Remember last February, when approximately 62,000 fans piled into Hard Rock Stadium to watch the Kansas City Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers? Now imagine 33 times that amount, gathered together to hear a priest deliver one very powerful message.
Fr. Patrick Peyton, who was very famous for leading rosary crusades, spoke to over 2 million people at his largest gathering in Manilla in 1985, proclaimed: “The family that prays together stays together.” This simple and catchy phrase sums up the work and ministry that Fr. Peyton led as he travelled the world, teaching families the importance of prayer and the love and mercy of our Lord Jesus and his Blessed Mother, Mary.
Families were created to be a beautiful mix of love, a bit of craziness and a never-ending list of sacrifices and intercessions that can keep both parents and children calling on God’s help. Advent, which is just around the corner, is a fantastic time for families to step back and find an opportunity to get ready for Christmas in more ways than just shopping and decorating.
Advent is one of the great liturgical seasons where we reflect on not only the coming of Jesus into history, but also how he will come again someday. The Advent wreath is a simple activity for families to do together as each part of the wreath symbolize this preparation for Christmas. The circular wreath has no beginning and no end, the purple candles remind us that this is a penitential time to better ourselves, while the pink candle reminds us that this is also a time of joy.
The wreaths are easy to make or purchase and your family can come together at a meal, or a certain time of day and read a simple prayer and light the candles each week leading up to Christmas. With very little effort, a family can find a way to introduce prayer into the hectic-ness of daily life and start a powerful prayer routine with their children.
Beyond the wreath, the days leading up to Christmas are also filled with numerous feast days and devotions that families can find joy entering into. One such devotion begins on the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, which is Nov. 30. On this feast day, a very popular Christmas novena begins. A novena is simply a prayer that is repeated, for a period of time, as a way of asking special intercession for a favor. In this case, a family can say the St. Andrew Novena every day leading up to Christmas and ask for a special intercession as a family. This can be an effective, but simple way to teach children the power of intercessory prayer. Simply do an internet search for St. Andrew Christmas Novena and multiple sites will show you how to pray this prayer. Even a fun bracelet appears, that can be made to assist with praying.
Other amazing feast days that can be celebrated to deepen the prayer life of the family are the feast of St. Nicholas on Dec. 6, where children often leave their shoes or stockings out in hopes of getting a treat. Take the time to not only do this tradition, but connect the life of St. Nicholas with the current vision of Santa Claus that children have.
A fantastic way to do this is to show “Nicholas, the boy who became Santa.” This is a well-produced cartoon, which can be found on Amazon or Formed that easily ties St. Nicholas to the Christmas traditions we see today. Other amazing traditions also surround the feast of St. Lucy and the feasts of Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe. Many of these feasts have cultural and spiritual ties that when discussed can work to strengthen your families prayer life in Advent.
The list continues as the feast of Immaculate Conception on Dec. 8 is a holy day of obligation that celebrates Mary being conceived pure and without sin. This is an opportunity to have conversations about receiving the sacrament of reconciliation around this feast day in preparation of Christmas, as we strive to make ourselves pure and ready for our Lord.
There are also printable Advent calendar prayer sheets that can be associated with the decorative Advent calendars that many families have. The Jesse Tree is another great way to journey through the stories of Jesus’ family tree in preparation for his coming. Whatever way your family chooses, there is no shortage of family prayer activities that can be done leading up to Christmas.
While Christmas can be a fun and exciting time, it can also become very overwhelming for many families. The key to success can be found in Fr. Peyton’s message that the family that prays together stays together.
If you happen to find yourself with a little extra time this season, check out the life of Fr. Peyton. His biography and cause for canonization can be found at fatherpeyton.org. I also encourage you to watch a great documentary on his life praythefilm.com which will be on streaming networks soon.
Tremblay is marriage and life ministries director for the Diocese of Green Bay.