When I was wandering through the exhibitors' tables at the Living the Catholic Faith Conference at the Denver Convention Center yesterday, I picked up a book called "Journey to the Heart: Centering Prayer for Children," which just goes to show you how out of touch with reality I really am. I can't get my children to sit quietly through grace before dinner. Why would I think I could get them to sit silently for six minutes (as the book recommends) thinking of nothing at all except maybe their "secret-sacred word"? I think I was just inspired by the moment. There I was with 1,500 Catholics, praying together, sharing stories, learning from one another. It was one of those days that just reminded me how great it is to be Catholic. I know that sounds weird, but it's true. I always find it incredibly powerful when I'm transplanted to another city and yet feel completely at home because the Mass, the songs, the prayers are the same because we are united, universal, catholic.
While I was at the conference, I attended an amazing workshop on helping families live their faith in a secular culture by Jonathan Reyes, founding president of the Augustine Institute in Denver and soon-to-be director of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Denver. His talk was everything a good talk should be: funny, inspirational, informational, personal, spiritual. He offered suggestions while using his own experience of raising six children to remind us Catholic parents that there are things we should be doing to foster virtue in our children, our families, and to keep them on the right path in a world that is constantly offering a wide selection of wrong paths.
He suggested families create a "rule," in imitation of the way the Benedictines follow the Rule of St. Benedict, for example. Sit down with the kids and come up with a rule of life, and then, for the hardest part, stick to that rule, he said.
Reyes also emphasized the importance of daily family prayer, making time for leisure, serving others together as a family, creating a sacred space in the home, tithing, getting to daily Mass whenever possible, making catechesis part of the family conversation, building in some discipline -- like abstaining from meat every Friday, not just in Lent, and my personal challenge: being joyful in service to your family. How many times a day do the little things that are just part of being a parent make you crazy? I've lost count. And yet, as Mother Teresa often said and as Reyes reminded us, it is in those little things that we can move closer to God, if we do them with joy instead of frustration.
So...when I saw that centering prayer book, I thought, "Aha! This is something I could do to help my children get closer to God." I don't know if that will happen, but we have to always be hopeful, right? Now that I look at this little book, I'm thinking that maybe it's just the thing to help me make some quiet time for God. Far less intimidating than the grown-up books on centering prayer I've been struggling with.
On a related note, I would just like to welcome any of the folks who attended my workshop and asked for my blog address. Thank you for your kind words, your encouragement and your interest in reaching adult Catholics.
And finally, I have to offer prayers for my Cornerstone Retreat sisters. Had I not been in Denver this weekend, I would be on the retreat team leading another group of women through the amazing experience of Cornerstone right now.