Faith Can Be Caught, Not Taught

May 10, 2012 at 3:23 pm Leave a comment

By Chris Thomas

 

Pray, then, in this way:  Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name… Matthew 6:9 NAB

 

When our sons were small, evenings would be full of bubbles and baths, pajamas and stuffed animals. The lights would be lowered and the four of us would share prayer. Memorized ones like the Lord’s prayer and spontaneous ones beginning with “thank you, Jesus” followed by gratitude for the day’s happenings. We would end with a blessing by tracing a cross on each others forehead. I treasure the memory of our middle son’s two year old face – so solemn and so cherubic – as he touched his chubby thumb to my forehead and said “God bless you, Mommy”.

As parents, we made a special effort to set aside time for family prayer during Lent. These forty days after Ash Wednesday mark a time of reflection and preparation for Easter. Christians have a long history of observing Lent. As early as the second century, St. Irenaus wrote about the early churches readying for Easter. Forty days mirror the time of fasting that Moses endured before receiving the Ten Commandments; Elijah walked for forty days to Mount Horeb; and perhaps most importantly, Jesus spent forty days in the desert in preparation and reflection before he began his public ministry.

The word Lent comes from the Dutch word “lente” which originally meant the “lengthening of daylight” and eventually became the general term for springtime. In 2012, it is observed by most Western Christian churches from Ash Wednesday, February 22 to Easter Sunday, April 7.

Traditionally, Christians have spent this time in prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  I have always been of the belief that faith is more “caught” than “taught”.  Instead of just telling our kids about these practices, we did them together. 

Prayer is our conversation with God. As we take time to speak and to listen, we grow closer in our relationship with him. During the rest of Lent, your family might commit to attending your church on Sundays, praying together at bedtime or saying a blessing before meals.

Fasting can take many forms. It is an ancient practice that reminds us of our hunger for God. In the past we have given up chocolate, sodas or eating out. One year, we decided as a family to give up television. It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. We had more time for reading, family games and getting to bed earlier.

Almsgiving is giving to the needy in love and is our response to all God has given us. Your family might give up a night out to give that money to your favorite charity or collect change to have the children put in the offering at church.

Finding time for prayer and reflection, fasting from food or activity, and giving from our material goods are not necessarily easy but they are worth the effort. The celebration of the resurrection of Christ at Easter will be experienced more deeply when our hearts have spent Lent in reflection and preparation. 

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