Just the thought of summer fast approaching might bring thoughts of rest and relaxation to mind. We may recall the lazy days of summer during our youth. Summer may also mean anticipated excitement and adventure—exploring new places or trying new things.
Some families plan escapes to beaches and paradise vacations, while others may stay home and plan day trips to fun spots, the local library, or parks and recreation centers. Anything out of the ordinary can be a very welcome change.
The realization that summer is just around the corner can cause Moms to feel a bit (or a lot!) nervous too. They might not want to let go of their semi-structured schedule for the more relaxed bedlam, craziness, and insane structure of summertime.
One thing we can count on—the schedule will usually change quite dramatically. But there’s no need to fear. Let’s take the stress out of summer right now by pausing to plan a strategy.
Summertime can certainly be a time of well-deserved rest and also a welcome change of scenery. While making plans for our families this summer, let’s not forget about prayer because a change in schedule once we hit summertime and an eagerness to “get away from it all” could cause us to lose touch with our spiritual needs. We don’t want to inadvertently let our prayer life go on vacation!
Recently, on a radio show I suggested that we should actually write down the intention to “pray.” We can do that on a dry-erase board, chalkboard, or in our tablet. I suggested that in order to make family prayer happen throughout summertime, we have to carve out time for it—we need to make time to be with our Creator! Sure, all kinds of inconvenient stuff happens in the heart of the family, but God knows what we are all about. He knows we can’t drop to our knees to pray when we are taking care of a pressing need with the children. He also knows that we are a work in progress! When our planned prayer time gets sabotaged or rearranged, let’s just try again—let’s make it work! But, we shouldn’t beat ourselves up when our efforts might fail. If we have tried our very best God will surely reward us for making sure that we are training our children to develop a beautiful relationship with Him.
So, add “prayer” to your “to-do” list and teach the kids to do the same. Do that soon! We want to establish solid prayer habits.
A key strategy to help us remain prayerful this summer is to begin each day with prayer—no matter what. This simple suggestion may seem like a no-brainer to a praying individual. However, the busyness of mornings and preparations for summer outings of even the well-intentioned “pray-ers” can cause prayer time to become lost in the commotion.
Getting on our knees when we face each new day and giving it right over to the Lord will indeed start the day off with the proper disposition and it only takes a few minutes of our time. Mothers should teach their children to do the same—to greet Our Lord first thing in the morning. A morning offering in our own words or a more formal version and a prayer to our Guardian Angel at the breakfast table works very well with our captive hungry “audience!” We can offer our hearts to God all throughout our days as well. Teaching our children to begin their days with prayer is an invaluable lesson that will surely remain with them as they grow older and begin to navigate life on their own.
Making time to come together as a family to offer our hearts to God is indispensable and will be etched on your children’s hearts forever. No family should be too busy to pray together. We can easily slip meaningful prayer into mealtimes to keep our family focused on prayer throughout the day. Saint John Paul II emphasized the importance of family prayer frequently. He said, “Prayer increases the strength and spiritual unity of the family, helping the family to partake of God’s own “strength” (Gratissimam Sane, Letter to Families, 1994).
When making plans for family trips, perhaps we can think about including shrines, basilicas, and holy places in our trips. It’s a win-win situation! When researching places of interest for our family this summer, we can utilize the many Catholic magazines, newspapers, and websites that often highlight interesting places for pilgrimages and visits. We can attempt to attain that healthy balance of nourishment for our family’s spiritual life as well as fun and enjoyment for relaxation and entertainment of our senses.
Summer travel affords us many opportunities for prayer—perhaps more than we might imagine. Prayers such as the rosary can be said in common in the family vehicle en route to a vacation spot or while traveling to the beach, park, or picnic area for day trips. Each child can voice a prayer of petition about something that is close to their hearts as well as offer prayers of thanksgiving for God’s gifts — including family time together. Take time to name the wonderful gifts in your lives. Naturally, we will also want to ask our good Lord for His protection over our family as we travel.
Why not teach the kids about the saints this summer? A saint a week! My book, Catholic Saints Prayer Book (32 saints) has been re-released in paperback and is just the right size to toss into the beach bag. (It is on sale at Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Company for $2.00 off all throughout the month of June.)
Turning the Negative Around
Summer doesn’t automatically translate into bliss. Annoyances and inconveniences can crop up at any time. However, the traffic jams, whiny children, bug bites, sunburn, or unexpected delays and mishaps can be turned around and used for good. We have a perfect opportunity to “offer it up” to God and ask Him to use a small sacrifice or inconvenience on our part for the good of others, rather than allowing the situation to cause us to become annoyed or angry. Let’s keep our cool and turn to prayer. We can ask our Lord to use our sufferings for the souls in purgatory so that perhaps they can get to Heaven a little faster.
Servant of God, Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., the late world renowned theologian and author (and my former spiritual director), said in his book, Theology of Prayer (The Daughters of St. Paul, 1979), “When I suffer prayerfully, I recognize that God is behind the suffering and I humble my head in faith… when I suffer prayerfully, I trust that God has reasons for permitting what I endure and that in His own time and way, the experience now suffered will eventually somehow be a source of grace.”
These “offering it up” prayer times are not only spiritually enriching and gifts for the recipient, they also become beautiful teachable moments, pointing our children to patience and thinking of others during trials, helping them turn to prayer rather than allow a negative situation to get the best of them.
Whatever way your family plans might unfold for this summer, be sure to have fun, enjoy, and offer your joyful heart to the Lord! Your example of prayer throughout the summer days will inspire your family and those that God puts in your midst.
Have a happy and holy summer!
Prayer from St. John Paul II for families:
Lord God, from You every family in Heaven and on earth takes its name. Father, You are love and life. Through Your Son, Jesus Christ, born of woman, and through the Holy Spirit, the fountain of divine charity, grant that every family on earth may become for each successive generation a true shrine of life and love. Grant that Your grace may guide the thoughts and actions of husbands and wives for the good of their families and of all the families in the world. Grant that the young may find in the family solid support for their human dignity and for their growth in truth and love. Grant that love, strengthened by the grace of the sacrament of marriage, may prove mightier than all the weaknesses and trials through which our families sometimes pass. Through the intercession of the Holy Family of Nazareth, grant that the Church may fruitfully carry out her worldwide mission in the family and through the family. We ask this of You, Who is life, truth and love with the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen