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Faith Traditions

Rosary with instructions on how to pray
Faith Traditions

We might differ in faith-based habits, and that’s OK

The other morning, in the early haze of dawn, I asked my husband how I could support him spiritually. He was quiet for a while and then said, “What you are doing is enough.”

Not to be dissuaded from helping my husband get to heaven, I thought of the myriad choices available to him: Exodus 90, That Man is You!, The Bible in a Year, Dynamic Catholic, REBOOT!, Alpha and more. We are incredibly blessed to have so many options.

Every time I open my email, read the church bulletin or scroll through my social media, I feel a pressure to share these with my husband. As he is the spiritual head of our family, I want to help provide opportunities for him to grow in his faith and to feel supported.

I have learned, however, in our almost 25 years of being married, that how my husband encounters Jesus is different from how I do, and that my constantly presenting opportunities can hinder his journey instead of supporting it.

I am spending time fondly reminiscing about what it was that drew me into his heart in the beginning. It was, of course, his depth of faith and hunger for it. It’s also important for me to reflect that we both have changed as we have grown in our faith. So, what once was may not now be, and we have to make room for that growth.

I initially was surprised at my husband’s reply, as I’m not really doing anything. I thought about the times we pray together. If I am praying my rosary, I will always invite him to pray with me, and sometimes it’s a “yes,” and other times he is off doing jobs that need to be done. “Ora et labora” (“Pray and work”) is his motto.

Sometimes he will be listening to a podcast. Sometimes he’s catching up on his Scripture or some music. The point being that he has his own way.

I enjoy my rosary and Bible groups, my close friends, a daily devotion, adoration, praise and worship. I’m a bit of a smorgasbord when it comes to growing my faith. It makes sense my engineer husband does things differently.

As I reflect on this, I am also very aware that my example as mother and wife is a constant reminder to my family of the richness of the Catholic faith but can also make them feel as if they do not measure up if they do not share the same spiritual habits.

In a time where social media can influence our hearts and make us feel that we need to be doing more to be fully participating in our faith, I would like to suggest that we take a step back before signing up either ourselves, our children or our spouse for the next and best faith-growing opportunity.

I’m challenging myself to listen to both my children and my husband. I am hoping to ask them how they best draw close to Christ and support them if they need it. I am choosing to be more intentional and focused.

The beauty of the Catholic faith is found in its richness and diversity. So, too, is beauty found in each and every unique relationship shared with Jesus Christ. For me that means comparing less and rejoicing more.

This post first appeared in the Catholic Times

Photo licensed through Adobe Stock.

Living room with symbols of faith
Faith at Home, Faith Traditions, Family

Bring the Holy into Your Home

I’ve been reflecting a lot about the behind-the-scenes efforts of raising a Catholic family. Since it is winter, and I have been hunkered in my home, I am noticing all the little ways we have nurtured our Catholic faith through environment. It is a delicate balance with the goal being that Jesus fills the places and spaces of our home initiating a spontaneous discussion or providing an interior awareness. I believe Jesus can be encountered in our home not only through the conversations that we share, but also through the visuals purposefully placed throughout our home. Each of these form memories for the souls in my home; from the worn paint on a handheld little Franciscan cross that has been teethed, slept with, brought to the playground and glued back together, to an image of the Sacred Heart that has evidence of a late-night mother’s vigil.

Here are ten ways we do that in our home:

PATRON SAINTS
In our den we have an icon of each member of our family’s patron saint. I begin my mornings there often and ask for their intercession as I pray for each person. I also frequently have found myself standing in front of them to ask their intercession for a particular child in challenging moments.

SACRED HEART ENTHRONEMENT
We placed the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary in a place that is most travelled in our home. As you go up or down our staircase, you see Jesus and Mary.

MUSIC
Our Catholic faith is so rich, and music is a great part of that wealth. From my turning on the worship music in times of praise and in times of sorrow, my children see this as a way to turn to Jesus. Over the years we have also sung or chanted our Divine Mercy Chaplet as a family. I don’t think consistency is as important as exposure. However, there is something to small acts of consistency. Each night as we shut down our home, tucking small children into bed, and nudging older ones towards that goal, we sing the Lourdes’ Ave. It is simply a sweet melody reciting the words, “Ave Maria.”

I have never been to Lourdes, but I learned this song and have sung it as part of bedtime routine both at home and on vacation. There is something peaceful about closing the day with the protection of Mother Mary sung upon the hearts of my children. Some of my most cherished moments are when I pause and hear them singing along or when I hear them humming this tune as they go about their tasks. We parents plant seeds of faith.

