Patrick Walsh

As parents of four kids under 6, my wife and I are often tired. Sometimes recalling even the most basic vocabulary is a challenge for both of us due to sleep deprivation.

But even though I struggle to keep up, my wife is a champ. She weaves our kids’ relationship with God into the ups and downs of each day, bringing them closer to each other and to our Lord.

My wife’s ability to connect spiritual and daily life for our kids recently hit me. I was reminded just how much power we have as parents to give our children a relationship to God, one that is full of peace, power, hope, faith and freedom.

Whenever one of our kids is frustrated, angry or upset at themselves, my wife leads them through a prayer that renounce the lies that they are “bad,” and welcomes the Holy Spirit to come and fill up their souls with grace.  She says a small bit of the prayer and has them repeat it, working her way through the whole prayer.

The emotional outbursts of young children are pretty regular, and I guess my oldest must have fully memorized these prayers word for word. I know this because one day my wife and I were having a rare one-on-one conversation at our dinner table while the kids were playing in their brother’s room. We heard a brief uproar that seemed to resolve itself quickly.

Minutes later, we walked into our room, and I heard my two daughters’ voices in the bathroom. My oldest was prompting my youngest daughter through the prayer that my wife always says with them.

Hearing the two of them steadily renounce the lies with which my littlest girl could “tear herself down,” and welcoming the Holy Spirit to fill the parts of her heart that have been “cleaned out,” reminded me of the power of God. I marveled at what an amazing mother my wife is, at what amazing daughters I have, and at the special blessing of siblings.

I’m glad my daughters can play, fight and pray together. Their brothers are getting closer to being able to pray with them. My oldest son is only two, but even he joins in as much as he can when the rest of us pray.

It can be really hard to pray as a family, since somebody is always trying to eat something or asking for a dinosaur, and at least one infant is throwing up. But we press on.

Kids, I think, have something special when it comes to prayer. They don’t generally fare well on the marathon prayers like the rosary. Sometimes they can’t make it through grace without dipping into their ketchup. But like Christ said, that’s exactly the kind of faith we need: a faith of complete belief, vulnerability and gratuitous joy.

Kids have that. And if you listen closely to them, I’ve found, their most intense and sincere prayer happens quietly by themselves, or with a little sibling.

So don’t sweat it if you can’t make it through a family Hail Mary without incident. They hear you. They hear God. And they will want to talk to him if we can help them learn how.

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Patrick Walsh manages Martha’s Choice Marketplace, a choice model food pantry at Catholic Social Services’ Montgomery County Family Service Center. He can be reached at pwalsh@chs-adphila.org. More information about Martha’s Choice can be found at www.marthaschoicemarketplace.com.