Creating family rituals

BY FATHER JOHN FRAUENFELDER 

“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” Challenging words of Robert Fulghum! How might I respond?

Ruth sits on the garden bench holding young James in her arms and thinks about her “big” Catholic family: three girls and two boys. There is little time she can call her own, what with all the laundry, meals and housework. She wonders whether she and her husband, Bernard, are not really attending to another aspect of their children’s lives, their faith formation. Is this falling through the cracks?

Just then, Father Mick and Lucy, the new parish associate, from St Pat’s, turn up with a casserole for the new parents. As the baby sleeps, Ruth shares her concerns about bringing up their children in the faith. Lucy tells her about a book she’s come across on celebrating rituals with children. It offers hundreds of hands-on ideas that teach children about faith and the Church through fun activities. She promises to drop a copy off to Ruth.

Our faith is steeped in ritual. We love the breaking of the bread, splash of water, the blazing Easter fire and the perfume of the oil of chrism. All of our sacraments have outward signs because the Church understands that these signs and rituals teach faith in a way that words cannot. The Holy Spirit takes ordinary things and gives them power and sacred meaning.

When we introduce children to sacred signs, something wonderful happens: they embrace the action and sense the grace imparted without need for any explanation. When a child watches the Easter fire at the Vigil, the wonder and power of that holy night remain for a lifetime. When we bury our beloved old dog with a tender prayer and good cry, the good bye becomes sacred and comforting.

Parents are the guideposts of faith. A fun way to guide our children into this mystery is by celebrating the seasons, saints and liturgical year at home. There are excellent resources available from your local parish to enhance a Catholic family’s faith formation with rituals and prayers that help immerse children into our faith tradition. Whether it’s ethnic devotions, a May altar or a simple prayer before Saturdays’ netball or football game, the real message is that our family walks daily with God.

Ruth and Bernard love the book! Each week they choose something that works with their busy lifestyles. One week they celebrated Mary’s birthday with a big blue cake. As Holy Week approached everyone received crosses to wear so they learned about Good Friday. Ruth and Bernard have a big surprise for the feast of St Francis of Assisi- a new puppy! Only one name will do, of course, Francis?

Rev Dr John Frauenfelder is a member of the faculty of the Broken Bay Institute.

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