Holy Spirit Interactive: Fr. Peter deSousa: The Family That Prays Together Stays Together
The Family That Prays Together Stays Togetherby Fr. Peter deSousa
Families had many traditions with regard to prayers and religious observances. Many homes had an altar with holy pictures and a votive light. But is God present when a home is devoid of love? The family rosary was recited. But how do we strive to live the mysteries of the rosary? A picture of the Sacred Heart was enthroned. But is Jesus, really the Lord of our home and of our lives? Have we discarded these practices because we lost the meaning behind them? Have we substituted some other practices that enshrine these values? There are conflicting values in today's society which sometimes coexist in our hearts without a second thought.
Tradition comes from the latin word tradere, which means to hand over. We hand over something that is alive and is of value. What values would we as a Christian family deliberately choose from among alternatives offered us by the media, to which we are all over-exposed? If I spend many hours watching television, on the Internet, reading magazines and newspapers, without critically examining what I see and hear, I am subtly brainwashed by worldly values. By contrast how much time goes in reflecting on God's Word?
Families can pray together without praying. They can recite a lot of pious formulae on their knees while their minds and hearts are far from God. If there is hatred, enmity, jealousy, pride and unforgiveness amongst them, is it prayer? If it is hypocrisy to pray in such a state, the answer is not to discard prayer, but to be reconciled as members of the family.
Are the family gathered together in His name, in His presence, for His glory, to praise, thank, adore and ask Him to unite them in love? The picture on the wall should help us to see Jesus present in each one of us.
This calls for self-emptying and dying daily to ourselves (reflect on Phil 2: 1-11). Prayer is not mechanical. The minds and hearts of family members are united by the Word and the Spirit, when we come together in faith and love.
"When you pray, do not use a lot of meaningless words, as the pagan do, who think their gods will hear them because their prayers are long" (Matthew 6:7). Many people pray in formulae. They cannot pray in their own words and speak to God as Abba.
Prayer is also listening to God and listening to one another. When we share what the Spirit is saying to each one after reflecting on the Gospel, God speaks to us through each other. But we should not sermonize. Rather share how we ourselves need to change or improve.
"If you forgive others the wrongs they have done to you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done" Mt 6:14-15 Unforgiveness and keeping grudges and hurts alive in our hearts are a real obstacle to family or couple prayer. No healing or reconciliation can take place as long as we stubbornly cling to being right and acting self righteous.
Recall the story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. Whom do I resemble in my attitudes? "Not everyone who calls me Lord. Lord, will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do what my Father in heaven wants them to do. When the judgment day comes, many will say to me, "Lord, Lord! In your name we spoke God's message; by your name, we drove out many demons and performed many miracles! Then I will say to them: 'I never knew you. Get away from me, you wicked people!' (Matthew 6:21-23)
What is my Father's will for me as a husband, wife, parent, child, brother, sister, employer or domestic worker, today in this home? The Holy Spirit will reveal this to me, if I ask Him to do so and listen to him speaking to me, through the Scriptures, Church teachings and through each other. He will give me the strength to obey him. We share these inspirations of the Holy Spirit in an interactive way, in our family prayer.
Prayer is closely connected with Mission entrusted to couples, parents and families. What is the mission statement of your domestic or home Church? God's kingdom has already entered into our homes and lives and world. It is not a future event after we die. All of us are called and empowered to build this kingdom of justice, mercy, love and unity, everyday. God gives each member of the family certain gifts and opportunities to use those gifts for the up-building of the Community.
Many of us today may have more formal education, money and facilities than our ancestors. We are exposed to many sources of information that can make us more available and of service to others. They can also make us more vulnerable to temptation and self-seeking. How do we use the gifts and opportunities that God invests in us, to usher in the Kingdom of God into our world right now?
Mother Teresa was a woman of prayer. So was Mahatma Gandhi. What do they have to teach us? Without prayer: personal, couple and family prayer, we are left to our own resources, which are meager. But when we plug in to God who is the powerhouse of prayer, we are enlightened, strengthened and equipped by the Holy Spirit to do works that would be impossible to people like us with limited intelligence, insight and creative ability.
We are living in uncertain times. We worry whether our pensions and insurance policies will suffice. Everything is changing so fast around us, we are confused and unable to keep up with the pace of change.
Ravi Shankar with his Art of Living is drawing thousands of people to seek inner peace or how to deal with stress. Yoga, Vipassana and various strategies to handle one's emotions are popular today among those with resources of time and money.
We Catholics believe that Trust in God's providence is all the more necessary. Prayer helps us to turn to God with child-like trust. It helps us to walk humbly with our God. It helps us to overcome temptations and strengthens us when we are put to the test. Our God is there to deliver us from evil.
We ask Mary to help us pray as a family in the way she did so that we may live united in faith and love. Amen
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For Better or for Worse copyright © Fr. Peter deSousa. All rights reserved.
