by Ericka Fontenot Soileau
As mothers, we live in the domestic church, we are the heart of our family, we are the light for our children, and our daily tasks are our apostolate for the Church. However, it is not always easy finding time and energy to pray, with little ones to look after and household chores to get done. Conversely, to raise a Catholic family, we must be warriors of prayer and in constant union with God. Mother Teresa once said, “To keep a lamp burning we have to keep putting oil in it.” How can this be done?
Here are a few tips from a Catholic stay-at-home mother on how to stay in contact with God, maintain a consistent prayer life, and add some oil to the lamp on a daily basis.
1. Mass Conversion: Daily Mass is often very accessible for mothers with young children at home. Bringing your children with you to Mass where you receive Christ in the Eucharist is a wonderful way to begin your day. “Holy Communion is the shortest and safest way to heaven”, Pope Saint Pius X once said. Above all, a solid Catholic life relies on the Mass.
2. Chapel Time: Stopping in at the nearby parish when you are out and about during the day can be a fruitful practice. Many parishes offer Eucharistic Adoration, and dropping by to spend a few moments with Jesus can do wonders in renewing our soul and reconnecting us to God. There are no rules that you can’t bring your kids along! They will benefit from this time with Christ as well. There is no age limit on grace.
3. Naptime Is a Blessing: Often, as soon as everyone is down for a nap or for the night, we go straight to “catch-up” work. Rather than jumping headfirst into a to-do list, use this quiet time for the Lord. Before going to the chores, spend five to ten minutes in quiet prayer, saying the Rosary (even if it’s only one decade), reading a few pages from a spiritual book, or going through the day’s readings for Mass, or other scriptures. Use this very precious time first and foremost for Christ and then the dishes, rather than putting household before Him.
4. Nursing Holiness: If you have little ones who are still breastfeeding, one of the most fruitful times for prayer is during quiet nursing moments. Frequently, I use this time to say my Rosary or the Divine Mercy chaplet, or, in the evening, to examine my conscience. Additionally, this is also an opportunity for reading a Catholic book or having a quiet, unscripted conversation with our Father.
5. A Family Affair: Use opportunities throughout the day to make prayer a family event. You could say spontaneous prayers throughout the day for activities or intentions (this is also how we teach our children to formulate prayers to God) or practice many of the wonderful Catholic prayers of the Church. Mealtime prayers, the Angelus at noon, and the family Rosary are great ways to start. As a family, we pray aloud the Liturgy of the Hours for morning and evening prayer, have family Rosary on Saturday evenings, and read from Scripture on Wednesday evenings. Further, praying with your spouse is an important aspect of daily prayer to grow spiritually as a couple.
6. Music for the Soul: One frequently forgotten aid to prayer is music. Saint Augustine said, “singing is praying twice”. It is not uncommon to find music playing at some point in the day at our home. From Gregorian chant to children’s Bible songs, from Catholic hymns to Christian radio, listening to music is a way to keep God in your mind and heart, to raise your eyes up to heaven for a glance as you go about your day-to-day tasks.
7. Get Out: Finding time to attend a spiritual group is something I have come to cherish and have grown from tremendously. Attending a Bible study, women’s prayer session, or mothers’ sharing group is one way to stay focused on God, to find much-needed encouragement, to gain light regarding our apostolate, and to mature in our understanding of the faith. I have been blessed to be involved with groups that allow you to bring your young children or that offer a nursery for the older ones.
8. Feastly Celebrations: Take your children on a journey through the Catholic calendar each year. Celebrating the feasts and seasons of our beautiful Church is a splendid way to stay focused on the Lord, while also teaching your children about their Catholic heritage. We have such a rich faith, and in celebrating with the Church all major days and holidays, our life of prayer is enriched, family traditions are born, and treasured memories are created. My favorite books on the topic are Saintly Celebrations & Holy Holidays by Bernadette McCarver Snyder, Around the Year with the Trapp Family by Maria Augusta Trapp, and The Catholic Home by Meredith Gould.
[Editor’s note: the Women for Faith and Family web site (www.wf-f.org) offers many resources for observing the holy days, feasts and seasons of the Church year, including a complete interactive Liturgical Calendar.]
9. Chain of Prayer: I recommend that all mothers join or start a prayer chain with a local parish or group of friends. This is one way that we can have specific intentions to offer prayers and sacrifices for throughout the day. I try to make at least one sacrifice a day for a specific intention from the prayer chain that I am involved with or for intentions I hear about from friends, family, the news, etc. This helps to give me a sense of purpose and the ability to pray outside my box of “the usual” intentions.
10. Sanctify the Day: All that happens and all that is required of us throughout the day is by God’s ordaining, and is meant to confer divine life upon us through our proper use of it. As you meet people along your way, inwardly pray a blessing for them. Send forth a prayer at the sound of a siren. Have lunch with a friend in need. Talk to God through spontaneous prayer wherever you are: about what your children are doing, the challenges you face, the ordinary events of your days, hurts, disappointments, joys, and thanksgivings. I have found the best way to remain prayerful is to purposefully offer each moment to Christ. Specifically turn to God and present to Him each task before you begin; giving Him every diaper changed, sheet washed, clothing article folded, and tear wiped is a mother’s means to sanctify her day and “pray unceasingly”.
Maintaining a prayer life begins with the realization that prayer is the most important aspect of the day, and then making the decision that you will do it. Make realistic resolutions and stick to them. Perhaps you won’t accomplish all ten of the list above, but even if you add one to your day, it will bless you and your family.
Ericka Fontenot Soileau, a Catholic since birth, a doctor of physical therapy and a native of Louisiana, lives with her family in Texas. She is the mother of a year-old daughter and is currently expecting baby number two. Visit her blog at www.catholicoil.blogspot.com.
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