Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Family Holy Reading: the Long View

One lesson now starting to settle into my heart is that parenting often requires a long view. For example, now when a child is in need of discipline or a child is going through a difficult phase (causing me to feel like I might go insane), I no longer think I can solve the difficulty overnight, in a week, or in a month. I often think to myself, "With our new regimen/routine/practice/discipline, I wonder how this family situation will look a year from now?

This is a look at how Family Holy Reading looks a year after we instituted the practice.

A year ago in May, we began doing holy reading as a family, about which you can read about here. It all began in the imitation of their Daddy, who had begun his own morning holy reading (the Divine Office). I have noticed with chagrin that every time I call our children's godmother to ask for her experienced advice (as a holy woman who has raised seven children to holy adulthoods), I report a vice or bad habit among my children (essentially tattling on those wretched beasties), to which she immediately replies that the virtue I need to work on is such-and-such. Oh, a child is lying? You as a parent need to work on humility, then come alongside the child to help him with humility. Oh, a child is being cruel to siblings? You as a parent need to develop your meekness, and then come alongside the child to help her with meekness. Oh, your child has a bitter tongue? How much Scripture are you as a parent memorizing? You start memorizing God's word, then come alongside your child to help him memorize it, after which his bitter tongue will be replaced by sweet words.

It is humbling advice.

Back to the story, Chris began morning holy reading, and within a week the children wanted to imitate him.
Holy reading--oh Margaret and Joseph were so little!

But then some months later, we switched our family rosary time to the morning, before breakfast (tip: always have a motivational activity--like eating food--scheduled for after a difficult activity!). What with morning prayers and the rosary (20-30 minutes total), I could not possibly tack on holy reading to the end, so holy reading was temporarily suspended.

Along came a Titus 2 woman in my life and I learned that she began her school day with holy reading time: a practice I promptly adopted, about which you can read here.

Now the mornings looked like this: TV while Mama exercises, holy reading as a family, breakfast, getting dressed and morning chores, then begin school (around 9:00) with holy reading time. Exactly what the children read evolved as I gave them some vote in the matter.

Second grader reading Gospel stories

The second grader (who complained that he already had read the Bible backward and forward) would read one Gospel story, his Catechism lesson, then spend the remainder of his 15 minutes reading a saint's biography.

The Kindergartener would read one Bible story and her Catechism lesson, and she recently has added in a saint's biography.

Both children conclude with a 5-point mental prayer (see here).

Has holy reading time always looked like a Norman Rockwell scene (were his subjects Catholic!)? Are my children darling cherubs who run to their Holy Reading Bookshelf each morning? No, absolutely not! How many mornings in the last year have they complained! How many mornings have they tried to get out of holy reading! Sometimes I responded by listening to a legitimate complaint, like when John didn't want to read the Bible he'd read so many times so I found for him a more mature collection Gospel stories. Sometimes I held firm, like with the concept that we would be starting our school day with 15 whole and entire minutes of connecting with God's Word.

Back to modeling being the best teacher . . . over Lent, I felt that I could take on very little due to being sick with pregnancy. I had to think St. Therese kind of little . . . really tiny. At a Titus 2 woman's suggestion, I adopted merely reading each day's Holy Mass readings (AKA "daily readings" in Catholic lingo). Daily readings might take two or three minutes and I was reading them conveniently on an app on my phone (the iPieta app provides daily readings for the Novus Ordo and the Latin Mass, as well as approximately a zillion other gems). 

Second grader reading the Mass
After Lent, regrettably, I discontinued reading the daily readings. In the meanwhile, my 8-year-old picked them up! After fighting holy reading for so long, he was no longer fighting it at all. One day, in fact, he came to me and requested to add something to his holy reading: would I teach him how to read the daily readings in this sixty-year-old St. Joseph daily missal he found on the shelf?

I showed him where to look up the daily readings and set him free with it. As days and weeks went by, he would ask me questions about how to use the missal, which any Catholic who has tried knows is fairly complicated. One is flipping pages here, there, and everywhere: there is a reason a standard missal has about eight ribbon bookmarks affixed to the binding!

The latest evolution of John's practice is that he began requesting that I sit with him on the couch while he reads to me the daily readings. He informed me that since I wasn't reading them anymore, surely I would wish to listen to him read aloud.

The student becomes the teacher.

I had no leg to stand on if I declined his invitation, so I accepted. It was then that I discovered why John was taking so very long to read the daily readings: he is reading the entire Mass with the propers! Each morning, he reads the entire Mass, inserts the propers, and makes the signs of the cross where indicated.

Mama is utterly humbled and thinks how far this last year has brought us.

Little sister imitates big brother

Finally: imitation as a trickle-down effect . . . Margaret at four hasn't been so interested in holy reading. This makes sense to me given that she cannot read yet and there is only so much one can get out of looking at pictures. I decided not to force the issue for now.

But guess who wants to be a Big Kid? She may not want to imitate Mama, but she does want to imitate her big brother by doing her own holy reading next to him while he reads the Mass aloud to us.

Taking the long view has been a blessing to us. If one adopts a new practice with the children, I wouldn't advise beating a dead horse with a clearly failing idea. But just because a practice is a serious challenge and the children complain or resist does not mean it should be abandoned.

What will your family look like an entire year from now if you continue with this new, good practice? Alternatively, what will your family look like if you don't bother with the correction, improvement, or positive change?

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