When my children were small, we used to visit my late in-laws every Sunday afternoon. My husband’s family originally came from France in the mid-seventeenth century, so my in-laws were Catholics of the old school. They embraced many traditions including displaying a crucifix on the wall, eating fish on Fridays, fasting as called for by the Church, prayers before meals and bed, praying the Rosary together every night, and reading from the family Bible. My girls thought it was wonderful, and staying over with Grandma and Grandpa was a real treat. (Of course, Grandma’s excellent cooking or Grandpa’s clock collection may have added to the appeal.) I think the ritual at my in-laws gave the kids a sense of belonging, and a sense of being part of a tradition that was far older and wiser than they were.
On this feast day of Saints Anne and Joachim, the parents of the Virgin Mary, I look back on my years of parenting young children, years filled with dashing to Brownies and ballet and violin and swimming and art, and the endless procession of birthday parties. All important, sure. But I can’t help thinking that none of these activities made the same kind of lasting impact on my daughters’ lives as those faith-filled visits to my in-laws. In our busyness, admirable though it may be, I think we have forgotten what our elders knew: that a life lived without faith and faith traditions is empty and profoundly unfulfilling. And surely having a crucifix on the wall, fasting as called for by the Church, giving thanks before meals, praying the Rosary together every night and having a prayer table with the family Bible always open to comfort and inspire are small, but meaningful life-affirming gifts we can give to our children for them to pass on to their children. If you’re not sure how to get started making your home into a place filled with faith traditions, there are many books and websites to help you.
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