"Teach your children how to pray!"

Pope Francis at Varginha in southwest Minas Gerais state, Brazil during WYD 2013 By Tânia Rêgo/ABr (Agência Brasil) [CC BY 3.0 br], via Wikimedia Commons

Pope Francis at Varginha in southwest Minas Gerais state, Brazil during WYD 2013
By Tânia Rêgo/ABr (Agência Brasil) [CC BY 3.0 br], via Wikimedia Commons

Two weeks ago, Pope Francis used his General Audience to implore parents to teach their children how to pray:

“There are children who have not learned how to make the sign of the cross!” the Holy Father lamented. “You, mother, father! Teach your children how to pray, how to make the sign of the cross!”

Many parents I know make family prayer a joyful priority in their homes. They pray with their children at church, at bedtime, at meals, and at random moments throughout the day. But most Catholic parents in this country are shy about praying with their children.

Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) and Holy Cross Family Ministries are gradually releasing a four-part study on young Catholic families. More than 1,000 adults aged 25-45 responded to the survey, providing insights into faith and family that the Family Feud show would never have dreamed of.

Family Feud by Dennis Crowley (2008) via Flickr.

Family Feud by Dennis Crowley (2008) via Flickr.

Each section of the report is being released monthly:

  • June 2015: The Catholic Family: 21st Century Challenges in the United States (available here)
    • July 2015: The U.S. Catholic Family: Demographics (available here)
    • Aug 2015: Practice of Faith in the Catholic Family 
    • Sept 2015: Catholic Families and Media Usage

    This impressive research coincides with the upcoming World Meeting of Families as well as the Synod of Bishops on the Family in October. Clearly, family is on the brain these days. Specifically, the Church is seeking more effective and loving ways to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to families.

    The Apostleship of Prayer follows all of these goings-on closely. We already provide ministry to families through family retreats, parish and school presentations, radio and TV appearances, and prayer materials for all ages. Inspired by St. Ignatius's love for the magis ("more-ness"), we want to go deeper.

    We were surprised to read some of CARA's findings on family prayer, but encouraged by the call to redouble our efforts:

    • The Holy Cross Family Ministries website cites their CARA survey, saying that, while 71 percent of parents ackowledge that prayer is critical to faith life, "only about 36 percent pray at least once a day."
    • The second special report on Demographics reveals that not many families pray together. Instead, parents who do pray "consider prayer to be their personal conversation with God."
    • In reporting on the surveys, the National Catholic Register commented, "One of the starting places for the evangelization of the family will be family prayer. According to CARA, most parents agreed prayer was essential, but more than three out of four parents preferred to pray alone." Curiously, families "were not likely to pray together before meals or together as a family."
    Pray with Me, from the Apostleship of Prayer

    Pray with Me, from the Apostleship of Prayer

    We hope one of our newest books (in bookstores next week!) will help families build confident prayer lives. Pray with Me: Seven Simple Ways to Pray with Your Children is our contribution to the conversation about how to pray together.

    When I began working at the Apostleship of Prayer, I heard from parent after parent about their vague desire to pray more, and to pray as a family--but they simply didn't know where to start. Praying together can feel awkward and can be difficult to manage with family members of different ages and personalities.

    Other families pray together regularly, but sometimes grow weary of the routine.

    This book takes a fresh look at the power of prayer and encourages families simply to try praying. Chapters include stories and tips on spontaneous prayer, memorized prayer, scripture, song, silence, and reflection. Naturally, there are many other ways to pray (like dancing, if you're not a complete klutz like I am), but this book is a lovely place to get started or to get a little creative.

    I get to sign books at the Ave Maria Press booth at the World Meeting of Families in September. If you're going to Philly, stop by and say hello! I love to meet all the folks who follow the Praying with Graceblog, belong to the Apostleship of Prayer, or are just plain interesting. . . .

    Thank you for praying with us!