Rachel Bulman describes how she and her husband began to include their children in praying the Liturgy of the Hours.
Our family is currently in formation for the permanent diaconate. I’m sure that sounds odd to say that “our family is formation.” The permanent diaconate is often called a “vocation within a vocation” because it is usually enveloped within the Sacrament of Marriage, or a married man called to the life of service, of diakonia. Recently, my husband and I were on our monthly retreat and the class topic was on parish life and the instructor necessarily explored the life of the deacon and how he influences the life of his family and his parish. One section asked whether or not we pray together as a couple and as a family.
On our hour-plus drive home, we always discuss the movements of our heart during the weekend, and we both agreed that we needed to be more intentional about praying. We pray over meals, at bedtime, and individually but rarely did we venture into community prayer other than at the dinner table. So we came up with a game plan.
Following the life of the Church, we decided to implement the Divine Office, aka The Liturgy of the Hours. The Liturgy of the Hours is the daily prayer of the Church marked by the 7 “hours,” 2 hinge hours (Morning or Lauds and Evening or Vespers) and 5 canonical hours (Office of Readings, Daytime prayer which can be prayed in the midmorning, midday, or in the afternoon, and Night or Compline). Each hour includes prayers and Scripture, and when you pray it, you can almost guarantee that you are not alone in doing so. Somewhere in the world, someone is praying with you during that hour. It’s quite a powerful part of this devotion.
When praying in community, it is a common practice to take turns reading the stanzas of Scripture, to have someone read aloud the psalm-prayers and reading, and to follow a leader/response format. You can do this with two people or in a large divided group. My husband and I had been praying parts of the Office together since early in our marriage, and we decided to begin with Night Prayer with our kids.
The kids ages are 10, 8, 6, and 3, and our first evening of doing Night Prayer was fantastic. I used my phone to cast the prayer to a television, and we were able to pray together with my husband leading. Everyone read aloud except for our three year old who either paced the room or relaxed in my lap. Night Prayer typically ends with a Marian prayer so she enjoys “leading” that part.
We also began incorporating the Invitatory which a psalm and antiphon that begins the Office each day. I printed the Invitatory psalms onto one sheet of paper, and I have a small chalkboard where I write the day’s antiphon down. One child chooses the psalm we will use and then we recite it together. This is done right before we jump in the car each morning.
Now, I know the question you're asking yourself. The answer is yes. Yes, this can be hard to do. Often, we are running behind especially in the morning but making a commitment to this type of family prayer has really forced us to reorient our mornings. We have now been doing this for over a month and have started to do the full hour of Morning Prayer instead of just the Invitatory. This morning, we were 6 minutes late to the school. The kids somehow avoided getting a tardy, but my husband called me to lament.
“I shouldn’t have done Morning Prayer,” he said. “I know we were behind and when I came out to the living room to pray with them, they had to put away a bunch of card games that we had out. It was frustrating and I should’ve just loaded them into the car.”
I told him not to worry about it. I’ve shared those same frustrations in the morning, and choosing to pray even when we are running late, cannot be a bad decision. It’s taught us to go to bed earlier, to sacrifice the extra couple of minutes with my morning coffee, and to orient our children to the right way to begin their day.
Now, when we miss (yes, we sometimes miss!) Morning Prayer or skip Night Prayer, the kids notice and they say they missed doing it that day. There are some evenings where we include Evening Prayer right before dinner, and it’s fantastic.
Let me leave you with one final thought. Praying as a family is never a bad plan. It will not be easy. Committing to it will include some frustrations and perhaps a few tears (maybe some from the kids, too), but in the end, this is one of the best ways to love one another -- through prayer.
Copyright 2021 Rachel M. Bulman
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About the Author
Rachel Bulman joined the Catholic Church in 2008. She is a wife, mother, writer, and speaker, but most of all, she is a child of God. She has a weakness for the Eucharist and really good ice cream, obviously not at the same time. Get to know more about Rachel at RachelBulman.com or follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @rachelbulman.