Engaging the senses helps family pray together

by Adaire Reinpold

“We have good days where we feel like we’re successful. Other days are tough, and we barely make it through an “Our Father.” Trying to live a Catholic life at home has been both beautiful and rewarding, messy and exhausting, but at the end of the day, we’re not aiming for success, but for faithfulness.” – Adaire Reinpold

"Out of the mouths of infants and babes you have found perfect praise” (Psalm 8:3). If there’s one thing I’ve learned having two young children (Charlotte 3, and Rudy 19 months), it’s that our family “praise” rarely looks “perfect.” The Lord is teaching me to set aside my unrealistic ideals for family life to make room for the messiness and imperfection and to learn to pray with the eyes and heart of a child.

Luckily, the Church has all the “smells and bells” that help communicate the faith to little ones, and we’ve found some simple ways to engage the senses in our little domestic church that is our home. Sometimes it’s great, other times we fail, but Mother Teresa says we’re not called to success, we’re called to faithfulness. Here are some ways we try to live the faith at home.

Sound: For a while I tried praying Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours with the kids. Typically, it takes an adult 10 to 15 minutes. It took us an hour with bathroom breaks, squabbling amongst the kids, and spilled milk during breakfast. After banging my head against a wall for a few weeks, I realized (with the help of my husband, Robert) that we’re just not there yet. Now, our morning prayer consists of a short bible reading, prayer intentions, and a chant of the Our Father. It’s amazing how Charlotte can sing most of it, and Rudy ends with the final “Amen,” with a huge smile on his face.

Music is very important in our family, and we try to sing daily with our kids, teaching them fun “bible songs,” as well as the traditional chants of the Church such as the Pater Noster. Once the kids are tucked in at night, their “lullaby” is the Latin Marian chant for the season. At age two and a half, Charlotte could sing most of what she calls the “Sah-vey Regina.”

We don’t live near enough to a church to hear its bells toll during the day, but we do have an Amazon Echo with Alexa, which we have programmed to ring church bells daily at noon and 6 p.m. so we can pray the Angelus during Ordinary Time or the Regina Caeli during Easter. The kids know what the bells mean, and Charlotte says, “Time to pray!” when she hears them.

Sight: We try to let the decorations in our home reflect the liturgical season we are in. For example, during Lent, we take down many of our pictures and decorations so the house is bare. During Holy Week, we cover our crucifixes and statues with purple cloth. On Easter, the cloths are taken down, all of the decorations and then some are put up, and the large crucifix in our dining room is adorned with lilies and gold cloth. For the Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, the kids get to place a crown on our statue of Jesus.

Smell: Sometimes, on a Sunday or another solemnity, we use our family censer while we do chanted Morning or Evening Prayer with the whole family. The kids are more engaged because they’re intrigued by the smell of the incense, and they love watching it float around the living room. Rudy tries to grab it as we pray.

Taste: For solemnities, baptismal anniversaries, and other special feast days, we try to make a special meal or dessert. For example, on the feast day of St. Lawrence, who was martyred by being grilled alive, we throw something on the grill in his honor.

Touch: At nighttime, we pray a decade of the rosary. Rudy runs to the drawer where the rosaries are kept, then proceeds to use the crucifix like a key to try to open a lock on our kitchen door while we pray. Sometimes, the rosary results in screaming because someone is over-tired. That’s ok. We cut the rosary short and put the kids to bed. The kids say “goodnight” to images of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, (or “Jofess,” as Charlotte would say) and Rudy likes to touch Jesus’ Sacred Heart when he says goodnight.

We have good days where we feel like we’re successful. Other days are tough, and we barely make it through an “Our Father.” Trying to live a Catholic life at home has been both beautiful and rewarding, messy and exhausting, but at the end of the day, we’re not aiming for success, but for faithfulness. St. Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us!

Adaire Reinpold lives on a farm outside of Hillsboro and likes to spend her time in the garden with her husband and two children.