SCRIPTURE ON WALLS
I’ve always wanted to be a person who memorized scripture and could call upon it in times of strife and praise. One strategy towards that goal is to hang it upon my walls. There is not one room in my home where Scripture is not displayed in some form. One sweet family moment occurred during Covid when we were all staying home. My youngest daughter Sarah used the Scripture on our walls to create pictures and practice her handwriting for our neighbor, Mrs. Margaret. She copied each plaque upon her drawing paper, colored it sweetly, rolled it up, and tied it with a ribbon to deliver in our neighbor’s mailbox. My favorite was Song of Solomon 3:4: “I have found the one whom my soul loves.” While only nine years old, this girl is being led towards a goal for her life. These are holy words written upon their souls pointing them to what is good and true.

FAMILY PRAYER TABLE/ALTAR
This is placed at the base of our staircase underneath our Sacred Heart images. Here we rotate different prayer cards, relics, photos of clergy, seminarians, and sisters close to our family’s heart. This reminds us to pray for them.

CRUCIFIX IN EACH ROOM
When our home was blessed, we placed a crucifix in each room. I will admit that there have been times I have needed to feel the tangible closeness of Christ and have taken that crucifix off the wall and held it close, uniting myself to Jesus on that cross.

STATUES AND HOLY IMAGES
Over the years, I have brought into our home statues representing biblical scenes from the Annunciation to Peter receiving the keys to the Church. We as Catholics believe that art can draw us into the holy. For me, these pieces help me tell stories to my children. Exposure to these stories draw us into an encounter with Jesus.

ROSARY HANGER
Our rosary hanger is a simple coat rack hung on a wall. It is not super fancy but has become ever so beautiful as a reminder of our devotion to Mother Mary. Easy access is key. When we go to pray our Rosary as a family, I don’t want to wait for everyone to find/gather their rosaries. We have been gifted over the years also with very special rosaries, either handmade or brought from holy places. This is a wonderful way to keep them special and to always have an extra rosary for those who are in our home when we are praying.

FAMILY PHOTOS OF SACRAMENTS
We all make sure that pictures are taken at each sacrament. By printing them up and placing them in a place of prominence we tell our children that these are important. I love the idea of celebrating my children’s Baptism day and taking their Baptism photo and placing it on our dining room table alongside a special treat as we celebrate.

WEDDING PHOTO
This is similar to the above, except with one caveat that I feel is very important. With sacramental marriage being under attack by secular society, the celebration of holy matrimony within the family is crucial. We do that by pointing out the joy that comes from being married. We celebrate it with pictures from our wedding Mass. We speak words of love out loud bearing witness to that fidelity and place a holy marriage as a goal worth striving for.

There is no quick and easy way to form Catholic families. Having one, two, or all ten of these in your home does not guarantee a faith-filled, strife-free home. It does, however, plant seeds upon their hearts of our children. It imparts knowledge and wisdom, and points them towards the good and true.

This post first appeared at CatholicMom.com

Images copyright 2022 MaryBeth Eberhard, all rights reserved.

St Maria Goretti
Faith Traditions, Saints

Walking with the Saints: St. Maria Goretti

A frequently quoted mantra in our home is that your story starts and ends with mercy. It is written on the white board that holds family announcements. It is brought out when mistakes are made, feelings are hurt and we desire to make amends with ourselves, those we’ve hurt, and especially with the Lord. Mercy is lived out in our home in very tangible ways. Without mercy, there can be no love, for we are all flawed as humans, and breathing mercy allows us continually begin again on our path to heaven.

How blessed we are to be part of a Church that preaches and lives a Gospel message of mercy; a Church which lifts up those within the Church as models and companions with whom we should strive to know more fully.  In a society where role models are frequently found from the front cover of a supermarket magazine, it is heartening to see the story of Maria Goretti shared and spoken of by so many of our youth. She is a relatively new saint in the church and a young one as well. Her virtues of purity, fortitude, and mercy are living examples of the power of forgiveness, and we hold tight to them in our everyday lives bearing witness to the grace that mercy can bring. 

St. Maria Goretti

Saint Maria Goretti was born into a poor Italian tenant farming family. She had no schooling and no ability to read or write. Her family shared a home with another family after the death of her father. She was at the age of twelve when one of the older sons came into the home and attacked her. Though she fought this attack, she also continually reminded the young man, Alessandro Serenelli, that this was a mortal sin and would send him to hell for his actions. She was stabbed repeatedly and died shortly after. Upon her deathbed, she forgave her attacker.

