by Michaelyn Hein –
The other day, my family visited my parents. Behind their home is a beautiful little grotto, and at the center stands a marble statue of the Virgin Mary holding the Infant Jesus. My youngest son and I were playing in the backyard when he wandered over to the grotto. He sat himself on the bench that sits back a little from the statue, then asked me to “say a prayer to Mary.” I invited him to kneel beside me, but he said, “No, I want to watch you pray.”
So, I knelt down and said a slow, concentrated Hail Mary, hoping he would take in some of the words. When I finished, he said, “My turn!” I took his place on the bench and he took my place before Mary. He paused a moment, twisting his lips in frustration, then turned to face me, asking, “What do I say?”
“Oh,” I answered, “you can say a’ thank you’ prayer, or an ‘I love you’ prayer or a ‘please’ prayer.”
“Hmm,” he responded, then turned back to Mary, whispering, “Mary, I love you and I love Jesus. Amen.”
He rose and said, “Your turn again.”
And this is how it happens, I thought. Our children watch us. They learn from us how to pray from even their youngest days. We begin by praying before meals or saying bedtime prayers and letting our children listen. We let them soak in the words daily and nightly until they adopt the words for themselves, fumbling sweetly through the sentences. Eventually, they take hold of the prayers for themselves.
For the sake of our world, it is imperative that they do so. St. John Paul II said, “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” If we are not a praying family, how can we expect to have a praying world? In that vein, if we are not a holy family, how can we expect to live in a holy world?
And this world sorely needs prayer and our example of Christian living—even as it would have us believe that our faith is no longer welcome within it.
Sadly, in the past century, we Catholics have listened to society’s protestations against living our faith publicly. We have nodded our heads in agreement and tucked our rosaries back into our pockets, taking them out only when behind the closed doors of our houses. We’ve agreed that our morals have no place in politics and our beliefs have no place in polite company.
But while Jesus taught that we should go into our room and “pray in secret,” He never shied away from public prayer or teaching us to be visible witnesses for Him. He prayed publicly before thousands as He multiplied loaves and fishes, as He taught the Our Father and as He suffered from the cross, all for the benefit of souls.
Indeed, Our Lord admonishes us not to hide our faith under a bushel basket, but to let our light shine before others, not for our own edification, but so that others “may see [our] good deeds and glorify [our] heavenly father” (Mt 5:16).
We know, of course, that like a child who rejects the nutritious food that is good for him, our world rejects the notion of Christianity lived in the public square. But going into hiding has done nothing good for our nation. Stripping our schools of prayer, for example, is just one tragic example of the spreading of the errors of Russia foretold by Our Lady of Fatima. As a result, the place that has the greatest influence on our children, next to the family, has become a largely godless entity, and our children and country have paid the price.
Though the hour is late, it is time to begin the fight to win our world back to God. It is time to no longer be ashamed to pray a Rosary while walking on the street or to say grace before meals at a restaurant. Even more so, it is necessary that we live lives dedicated to making our own families holy, and to avoid condoning—either through our words and actions, or even through our silence—the world’s sins of immodesty and of the flesh.
As parents, we need to reevaluate what we are teaching our children about issues like abortion and marriage, and about sexuality and modesty. Or about things like forgiveness, commitment and love. If our lessons have veered too far from the narrow road to heaven, then we must alter the course immediately. After all, we cannot expect to reclaim our nation for Our Lord without preserving our families for Him first.
While we are busy about the work of surrendering our family life to God’s commandments, may we also return to a life of prayer—both within our homes and outside of them. May these small acts of obedience to God serve as a reparation for so many offenses against Him, and may they also be an effective witness for others, for just as our children depend on our example in living a prayerful and holy Christian life, so, too, does our world.
Remember, when our little ones see us praying, they are eager to follow in kind. If our nation hears us praying and sees us living lives according to Our Lord’s commandments, it may just begin to do the same.
Michaelyn Hein is a Catholic writer, wife and mother who resides in Hopewell, NJ.