I don’t know if you all have noticed but there have been no tweets from Pope Francis in November. I posted on his twitter account today (@pontifex) that I missed his frequent mini- catecheses.
I did not write a column yesterday nor did I post on Facebook because I spent the morning researching information about Pope Francis’ trip to Prato and Florence for my afternoon commentary in English for EWTN’s coverage of the papal Mass in a Florentine stadium. I had to translate the homily into English and that took some time as well. It was only a day trip but it was certainly a fascinating one and, as one bishop said after the papal address to the 2,500 participants in the Fifth National Ecclesial Congress – the reason for the Pope’s visit – “Pope Francis, with his address, just gave the Italian church an encyclical!”
In his speech to the Convention members the Holy Father truly defined what he felt the Catholic Church – and not just in Italy – should be. I posted that talk on Facebook as well as his speech in the morning in Prato, not far from Florence, where he spoke of the “cancer of corruption” and appealed against the exploitation of workers.
Today I want to focus on the great catechesis of the general audience where Pope Francis, in some very serious moments and a few amusing ones as well, spoke of the importance of family “togetherness,” especially around the dinner table, something, he said, that seems to be disappearing from many cultures.
Right now I can just picture many of you nodding your heads at that sentence, sonething you’ll do when you read the catechesis as well! You are thinking of the after school events that go so late your kids have to either forfeit a sport event or some club or forfeit dinner. And guess who wins? Most of the time it is the school, the extra-curricular event! Or the cell phone, the tablet or the TV – they are also big “winners” for attention. I’d actually call them interlopers!
A subtitle for the following story could be the headline used by one Italian publication: “Silence the cell phone, not the family members.”
THE FAMILY THAT EATS TOGETHER, STAYS TOGETHER
A dense fog enveloped Rome this morning but had pretty much lifted by the time Pope Francis arrived in St. Peter’s Square to start the general audience. The dome of St. Peter’s basilica gradually came into view as the faithful gathered to hear the Pope talk about family “togetherness,” especially at mealtime, a trait that seems to be disappearing from so many homes. His catechesis could be summarized by paraphrasing Fr. Peyton’s famous “The family that prays together stays together” as “the family that eats together, stays together.”
Francis said that the unity – or lack thereof – in a family can be seen at table. A sure measurement, a barometer, of healthy relations in a family, occurs when, around the family table, all or most of the children are gathered, the father has the pleasure of looking his childrenn in the face rather than looking at TV, and the children are looking at their parents with pleasure instead of looking at their tablets.
Family conviviality is essential not only to the family, said Francis, but to society as a whole. It is a precious virtue whose practice does not seem to be too widespread today.
“A family who hardly ever eats together,” said the Pope, “or where no one at the table speaks but only looks at television or their smart phone is barely a family, when the children at the table are attached to the computer to their cell phone and don’t even listen to each other, this is not a family these are pensioners, retired people. We must find a way to recover things at table. People should speak, people should listen, There must be no silences, when there is silence, it is not the silence of monks but the silence of ego. Each one has their own television or computer and no one is speaking. No, No, no silences. Please, let’s recover that family conviviality even if we have to adapt it to the times.”
The Holy Father also noted that rich countries so often spend a great deal for excessive nourishment and then they spend a lot again to remedy that excess. And this, he said, “takes away our attention from true hunger, hunger of the body and the soul. When there is no conviviality, there’s egoism, each one thinking of themselves: We forget to reflect on how too many brothers and sisters do not even get to the table. It’s a shame, it really is shameful, right!”
Francis said, “Christianity has a special vocation to conviviality, as we all know. The Lord Jesus taught at the table, and represented the Kingdom of God as a festive banquet. Jesus also chose to consign to the disciples His spiritual testament at the table, condensed in the memorial gesture of His Sacrifice.” He explained that from the model of the Eucharist of Christ’s sharing at the Last Supper comes the most beautiful icon of the family, a family united around a “domestic dinner table” that we feel where we feel the sharing of the lives of family members.
“The symbol of conviviality, its icon,” noted the Pope, “is the family gathered around the table, partaking of a meal together – and therefore not merely food, but also sentiments, stories, and events. It is a fundamental experience. When there is a celebration – a birthday, an anniversary – the family gathers around the table. In some cultures it is customary to do so also following bereavement, to stay close to those who suffer for the loss of a family member.”
The Holy Father explained that, “the togetherness we experience in our families is meant, in the family of the Church, to extend to all as a sign of God’s universal love. In this way the Eucharist becomes a school of inclusion, in which we learn to be attentive to the needs of everyone. Sadly, the family meal, this great symbol of togetherness, is disappearing in some societies. Food itself, the very sign of our sharing with other, is wantonly wasted in some places, while our brothers and sisters go hungry in others. The Eucharist reminds us that our bread is meant to be shared with all.”