October is the month traditionally associated with Mary and many people will make a particular effort to pray the rosary this month. Any time I talk to a group of people about faith, prayer and spirituality I am struck by how many of them have memories of praying the rosary. The same is true of me.
I remember being down in my granny’s house in Roscommon and every evening we would kneel down and pray the rosary. When we had finished we would all begin to move, stand up, get on with the rest of the evening but my granny would still be kneeling there, praying. Looking at her I always thought that herself and God must be great pals when they had so much to talk about.
In my memory, when I think of my granny there is always a strong association with prayer. In her bedroom there was a beautiful picture of St Thérèse, known as the Little Flower – another one of my granny’s pals. We have tried to make prayer a part of our children’s lives too. It was easier when they were very small, prayers at bedtime, blessings for all those we loved.
When the kids got older we prayed together remembering the blessings and challenges of the day. What has made you happy today? What has made you sad or cross or sorry?
When they became teenagers it all got more difficult. They didn’t want to share much, prayer time was awkward, so we made a decision to entrust them with their own prayer lives. We would pray grace before dinner but it was up to them to pray at night.
Then three years ago their granny Cahill died – and our four teenagers came to Danny and I saying that they wanted to pray together for their granny.
We tried a few different ways of praying, including the rosary, before eventually deciding on the Angelus. It is a prayer that has always been part of our family.
When Méabh, our youngest daughter, was too young to know the words she used to stand there at 6pm while we prayed the Angelus going “bong, bong, bong” along with the bells. At least she was joining in!
Joining the pack
Now we have a bizarre situation where the dog joins in with our family prayer! Straight after dinner, before we leave the table we pray. Roise our dog will come nuzzling up to Danny or I wanting to be rubbed and petted when we have finished eating – she knows it is time to pray.
Each evening one person leads the prayer. As we all respond Roise joins in with a strange sing song type of howl! Rub her behind the ears any other time of day and you will not get that sound. Roise sees us as her pack. We pray so she joins in. It has become part of her doggy identity. So too, I hope that prayer has become part of our children’s identity.
Our children are all teenagers or young adults now. Where life will take them, how engaged they will be with their faith along the way, I do not know. For now it is something strong and I pray it stays that way, but we have no guarantees. I think the memory of Roise the praying dog will always be there, the experience of praying as a family, the sense of connectedness and identity.
You may not have a praying dog but there are habits of faith in your family too. What are the things you do, places you go to, people you spend time with, which help your children to develop a strong sense of identity as Catholics? Maybe that is a conversation for around the dinner table.