Serenelli was sentenced to thirty years in jail. While in jail, he received a vision of Maria in a dream, bringing him flowers, one for each wound he had inflicted upon her. From that point on, his life began a new course and his first act after being released from prison after 27 years was to go to Maria’s mother and beg forgiveness.

Devotion to this small but faithful martyr grew, and in less than half a century, on June 24, 1950, Maria Goretti was declared a saint. Her mother, sisters, and brother attended her canonization, along with her attacker Alessandro, who had joined the Capuchin friars.

Allowing ourselves to walk with Maria Goretti is akin to the hard task of learning to love Jesus like a child. In her, we see a strong and pure desire to love and serve the Lord. She is not a saint who was well catechized. She could not quote Scripture. Her witness of purity and mercy is simple and fervent. Reading her story, one can feel this, as from her deathbed she desires to be in heaven one day with her attacker. She pleads for him from heaven, teaching us that prayers go beyond death; that God can make all things new. Her mercy gives us courage to forgive the deepest wounds against us or our family and to trust that mercy can heal and redeem.

In Maria Goretti, we have a beautiful saint to whom especially our youth, but all of us as well, may seek intercession for pure hearts and minds. We also receive the gift of a saint whose life began and ended with mercy. Saint Maria Goretti, pray for us.

Saint Maria Goretti’s feast day is July 6. She is the patron saint of purity, victims of sexual assault, young girls, and mercy.

This article first appeared at CatholicMom.com

Image licensed via Adobe Stock.

Lent in the Home
Faith at Home, Faith Traditions, Family, Keeping Kids Catholic

Lenten Family Traditions in the Home

Living liturgically gives a rhythm to the daily life of a catholic family. It is no mistake that mother nature corresponds her seasons to that of the church. I love the peaceful anticipation of Advent and the white calming snow that accompanies it. Just as necessary is the rain and grey skies of Lent while looking forward to green grass and blooming flowers of an Eastertide. As a mom of many, tying traditions to these liturgical seasons helps my family enter into the season with a prayerful spirit and also helps draw us closer together as a domestic church.  Here is a list of some we have practiced over the years.

  1. Burying the Hallelujah: The word Hallelujah is not used once during the season of Lent. It is not even used on Sundays. Hallelujah comes from a Hebrew expression which means praise the Lord. It is a term of joy and celebration. Burying or hiding the Hallelujah is a type of fasting of celebration and builds the anticipation for that first Easter shout!
  2. Crown of Thorns: We take a circular grapevine wreath and fill it with toothpicks. Every time a member of the family does a good deed or a sacrifice, they get to remove one of the toothpicks with the goal of all the thorns being removed by Easter.
  3. Family Rosary or Divine Mercy Chaplet: An increased focus on family prayer.
  4.  Cleaning out the pantry: Our week of Mardi Gras is usually when we use up all the snacks and treats to prepare for a dryer period of food in the house during Lent.
  5. Stations of the Cross at our table: A dear friend of ours made us a long thin board that we place upon our dining room table. Upon it we place 15 small candles. We have a book we have used for 18 years called The Story of the Cross by Mary Joslin. The book used to be read by Dad but is now passed around the table as we now have a table of readers. We turn off the lights and read a station, light a candle and sing the Stabat Mater. As the kids have gotten older, we have added in the Latin. This tradition is my favorite.
  6. Amon’s Adventure by Arnold Ytreeide is another story that we have read throughout our Lent. We use it as an Advent calendar except the treat is the quality family time.
  7. The decorations in our home for Easter do not go up till Easter. It is always joyful to decorate on Easter Sunday with flowers and linens and decorations that remind us of the triumph of the cross and that Easter is celebrated longer than just a day.
  8. The Passion of the Christ directed by Mel Gibson: As our kids have gotten older, this has become a rite of passage. This movie we usually wait till confirmation, as the content is not new, but the imagery adds depth to the strong themes of this movie.

Family traditions plant seeds of faith within the hearts of our children. From Mardi gras to meatless Fridays there is much we can do within the walls of our homes to enter into the Lenten season.  I once had a vision of my son as a young adult hearing about stations of the cross and being mentally drawn back to our dining room table where he attended stations every Friday during Lent as a child. His hand lit held the flame to light the candle and he remembered. I hope and pray that none of my children fall away from the church as they grow into adulthood but the gift of knowing that each tradition we establish within the walls of our home forms a positive memory of Christ’s love and presence makes it worth every bit of effort.

Image licensed via Adobe Stock.