A Short Guide to Praying as a Family
by the Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia Congregation
The first characteristic of the Christian family, says Pope Francis, is that “the family prays.” Indeed, prayer “is what makes the family strong” (Homily on Family Day, 2013). A Short Guide to Praying as a Family: Growing Together in Faith and Love Each Day, by the Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia Congregation, is a marvelous how-to guide for families who want to pray together but don’t know how, as well as for families who do pray together and want to progress even further in their shared life of prayer. The Sisters’ solid advice on how to pray and numerous suggestions of what to pray, all complemented by beautiful stained glass art throughout, make this book a valuable resource for any domestic Church – the family.
A Short Guide begins with a brief reflection on what prayer is and why it is important, particularly in the family. This sets the tone for the rest of the book:
Beginning to pray as a family can genuinely transform your life, enriching not only your relationship with the Lord but also your relationships with one another. Prayer can change the way you see the ordinary circumstances of your daily life (p. 13).
When advocating for family prayer, the Sisters’ tone is gentle and encouraging. They give common sense advice, such as starting slowly when introducing new prayer routines into the family, and finding times of the day where prayer naturally fits, such as before and after meals, and at the beginning and end of the day. The goal is to make family prayer something that is enjoyed by every family member and not seen as a burdensome chore.
After an introduction to the life of family prayer, the next sections provide a number of tried-and-true prayers for families. The Sisters start with the most basic prayers: the Sign of the Cross, the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be. Their explanations of each one remind the reader of the depth and power of these simple but grace-filled prayers. Even if a family “just” prays these short prayers reverently, they will be building a solid foundation of faith and trust in God.
The next section gives ideas for making the home a place that is well-suited for prayer. After all, as the domestic Church, the family’s primary place of praying together is in the home. Sacred art, statues, and candles all contribute to making the home a prayerful place. The Sisters provide several “templates” for specific times of prayer, such as family bedtime prayers and a monthly family meeting. These give the family a model to start with, and something to use as they develop their own unique prayer rituals.
The Sisters also suggest ways in which a family can pray together, or for each other, throughout daily life, such as before car rides and sporting events. They encourage parents and families to be proactive in finding opportunities to pray as a family or discuss the faith together, since the family’s primary role is helping its members get to heaven. The authors also give suggestions on how to make attending Mass as a family more devotional and prayerful, the most important hour of the week.
The book could have been strengthened if it made clearer that family prayer is something necessary and enriching for all families, not just those with children at home. The focus throughout was on parents and children learning how to pray, which is certainly valuable and needed. But (for example) couples not blessed with children or “empty-nesters” too can and should live a rich life of prayer as a family. They may also have the call to welcome others into their lived relationship with God.
The strengths of A Short Guide to Praying as a Family are many. No knowledge is assumed, so even those unfamiliar with prayer would find the book understandable. And those who have more knowledge and experience in praying would benefit from going “back to the basics” and receiving a refresher on the power of prayer. The artwork in the book is beautiful and in itself an invitation to contemplate the Gospel. There are so many ideas for prayer, from the short and simple to the more involved, that any family could find something new and enriching. And throughout, the Sisters’ guidance on praying feels like what it is: advice from holy women who have devoted their lives to prayer and service of God, sharing their rich insights on what fruits prayer can bear in the family.
The book is also available in Spanish, with added elements from Hispanic culture – such as Posadas, Quinceaños, Novenarios, etc., and 20 added paintings by a Peruvian artist.
Visit the Sisters’ website to order with a 20% discount.
About the Reviewer
Bethany Meola is the assistant director of the USCCB Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth and the editor of pre2018.foryourmarriage.org. She and her husband Dan strive to live a life of family prayer together in their home in Maryland.
Disclaimer: Book reviews do not imply and are not to be used as official endorsement by the USCCB of the work or those associated with the work. Book reviews are solely intended as a resource regarding publications that might be of interest to For Your Marriage visitors.