They say, “Where your treasure is, your heart shall be also.” Our home displays where our heart is; it should say, "We are Catholic!" Let me just give you a glimpse into our home.
As you enter through the front door there is a five-foot-tall artwork of the Prophet Joshua standing which my daddy painted. It reminds me that sometimes we stand alone in this world, but God is ever there.
As you gaze to the right in the entrance hall, there hangs a huge crucifix which was passed down to us from my grandma. Not only does it remind us what Jesus did for us but also how important it is to pass the faith down to the next generation.
As you fully enter our home you cannot help but notice the life-size picture of Christ during His passion wearing a crown of thorns upon His head. Jesus is the center of our life so we displayed this portrait in the center of our home for all to see, in spite of the objection of some of our children. It was a must have treasure because it was painted by a friend, Keith Johnson, who left this world way too soon. It reminds us of the shortness of life and to pray for the beloved who have gone before us.
Above the door to the screened-in porch is a scripture that says, “The Lord will fight for you: you need only to be still.” This scripture is a conversation between Moses and God from the book of Exodus. The plaque was a gift that I handpicked for all my prayer partners, and myself, one Christmas. It reminds me how important it is to put my trust in God alone. When a problem in life becomes too big to carry, we have a big God who can handle it, if we but be still and know that He is God. When we are humble enough to let go of it, our God is strong enough to carry us and our problems.
Upstairs in our home there is a prayer room where I can be with God to seek His face, get direction for my day, thank Him for my many blessings and leave my burdens behind. In the prayer room there is a kneeler, which was a present from a gal Jane Anne, that I mentor, who has become a dear friend. It is not only a kneeler but was a heart’s desire asked for in prayer. Next to the kneeler there is a stand displaying a Catholic Bible with a rosary as a page marker, and a second rosary hangs from a place designed on the kneeler for just that purpose. All of this reminds me of the importance of our Catholic Faith. Above the kneeler is displayed an antique picture of the Sacred Heart. This visual tour is the first thing my children, grandchildren and every guest sees when they enter our home. Hopefully the message they receive is that all are welcome not only into our home, but also into our hearts.
I almost forgot to tell you about my favorite picture. It is of Saint Pope John Paul II cradled in the arms of Our Lady. Saint Pope John Paul II had a big job to do. When he was exhausted, he knew whom to call, His loving Mother Mary. As I look at the picture, I feel a bond with Saint John Paul II and Mary. Since I am visual, I am immediately reminded of the many times that I substitute myself in Pope John’s place, in the arms of my Mother Mary. As a woman in the ministry, who is a mom of many and a grandmother to a dozen, I too have a big job to do and sometimes find myself exhausted. Moms, our homes set the tone. Your home is talking. What is your home saying to those who enter?
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A mom is the heart of the home. Not only is the faith passed down visually, but also through word and deed. One of my greatest joys of being a parent is seeing my children begin the same traditions that I instilled in them in their youth, with their own children. Our Catholic faith and family traditions are being passed down to the next generation. Here are some practical ways that I passed my faith down to my children:
- As a mom, I was the media monitor. I often had Christian music playing, especially first thing in the morning. Music sets a peaceful tone for the home. A wise mother guards the television, radio, movies, and music for their children.
- Teach your children to love the sacraments. A Sacrament is an outward sign, instituted by Christ to give grace. Teach them the how, when and why of our faith.
- God is all knowing and sees your heart. Be a Catholic even when no one is looking. If you are faithful in small things, you will be faithful in greater things. Teach your children to do the same.
- In order to share the faith with little children, you must be creative. The stained-glass windows in Church I have found to be a perfect way. They tell the story of our faith. Ask your child what they see in the window? Tell them what you see. It opens the door to conversation. It opens their little hearts to the truths of our Faith.
- They will do what you do, not what you say. Be a good example and teach them daily. The Sign of the Cross, blessings before meals, morning and night prayers, genuflecting, and reverence are great starting points.
- Light a holy candle to begin the day with your preschoolers. Let them blow it out. Then sing a song together. Have a personal prayer time daily and encourage them to join you. It makes our faith welcoming.
- Hang a Crucifix in each room.
- Invite the priest to dinner. If you invite a deacon include his wife because Deacons are married clergy. If children get to know the clergy, they can ask questions. This will cultivate vocations. Pray for vocations and encourage vocations.
