Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Praying With Children, Revisited

Two days ago, we prayed through four of the Joyful Mysteries with our children and they did very, very well! Four is a new high for us. (The most we've every prayed is three.) Praying the Rosary with them seems to be getting easier every time. If you're currently trying to pray the Rosary with small children and are feeling discouraged, press on! It will get better and it is so worthwhile! For consolation: children are sponges and absorb way more than they appear to absorb.

We're probably progressing more slowly because we're using a "scriptural" rosary book rather than just praying the Hail Mary's end-to-end in the more typical way. I think this is a good approach. The little scriptural "thought" that precedes every Hail Mary teaches something about the Gospel Mystery, which is actually first exposure for my little ones, (unless you count the Mass, which is soaring right over their heads). The thoughts, and the pictures in the book provoke all kinds of questions. It seems like a perfect way to introduce small children to the Gospel.

We've also added the Canticle of Zechariah to our morning prayer routine. We are chanting it along with the Invitatory Psalm (95). Carol is not quite ready to sing with us, but when she is, we'll be ready to help her write all these Words on her heart. Chant seems like the perfect vehicle to train children in the faith who are by necessity an oral people, not a written people and the tones seem to be an excellent support for memorization. How many of us learned their ABC's to the melody of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and still depend upon it!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Forgiveness Muscle

If there is such a thing, I don't know where it is, nor how to move it.

I know only how to express forgiveness in concrete, physical actions. My hope in such expressions is that somehow, the "forgiveness muscle" will move---maybe just a tiny bit---and I'll be able to fulfill the commandment of the Good Master and open myself to the gifts He so earnestly desires me to have through this emulation of- and participation in- His inner life.

I was able to do that today and I feel a little more freedom, a little more readiness to face my own judgment, a little more innocence before His Sacrament. Yet, there is still so much more work to do.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Praying With Children

I've been wanting a prayer routine in my home for quite some time and only recently have I gotten any traction on this. I'm not currently aware of any good resources for praying with small children.

During Lent, we started praying an (abbreviated) Rosary with our Carol (3) and Anna (1.5) before bed. How much? A single mystery, with the usual material before and after it. We used a "Scriptural Rosary" book. Carol jumps in half-way through the "Our Father" and the "Hail Mary". At the end of each Hail Mary, Carol puts an cross into a basket. Anna squirms in my lap and occasionally says "Alleluia!"

Lent was somewhat tragic for us. We lost a(nother) baby to miscarriage, lost our prayer momentum, and didn't recover it until Easter. Now we pray two mysteries instead of one, and use another "Scriptural Rosary" book that is a little more kid-friendly. It has better pictures and each of the Hail-Mary thoughts is a simple paraphrase of scripture rather than a direct quotation. Instead of saying the Salve Regina, we sing another Marian antiphon that we actually know: Regina Caeli. When we're short on time, we telescope this whole thing down to an Our Father with simple intercessions.

We've also started praying more consistently before I leave for work in the morning. Historically, this has been as simple as an Our Father with intercessions, but we've started chanting "Lord, open my lips" followed by Psalm 95. (Tones from "Christian Prayer".) Perhaps you can see where this is going: a family prayer routine based on the Liturgy of the Hours.

How much actual prayer takes place with children this small? I have no idea. At least they are hearing the words repeated over and over again. At least they will see Mommy and Daddy taking time out of their day to pray with them in their earliest memories. And I'm finding that I'm actually able to pray despite the toddler squirming in my lap, and sometimes the slower pace helps me to pray better that I might pray in "ideal" circumstances.