It hit me this past Sunday as I recited a perfunctory grace before scarfing down lunch in order to get back to chores while Jack napped. I was saying, not praying, and I was on course to training my children to do the same. Yikes!
I had just picked up Lighthouse Catholic Media’s Building Better Families and was listening to it as I bounced between baby care and my to-do list. (Mike had graciously taken our older two children to a local wading pool for a few hours or I could have never listened to the message on the CD.) As I listened, ever once in a while, Matthew Kelly’s recorded talk prompted me to pause with a “hmm”. Then, as I caught myself simply reciting Grace just after hearing Kelly talk about the idea that there is a difference between saying and praying, I stopped short. Eek! I had just done that very thing! I had rushed through grace, uttering words but not feeling much of anything. My mind was on what task I would do next, instead of on the gift of conversing with the Lord in a rare moment of quiet in my home. Would my children’s “prayers” be similar? If I continued with the idea that our Lunch Time Prayer Peg would be grace and a Hail Mary, moving toward a goal of praying the Angelus (or Memorare) would I be teaching my kids to pray or to say?
My answer came at the very next lunch I shared with my older children. Nina offered to say grace, mixing parts of the Hail Mary with her own thoughts about thanking God for her day. I almost stepped in to “help” her finish the Hail Mary when I realized she was praying from her heart, not from rote memorization. Her Hail Mary may have been incomplete, but her prayer was whole. It was heartfelt. It was hers. My little girl shared aloud her own admiration for Our Lady and prayer to Our Father.
Then, yesterday, since by lunch time, we had not yet made for our read-aloud picture book of the week – Have You Filled A Bucket Today – I offered to share it with the kids at lunch. When we got to the only part of the book I don’t particularly love (the part that, in effect, says only you can fill others’ buckets and only others can fill your bucket), I stopped to ask the kids who really fills all our buckets (God!) and how do we fill each other’s buckets (by sharing God’s love). From this, our pre-lunch prayer took its own shape. I thanked God aloud for my children knowing God is the real bucket filler by answering the way they did. Then, we all thanked God for how we had “filled each others buckets” so far in the day and said sorry for when we had been “bucket dippers”. Grace grew from the reality of the moment; our conversation about a book became our lunch time conversation with God.
And, so moving forward, I recognize that our Lunch Time Prayer Peg may one day still include the beautiful tradition of the Angelus and Memore, as I mentioned in the initial post of this series. Indeed, praying – not saying – the Angelus would be a wonderful habit to instill in our family. Yet, for the time being, simpler, more spontaneous, heartfelt prayers from each of us, at the kids’ level, seem to be what the Spirit is calling us to.
On the deck, on a picnic blanket, in the car, at a friend’s house – wherever we find ourselves at lunch – we can model our Blessed Mother by humbly saying “Yes!” to God. She did in so many ways. We can emulate her abiding spirit by taking the time to pray from our heart, in whatever form helps us converse most openly and completely at our stage in life and faith sharing as a family. For now, that is with bucket filling!
How has God filled your bucket today? And how are you passing that love on? I would love to hear your thoughts about praying with your own children, avoiding just reciting prayers and recognizing when your own plan might not be the best one. Please feel free to leave a comment and, if you know of a snazzy picture booklet or cards for helping families pray the Angelus, do share. One day, as the Spirit moves us, we may yet benefit from such a thing!