This is not your usual prayer book. Earlier this year—on the Solemnity of St. Joseph, to be exact—the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia released a new prayer book entitled A Short Guide to Praying as a Family. This book compiles prayers familiar to most Catholics and brings them together in a way that is intelligent, beautiful, and timeless. Let me tell you how.
This prayer book is intelligent. The Sisters designed this book to draw parents and children more deeply into God’s love. They thoughtfully organized the prayers into different phases, beginning with basic prayers and blossoming into a life permeated with prayer and virtue. This organization allows each family to enter at a point suited to its needs.
Even more, after each prayer, the Sisters offer a brief catechesis, helping to enrich the faith of both parents and children. They also provide helpful tips for how families can make these prayers a reality in their daily life. In all of this, the Sisters share with us from the fruits of their learned wisdom in bringing people closer to God.
This prayer book is beautiful. There is not a dull page in the book, except maybe the credits near the end. In its 176 pages, this book has 135 full-color stained-glass images, photographed by Fr. Lawrence Lew, a Dominican friar of the English Province. Families will both enjoy these images and learn from them. Visual learners, rejoice!
This prayer book is timeless. The included prayers are staples of the Christian life and, in a special way, for Christian families. The Lord’s Prayer never goes out of fashion. Perhaps the ways of implementing these prayers will evolve as culture changes, but this book enjoys a flexibility that will keep it relevant.
Okay, the objector replies, that’s a nice book review: beautiful, intelligent, and timeless. But who cares? It’s just a prayer book. What’s the big deal?
Well, family is a big deal. In Familiaris Consortio, St. John Paul II puts it simply: “The future of humanity passes by way of the family” (FC 86).
In Gravissimum Educationis, from Vatican II, the Council Fathers make it clear that the responsibility for educating children belongs to the parents. They write:
Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators. This role in education is so important that only with difficulty can it be supplied where it is lacking. (GE 3)
And this holds true for educating children in the faith. Parents are the first evangelists and the first catechists of their children. No outsourcing! Again, St. John Paul provides a helpful word:
The ministry of evangelization carried out by Christian parents is original and irreplaceable. It assumes the characteristics typical of family life itself, which should be interwoven with love, simplicity, practicality and daily witness. (FC 53)
In teaching the faith, prayer is indispensable. In Gaudium et Spes, the Council Fathers remind us how powerful family prayer is:
With their parents leading the way by example and family prayer, children and indeed everyone gathered around the family hearth will find a readier path to human maturity, salvation and holiness. (GS 48)
Bl. Paul VI also has an important word for parents. In Evangelii Nuntiandi, he notes the wonderful exchange that happens when parents teach the faith to their children. He writes:
The parents not only communicate the Gospel to their children, but from their children they can themselves receive the same Gospel as deeply lived by them. (EN 71)
That’s a lot of Church documents, but there’s another, simpler approach. When God became man in Jesus Christ, he did not come as an adult. He came as an infant born into a family. He then grew up through the care of Mary and Joseph, being obedient to them. What dignity God gives to the family! Christian families, remember your dignity.
The Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia: http://www.nashvilledominican.org
To purchase the book: http://www.nashvilledominican.org/bookstore
Image: Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P., The Holy Family Engaged in Work