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For most of us, our introduction to faith came from family members. Our fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, grandparents, aunts, and uncles helped shape our physical, emotional, intellectual, and social development. They also played a major role in our spiritual formation. And now that we are adults, we in turn are influencing the spiritual lives of our younger siblings, our nieces and nephews, and-especially-our children.
The Catholic Church recognizes and affirms this primary place of the family in religious formation. Documents of the Second Vatican Council called the family "the domestic church." In the family, new Christians are born, and young people have their first experiences of God.
If faith begins in the family, so does prayer. Prayer expresses the faith we already have. It helps our faith to grow and mature. As we relate with our family members day by day, we can be learning how to relate with God through prayer.
Many Ways to Pray
Prayer can be described in various ways:
Prayer is the lifting of the mind, heart, and will to God. Prayer is conversation with God, both speaking and listening. Prayer is a gift that enables us to have a relationship with the One who is our Creator, Redeemer, and God. Prayer helps to form our faith. Anancient maxim of the Church teaches us: As we pray, so we believe. And our daily experience shows us that as we believe, so we act. Prayer turns us into the people we pray to become.
Vocal prayer-prayer that is spoken aloud-is only one of many forms of prayer. Some prayers are spoken silently, in the heart. Some prayers use no words at all. When we pray aloud, we may express our concerns in our own words. We may praise God in song or poetry. Or we may use prayer structures like the ones in this book. They cover the spectrum of prayer: blessing, petition, intercession, thanksgiving, and praise. A taste of each in your daily prayer will provide well-rounded nourishment for your spirit.
Using Prayer Models
Prayer, of course, is much more than the structure we learned as children. But structures-prayer models-are an excellent way to learn to pray. When Jesus' disciples came to him and said, "Lord, teach us to pray," he gave them the words of the Lord's Prayer. Throughout Christian history, this prayer has been the classic model for Christian prayer.
Prayer models give us time-honored words that have helped to shape the Christian community. As we repeat the words, we join Christians from all ages and all places. We come to God with Middle Eastern fishermen of two thousand years ago, the fourth-century African bishop St. Augustine, the fifteenth-century warrior St. Joan, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and our own great-grandparents, as well as the people with whom we live, work, study, play, and go to church.
Prayer models express the community's identity and the way we worship God together. Favorite prayer models also express a family's identity and help to create an atmosphere of faith.
Beginning a Tradition
A Prayer Book for Catholic Families is a book of prayer models that are the heritage of every Catholic-prayers for holy days and ordinary days; prayers of blessing and contrition, sorrow and rejoicing, petition and thanksgiving. It is a book to dip into when you want a prayer for a special occasion, a book to refer to when your memory needs jogging about a familiar prayer, a book to use daily if you want to gather your family for morning or evening prayers. It is not an encyclopedic collection of every prayer known to the Church, but a practical book you can keep close at hand.
This book was designed for hard use. It is small, so little hands and hands that have lost their strength can hold it. The Contents page at the front of the book, the section tabs, and the list of prayers at the end can help you quickly find the right prayer for every need. There is even space to add your own favorite Scripture passage or prayer.
This is not just a pretty book to look at and put on a shelf. It is a tool to help your family-parents and children, grandparents and guests-pray together.
A Time and a Place
Creating a family prayer life is an important responsibility. It means making time and space for prayer-admittedly, not easy to do in today's busy society with so many competing activities. Yet this busyness may make it even more important for families to find time to pray together.
Mealtime graces and bedtime blessings are remembered long after children grow up, leave home, and have children of their own. Many families also make time for more extended prayers, often just before or just after dinner while the family is still at the table.
Choose a time and place that fit for your family to pray together, and keep this book nearby-on the dinner table or a nightstand or within reach of your most comfortable sofa. If you have a family Bible, you may wish to keep that on hand, too. This book uses the New Revised Standard Version, but any Catholic Bible translation you prefer is fine.
Then, when prayer time comes, you'll be ready.
