Some years ago, Reader’s Digest carried a family quiz. It contained 12 questions addressed to parents. One of the questions read: “With guests at your Christmas dinner table, would you feel comfortable asking any of your children to say grace?” That question calls attention to one of the key concerns of every family: its prayer life.
One of the most precious gifts a parent can give to a child is an appreciation of personal prayer, group or family prayer. And there is no better way to do this than by example.
Sundays are communal prayer days, when we meet as the big family of God. Of course it is not always possible for families to celebrate the Lord’s Supper together, as a complete family. But there should be times when the family makes an effort to do this. Jesus prayed often in this setting as we hear from the gospel of Luke: “Jesus went to Nazareth, where he has been brought up, and on the Sabbath he went as usual to the synagogue” (Lk 4:16).
Today’s Feast of the Holy Family invites us to ask ourselves about the quality of our family prayer life. In particular, it invites us to ask ourselves how well we – fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters – are contributing to the prayer life of our family.
Like the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, our family is the natural garden where human and spiritual values are sown and nurtured in children’s hearts. A question which Christian parents have to ask on this feast day is whether they are busy only in working hard to feed and educate their children, or equally concerned about inculcating values, wisdom and character into them; whether their families are modeled on the Holy Family of Nazareth where Jesus grew in strength, wisdom and God’s favor. If we consider this model as our family’s mission then we can depart in peace from this world when our time comes to hand over our spirit to the Lord.
Like Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna, our Christian family is called to be righteous and devout. Like Simeon, in our family we too should have an intense desire to meet the Lord and experience his salvation. This will happen when the words of St. Paul to the Colossians comes alive in our lives: “Brothers and sisters put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection” (Col. 3:12-14).