- Host a yearly Godparent party. It is a way of thanking them for taking on such an important role in your child’s life.
- Host a yearly Godchild party complete with Pizza and a movie. It lets your Godchild know you are there for them and take your role seriously.
- Host Sunday dinners to honor the Lord’s Day. Invite even your adult children and your parents.
- Teach your children to offer up their joys and sorrows to God. Teach them about redemptive suffering.
- Begin each car ride with the prayer to your guardian angels for protection.
- Memorize traditional Catholic prayers as a family.
- Teach them about novenas. Do novenas as a family.
- Make meals for a sick friend as a family and visit the sick together.
- Take them to daily mass.
- Teach them about sacramental: e.g., Holy water, Holy candles, scapular, medals, relics, etc.
- Bring them to the Adoration chapel with you. Teach them how to pray in silence.
- Familiarize them with traditions such as the rosary, Enthronement of The Sacred Heart, the Elijah cup, etc.
- Secret Saints --When Advent starts put the name of each family member in a hat. Then each person picks a name out of the hat (not their own) and don’t tell a soul who you chose. Now spend the Advent Season doing acts of kindness for the person whose name you picked. Do the acts of kindness in secret because that’s half the fun! The other half of the fun is trying to guess who picked whom!
- When a family member loses something, pray as a family for the intercession of St. Anthony. Remind the family that St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost items. A familiar Catholic prayer goes like this: “St. Anthony, St. Anthony, look around, something is lost and must be found.”
- Teach your children about the lives of the Saints. Read the Saint of the day at the dinner table each evening. Discuss how you can be more like this Saint and then pray for this Saint to intercede for your family. Encourage each of your children to read the lives of their patron Saint. Celebrate on your child’s patron Saint day. Bake a cake and sing to your patron Saint. Tell a little bit about your patron Saint at the dinner table. Discuss with the family why we have Saints and how someone becomes a Saint?
- Learn the St. Francis prayer as a family. Take a sentence each week and try to put those words into practice:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
- On St. Patrick’s Day go green: make green eggs and ham for breakfast, wear green clothing, and cook corned beef and cabbage for dinner. Don’t forget the Irish music! Most importantly go to Mass as a family and the parade if there is one. Tell the story of the Shamrock to the children and what it symbolizes in our faith.
- Invest in some DVDs of some of your favorite Saints. Have a family movie night and break out the popcorn. Encourage a family discussion at the end of the show. What did this Saint teach us?
- Choose a Saint of the month to model and to intercede for your family.
- If a family crisis occurs, for example, grandma gets cancer, do a novena together as a family to St. Peregrine. Learn which Saints are patrons for particular problems.
- Do a family rosary every Sunday or every evening.
- Read the book, “Divine Mercy for Moms,” by Michele Faehnle and Emily Jaminet, and add some of these practices to your family life. Pause at 3 P.M. to do the Divine Mercy Chaplet.
- Read “A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms: 52 Companions for Your Heart, Mind, Body, and Soul,” by Lisa Hendey.
“Unless the Lord builds the house we labor in vain to build it.” We must build our homes with the love of Christ leading our children in the faith. We must encourage them to be saints in the making. What are you building inside the walls of your home and in the hearts of your children? Undoubtedly we cannot do everything on this list. We are all different; our homes will all be different. The most important thing is to do something to make our home a sure shelter where children will feel loved and protected and where they can meet God.
What tremendous responsibility motherhood is, especially in this very secular world we live in. If we don’t form our children in the faith, the world will gladly form them. We however, have the awesome responsibility of housing our children, first within our wombs, then within our homes and always in our hearts. Protect your children mom; shelter them with faith, morals, character, and traditions. Make your home a secure shelter decorated with His love. Fill it with traditions and happy memories. Make your home a place where your children can always feel welcome, loved, accepted and close to God.
A home built with the fabric of our faith will always live in the hearts of our children even when they depart.
Copyright 2016 Ellen Mongan
About the Author
Ellen Mongan, a Catholic writer and speaker, has been married more than 40 years to Deacon Pat Mongan. They have 7 children and 12 grandchildren. Ellen is a host of WOW Radio Podcasts, a religious columnist for the Augusta Chronicle, and has spoken on both radio and television. She is the founder of Sisters in Christ, Little Pink Dress Ministry, and Women-Fests.