Praying with Children
Even the youngest children can be part of family prayer. They can learn to hold hands and to be quietly attentive during grace and bedtime prayers. The first prayer children should learn is just one word-they can say "amen" after prayers led by others.
As children grow, they can take a greater role in family prayer life. Build their interest by giving them parts to say and tasks to perform, such as bringing the prayer book or lighting a candle.
As they begin school, they should begin learning the common prayers of the Catholic tradition. Teach them the Sign of the Cross, the Lord's Prayer, and the Hail Mary, as well as the responses said at Mass. Don't wait for them to learn these prayers at church or as a school assignment. Introduce them in the context of your own family prayer times.
Older children can choose prayers, lead prayers, or make up prayers of their own. They may want to sing, meditate, listen to a recording, or discuss their intentions. Variety in prayer will help keep children interested and, at the same time, broaden their faith experience.
While it is natural for junior high and high school-aged children to be reluctant to join in family prayer, continue to invite them. They should feel welcome not only by your words but also by the beauty and power of the experience. And at times, adults should let children have their space. Even when children choose not to participate, they will draw strength from their experience of the family as a praying community.
Praying families make lasting impressions on all their members. Though children grow up and leave home, they never forget the faith environment of their earliest years. We hope that this collection of prayers will help you and your family to discover the rich heritage of Catholic prayer and, as you pray together, to recognize God's presence within your ordinary family life. We pray that for you and your family, prayer will become a lifelong resource and blessing.
Chapter Two Favorite Prayers
Here are prayers for those just learning to pray-the very young, those new to the faith-as well as for those who have prayed all through their lives. These familiar prayers are the tradition of all Catholic Christians, as ancient as the faith itself and as new as the faith we bring to each new day.
The word "amen" means "truly" or "certainly" or, simply, "yes." Ancient Hebrews and Greek-speaking Christians ended their prayers with this hearty affirmation, just as we do today. When we say "amen" at the end of a prayer, we add our agreement to everything in the prayer. "Amen" can be the first prayer of a small child, the last prayer of a dying person, and the only prayer of a person whose body, mind, or soul is weak. It is a prayer of the heart.
The Sign of the Cross
The most basic prayer in the Catholic Christian tradition is the sign of the cross. We often begin our prayers and our liturgy by tracing the shape of the cross on our bodies while speaking the names of the Trinity. Whenever we make the sign of the cross, we recall our baptism, because it was at our baptism that we were first marked with the sign of the cross and claimed for Christ. The words of this prayer confess our faith in God as Trinity, and thus the prayer is a kind of creed. It is also used frequently as a blessing ritual, and it is common to speak of making the sign of the cross as "blessing oneself."
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
In these few lines, we express our faith in God's Trinity (that the one-and-only God exists in three Persons) and eternity (that God has no beginning or end). The Doxology, a Greek word meaning "words of praise," is often used in prayer services and devotions, especially in the Rosary and in Morning and Evening Prayer.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
The Lord's Prayer
The Lord's Prayer, or the Our Father, is the prayer Jesus gave his disciples when they asked him to teach them to pray (see Luke 11:1-4 and Matthew 6:9-15). For twenty centuries, Christians have used this prayer as a model.
More than seven hundred years ago, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote in his Summa Theologica: "The Lord's Prayer is the most perfect of prayers.... In it we ask, not only for all the things we can rightly desire, but also in the sequence that they should be desired. This prayer not only teaches us to ask for things, but also in what order we should desire them." (II-II 83, 9) Look at the sequence of requests and praises, line by line. What does the Lord's Prayer teach us about how to pray?
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
The following doxology (praise) is frequently added to the Lord's Prayer. It is not in the scriptural texts, but Christians have prayed it from the earliest days of the Church. We recite it when we pray the Lord's Prayer during Mass.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever. Amen.
