“The House of Nazareth was a School of Prayer for Jesus, where for 30 years He “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him”.
THE FAMILY THAT PRAYS TOGETHER STAYS TOGETHER
Right from the beginning of creation, Satan’s target has been the family. He caused the downfall of Adam and Eve, the first couple. His target continues to be the family. He is out to wreck marriages and families. He uses ambition, pride, greed, lust, envy, anger, suspicion, addictions, etc to destroy families. He stirs up rebellion among the kids. He incites mom and dad to blame each other for the children’s problems and failures. The key is to get the parents and the children to put love of self ahead of the love of God and one another. Once this hairline fracture is introduced into the foundation of the family, it is only a matter of time before the entire structure of the family starts to crumble. There are hundreds of ways of doing it, but Satan has mastery over it. “Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet 5:8).
The main reason why the families have become easy prey of “the father of lies” is because the resistance to his tactics is on the decline. One of the traditional practices in families had been the coming together of members daily to pray. I recall what a delight it was during my teenage days to walk through the streets of our village around the time it was night. The population in my native place – Kuravilangad – mainly consisted of Catholics. Home after home, one could listen to people reciting rosaries and novenas. Today the situation is different. Once in a while when I have to pass through the same streets, what I can hear are dialogues from different TV serials. In many families, members do not at all come together to pray. If at all it happens, it is confined to the older members of the family. The younger generation, especially the children in the family, generally are not inclined to participating in family prayer. The sad part of it is that the parents concede to their excuses under the pretext of home work, tuition, study, etc. The parents, even by making great sacrifices, ensure that the children get the best of food, education and other facilities, but do not realize that their establishing a lasting relationship with Jesus is very important for their real success in life. Many parents come with tears to complain about the cold response of children towards them after they are settled in life. Why does it happen? The parents give them everything except Jesus.
The parents, even by making great sacrifices, ensure that the children get the best of food, education and other facilities, but do not realize that their establishing a lasting relationship with Jesus is very important for their real success in life.
The Holy Family is a model for every family to follow. During the Octave (eight days) of Christmas we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family consisting of Joseph, Mary and Jesus. Jesus spent 30 out of His 33 years in Nazareth as ‘hidden years’ and very little is written about this period in the Gospel narratives. A major description about the ‘hidden years’ of Jesus in the school of Nazareth is this: “When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord (presentation in the Temple), they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him” (Lk 2:39-40). The Church presents to us the Holy Family as a model for our own family life. Joseph was the head of the family and provided for Mary and Jesus with the work of his hands. Mary took care of her family in the home. It was she who would have taught Jesus the Scriptures and prayers of their people when He was very young. The House of Nazareth was a School of Prayer for Jesus, where for 30 years He “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him”. Every home should become another Holy Family where the children grow and become strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God would be upon them.
On 19 October, 2008, the World Mission Sunday, Louis Martin and Marie Zelie Guerin, the parents of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, were declared Blessed in Lisieux, France. It was the second time in history that a married couple has been beatified. They were not beatified because of their superstar daughter, but because of their magnificent virtue and powerful intercession in their own right. They were not considered saintly because they raised a saint, but they raised a saint because they were saintly. Both the parents were very ordinary people. Yet they radiated holiness and brought to life the greatest saint of the modern age. They testified to the world that sainthood is a family project of parents and children working in unison. Louis Martin, a man of faith and of prayer, took up the profession of watchmaker and Zelie was a lace maker. Louis and Zelie were blessed with nine children, but lost four of them at an early age. Zelie herself died of aggressive breast cancer at the age of 45 leaving their youngest daughter, Therese, a child of four years. The anguish of losing four of their children, the economic reverses that threatened their business, Zelie’s losing battle with breast cancer and the Alzheimer’s disease suffered by Louis and other trials did not weaken their confidence in the goodness of God’s plans, and they abandoned themselves with love to God’s will. In good times and bad, in sickness and health, the family put God first in their lives.
It was the spiritual atmosphere that was created at home, participation in daily Eucharist, reading spiritual books like Imitation of Christ and lives of saints and their prayer together as one family that produced a saint and doctor of the Church, two blessed, and led all the other four daughters dedicate themselves to the rigors of the consecrated life. St. Therese of Little Flower wrote: “God has given me a father and a mother more worthy of heaven than of earth”. The children saw their devotion and it led them to commit their own hearts to God. Therese and her father would spend time in prayer together at the church before the Blessed Sacrament and at home at bed time. Therese wrote about her father: “At long last we could make our way upstairs to say our night prayers, and once again I would find myself close to him, only having to look at him to know how saints must pray.” In how many families would the children say something similar about their parents?
The Lord’s presence will ward of all tactics of the evil one. Research shows that the old slogan, ‘The family that prays together, stays together’ is very true. Retrouvaille International, a highly respected marriage support organization, in America – where the number of divorce is very high – found that the divorce rate for couples who attended church regularly and prayed together daily, accounted for less than one divorce in every 1105 marriages. This is the testimony of a family that discovered the beauty of praying together: “It is difficult to put into words the sense of unity we’ve felt since we’ve been praying together. Surely, it is not something we have done, or could have done, to create this intense and close bond. It is clearly the work and blessing of our Lord.” A wife testified thus about the experience of the couple after they started the family prayer: “My husband told me he wishes he could go back and ask me to marry him all over again because he now feels God is so much more a part of our lives.” Innumerable are the blessings showered on families that pray together: “How fair are your tents, O Jacob, your encampments, O Israel! Like palm groves that stretch far away, like gardens beside a river, like aloes that the Lord has planted, like cedar trees beside the waters” (Num 24:5-6)!