Marriage is a sacrament, not just on the wedding day, but is a prayerful offering of every moment of every day in the life of the couple and their family. And parents are the irreplaceable primary educators, on a daily basis, with regard to preparing their children for the reception of all the sacraments: Baptism, Reconciliation, Eucharist, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick.
Family preparation for, and frequent participation in, the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist are the two most important elements of daily family prayer.
Family Prayer in the Church
All prayer in the Church is essentially family prayer. The Catholic Church is the spouse of Jesus and a mother whose children form one family of God the Father. Mary is the model of the Church as a mother. The mother encourages her children to pray to and talk with our Father, not only in our rooms individually, but together as a family within His house. When the followers of Jesus asked how they should pray, He taught them to pray together as a family and begin with the words, “Our Father...” As one family and children of one mother, the Church, we are related by spiritual ties that bind us together closer than blood relations. Jesus said, “whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
From Home to Church and Back Again
Daily family prayer in the home is designed to foster a deeper participation in the daily liturgical, devotional, and sacramental prayer life of the Church in order to open our hearts to our heavenly Father: “An important purpose of the prayer of the domestic church is to serve as the natural introduction for the children to the liturgical prayer of the whole Church, both in the sense of preparing for it and of extending it into personal, family and social life.” And “in family prayer the basic notions of the faith are communicated and hearts are opened to the Fatherhood of God.”
The most efficacious and highest form of daily family prayer is participation in the liturgical worship of the Eucharist, which begins with the Sacrifice of the Mass and continues throughout the day in the Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office) and Eucharistic Adoration. If a family is not able to participate in daily Mass, they could visit and adore Our Lord in the Eucharist, make an act of spiritual communion, or recite the Morning and/or Evening Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours. Participation in the liturgy allows families to share in the infinite fruits of the Sacrifice of Christ and, at the same time, helps parents and children practice making sacrifices in order to share the fruits.
After daily Mass, the early Catholic Church family shared a meal together “with exultation and sincerity of heart” and this meal was considered a sacred event which extended the fruits of the Mass into the family’s social life. Families today need to envision their daily dinner together as a sacred event. Like the daily Mass in a church, the family dinner is the key to the physical, spiritual, and emotional health of family members because it creates a deep communion of hearts. Opening and closing with prayer, the family dinner binds everyone together in love and joy uniting the family at an increasingly deeper level physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Recent secular studies on chastity among young people reveal one common factor that predicted the ability to remain chaste or not, and that was whether or not they ate a daily family meal together.