowing Mary is praying with me daily for all of my children, their vocations and for their future spouses. Read more!

Our Rosary Poster

Read more!