More on Time…

August 16th, 2010

I started this column last week by stating my conviction that it is very important for dads to spend time with their kids if they want to keep them Catholic; indeed if they want to have any influence over them at all.

I want to look more at time, this week.

Time & Priorities

It can be quite tough trying to fit everything in. There is so much we want to achieve. We need to do our jobs, spend time with our wife, spend time with our kids, look after our homes, see our friends, pursue sports, interests or hobbies and so on and so on. Where do we start?

Our Lord has something to say to this: ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you’ (Mt 6:33)

Although I advocate spending time with your kids as a high priority for a Catholic dad, it is not the highest priority. You cannot give your kids what you don’t have: you cannot give them a loving relationship with their heavenly Father unless you have one yourself.

For this reason – and others – making time in your life for prayer on a daily basis is right at the top of the list. And I have found, from experience, that a good way to do this is to take the word ‘first’ quite literally: to make it the first thing I do in the day. So I get up a half hour earlier than I otherwise would, to make that time for prayer and recollection.

Strangely, becoming a man of prayer is one of the greatest things you can do for your kids. I don’t mean becoming some Holy Joe, always turning every conversation into a slightly forced lesson in religion; but rather, allowing prayer to saturate your life, so that you live in the presence of God and see reality from that perspective. You don’t need to talk that much about this; they will notice it anyway: kids are sharp.

A second great gift you can give your kids is to love your wife. This has been discussed recently on this site, so I won’t go into it here; but it is essential for your kids’ emotional and spiritual well-being.

By having these as priorities over and above your kids, you can ensure that you are not spoiling them by dedicating a lot of time and attention to them. If you make them (or make then think they are) the most important thing in your life, you will spoil them.

Routines & Rhythms

Two notions related to time and keeping your kids Catholic are routines and rhythms.

By routines, I mean having a habitual structure to your time that ensures that the important things happen. For example, I bet you brush your teeth every morning and every evening, however busy or distracted you are. That is because you have a routine for it.

In the same way, a Catholic family needs a routine for its spiritual life: a morning offering, grace before and after meals, the Angelus at noon, a family rosary at some time during the day, and bedtime prayers. These should be part of the fabric of our kids’ lives, just in the same way that brushing our teeth is.

By rhythms  I mean the shape of the Church year. It is great to celebrate the feasts and seasons of the year, so that kids get a sense of salvation history relating to their lives. Start with advent: resist the temptation to get into Christmas too early (we never put our decorations up till Christmas Eve), and celebrate advent in its own right as a time of penance and preparation for the birth of Our Lord.

Likewise, keep the Christmas celebrations going till the feast of the Epiphany (6 Jan); and keep your crib (or creche in American?) up until the feast of the Purification (2 Feb). Lent and Easter deserve special attention, too, of course, especially Holy Week.

Even in ‘Ordinary Time’, make a fuss of all the big feasts of the Church – and your children’s patron saints’ feasts. We always bake and decorate cakes for the big feasts. All Saints and All Souls are particularly important, to counteract the silliness around Halloween. Above all, make being Catholic special and fun!

If you do this for a few years, you will establish traditions in your kids’ minds that will have them seeing the whole year with Catholic eyes: another great gift to give your kids!

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

One Response to More on Time…

  1. Great stuff, Ben. Routines and rhythms are so important.

    In addition to the prayer times you listed, I would also add short prayers whenever you leave or return from an outing. (These can usually be said in the car.)

    Like you guys, we always bake cakes for the special days…including a wonderful blue-icing cake for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.