The Apostles' Creed
No one knows when or where this creed was first used, though it was probably several centuries after the apostles' time. Whatever its historical origins, it expresses the most important truths about the nature of God that Catholics hold. When we say the Apostles' Creed, we affirm our belief in God as Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Apostles' Creed is used in personal prayer, devotions, and some liturgical settings. It is most widely said during the Rosary and at children's Masses. The Nicene Creed is the one you typically pray at Mass; it can be found on Page 46.
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he arose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
Prayer to the Holy Spirit
When we pray, we usually address God the Father or God the Son (Jesus). But because each person of the Trinity is equally God, it is also possible to address our prayer to the Holy Spirit, as does this ancient prayer.
LEADER: Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.
ALL: And kindle in them the fire of your love.
LEADER: Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
ALL: And you will renew the face of the earth.
LEADER: Let us pray.
Lord, by the light of the Holy Spirit you have taught the hearts of your faithful. In the same Spirit help us to relish what is right and always rejoice in your consolation. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
This prayer comes from the early fourteenth century. It was used during private devotions to the Eucharist. The author is unknown, but St. Ignatius of Loyola knew the prayer and recommended it in his Spiritual Exercises. The title of the prayer is Latin for "Soul of Christ."
Soul of Christ, sanctify me. Body of Christ, heal me. Blood of Christ, drench me. Water from the side of Christ, wash me. Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
Good Jesus, hear me.
In your wounds shelter me. From turning away, keep me. From the evil one protect me. At the hour of my death call me. Into your presence lead me, to praise you with all your saints for ever and ever. Amen.
The Three Theological Virtues
In Catholic teaching, three virtues are identified as gifts from God: faith, hope, and love. These are called the theological virtues, and they are listed together in Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians (13:13). All other human virtues are rooted in these three. The following prayers focus on each of the theological virtues.
Act of Faith
O my God, I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I believe that your divine Son became man and died for our sins, and that he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the holy Catholic Church teaches, because you have revealed them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived. Amen.
Act of Hope
O my God, relying on your infinite mercy and promises, I hope to obtain pardon of my sins, the help of your grace, and life everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer. Amen.
Act of Love
O my God, I love you above all things with my whole heart and soul, because you are all good and worthy of all my love. I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you. I forgive all who have injured me and I ask pardon of those whom I have injured. Amen.
Although the word "vocation" is most frequently associated with religious vocations to the priesthood or to religious life, every state of life is really a vocation, or a calling. Married life, single life, and religious life are all Christian vocations. It is part of Catholic tradition to pray for God's guidance to help us find the way of life to which God is calling us.
Lord, let me know clearly the work which you are calling me to do in life. And grant me every grace I need to answer your call with courage and love and lasting dedication to your will. Amen.
To the Guardian Angel
According to popular Catholic belief, each person has a special angel who watches over him or her. Though this widespread belief has never been a part of official church teachings, guardian angels are honored on October 2. Here is a traditional prayer:
Angel sent by God to guide me, be my light and walk beside me; be my guardian and protect me; in the paths of life direct me. Amen.
Chapter Three Blessings and Graces
Catholics love blessings. Our most basic blessing is the sign of the cross, with which we bless ourselves and our loved ones. But there are many and more elaborate means by which we invite God's favor. Prayers of blessing appear throughout scripture. There is an entire book of liturgical blessings offered by the Church for various people and occasions. In addition, prayers of blessing are used to consecrate objects and spaces for sacred use.
We may ask priests to bless us, but the act of blessing is not reserved for the priesthood. In the baptismal rite, parents and godparents are invited to mark the child to be baptized with the sign of the cross. This can be the first of many opportunities for parents to invite God's favor on their children. Some parents bless their children regularly-at bedtime, at mealtimes, or whenever children leave the house.
The blessing of and giving thanks for food is an important aspect not just of Catholicism, but of all religious traditions. Mention of the practice can be found in both the Old and New Testaments. When we bless our food, we stop and remember that all good things come from God. We ask God's blessing on the food and all those gathered to share it.
<%TOC%>Contents one A Tradition of Family Prayer....................1
Excerpted from A Prayer Book for Catholic Families Copyright © 2008 by Loyola Press. Excerpted by permission.
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