Seize the day, as the expression goes! While you bask in the love and adulation you receive on Father’s Day, what better opportunity is there to claim your most vital role as a Catholic father?
The Catechism reminds us that the family home is a “domestic church,” a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of the Christian life. It is in the family that children must develop their relationship with God and neighbor and understand their vocation to holiness.
And you, as head of your family, are the primary educator of your children. It is as a parent that you practice most eloquently the priesthood of the faithful, helping train your children and forming them to develop into upright Catholic citizens of the world.
Maybe you’re already leading your domestic church in a powerful and effective manner. If so, keep up with what you are doing, whether it’s bedtime prayers with the younger kids, a weekly family rosary, monthly confessions, open communication about living the faith, or your own solid example of personal prayer, humility, forgiveness, service to others and virtuous living.
There’s a whole laundry list of things you should be doing to take leadership, and, since Father’s Day is your day, the kids might be especially attentive to your leadership role. For us dads who haven’t stepped into this role, today’s the day to begin.
Praying with your family — real prayer — is a bare minimum. If you haven’t been comfortable leading your family in prayer, now’s the time to step up. If you are trying but still faltering, or sort of going through the motions, take courage and ramp things up a bit.
Here are some small steps that might help.
Make it a “thing” that your family shares one meal together each day. You are the priest of your house, so think of the family table as your altar. That’s a good place to start. You all need to eat, you all should spend some time together, and you ought to pray together. Family life is busy and complicated, but with a bit of planning, you can make a shared meal happen.
Tip: On a day when a meal together is impossible, plan a late dessert before the youngest ones go to bed.
Say grace together mindfully. Perhaps your family already does say grace. Especially when using a set form, however, it can get rushed, sloppy and mindless. Lead everyone to pray thoughtfully, truly offering thanksgiving in their hearts. Make it a moment of true reverence.
Tip: Occasionally it might help if you call attention to why we say grace with a preface. “Look at this wonderful food we have before us. Many people in this world don’t have enough to eat. Let’s sincerely thank God for the gifts he has given us.” These or similar ideas expressed in a natural way might do the trick.
Build on the mealtime prayer. Over time, expand the time of prayer at the table. Maybe share one of the Mass readings for the day, or start by adding an Our Father, or a Hail Mary, or even the Prayer to St. Michael before grace. Sometimes you might offer a brief reflection on the reading or invite family members to articulate their own prayer intentions of the day. Let the pot roast simmer and take three to five minutes to spend in precious prayer time with your family.
Tip: Introduce new elements gradually so that both your children and you can become more comfortable with it. You might get some groans or eye-rolling, especially from the older ones. Take them aside gently, stress how important this is to you, and encourage them to be better examples to the younger children.
Take your family to Mass each week. That includes rebellious teenagers as well as younger tykes. Children need to embrace being Catholic not as a club they belong to, but as their very identity. Your home is a domestic church, but you are part of something much bigger. So participate in the Eucharist each Sunday and Holy Day with your fellow Catholics. Even when it seems inconvenient or boring, we go to Mass because that’s who we are. It’s important.
Tip: If you’ve been lax about Mass in the past, this could be challenging, especially with teens. Be prepared for some whining and foot-dragging. Make your expectations clear. If necessary, plan to go out for donuts or ice cream after Mass to help the kids associate Mass as something to look forward to. Sometimes a little persuasion goes a long way.
[Unable to attend Mass in your diocese due to the coronavirus restrictions? Watch a livestream Mass with the whole family — check out this list of Masses and turn to these four tips to help kids focus during streamed Mass.]
As a father, you are the provider and protector of your family. Providing your family with a firm foundation in faith will help protect them from evil. Prayer is a key as you lead your domestic church.
Gerald Korson, a veteran Catholic journalist, is a member of the Knights of Columbus in Indiana. He has 11 children, including four sons, and 12 grandchildren.
Originally published in a weekly edition of Knightline, a resource for K of C leaders and members. To access Knightline’s archives, click here. To share your story, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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