This is day two of the Five Days of Advent Traditions for Catholic Families. Today’s focus is prayer, including solemn and interactive devotions.
I don’t work out on Sundays. Instead, I take my two year old to mass.
There’s juggling. Wrangling. Swift, ninja-like exits.
I’m lucky if we’re still in the pew for Father’s homily.
But there is one saving grace: the babe finds it easiest to focus during the consecration. Those sky-blue eyes track the smoke from the thurible to the gilded ceiling; his little form trembles with excitement as Father elevates the chalice (THE CUP!!!! THE CUP!!!!).
This boy feeds on activity. When there’s action on the altar, he’s focused and alert.
It’s much the same with family prayer time; our children are most enthusiastic when we have an outward sign of prayer. Take the Advent wreath, for example. My daughters scramble to light the candle each night, then fight over who gets to extinguish the flame
The Advent season offers several beautiful opportunities for family prayer. I’m excited to share some of our favorites with you, with suggestions for solemn devotion and interactive involvement.
Four Simple Opportunities that Bring Advent Prayer Time to Life
The Saint Andrew Novena
The name on this one’s a little misleading. Novenas are typically nine days long. But this devotion, also called the Christmas Anticipation Prayer, begins on St. Andrew the Apostle’s feast day (November 30) and runs through Christmas Day.
To pray the novena, gather your family and repeat the following prayer fifteen times:
Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God! to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.
This devotion invokes the power of the incarnation and Virgin Birth. I liken its recitation to remembering special intentions during the consecration. Because the prayer focuses on the hour and the moment in which Christ was born of Mary, it directs our thoughts toward the mystery and miracle of God made flesh.
Suggestions for praying the Saint Andrew Novena with children:
- Use a manipulative tool, like a set of rosary roses. Have the children place a rose in the basket with each recitation
- Walk and pray outside, stopping at intervals to recite the prayer
- Fill in a coloring page as your pray all fifteen sets; using one page for each day of the novena
Make a Prayer Chain
My list of prayer intentions is miles long – and only a handful of them are for my needs. I know so many people in need of prayer that it can be difficult to keep track of every intention. Enter the paper chain – the old school decoration we used to make in elementary art class.
- Write your prayer intentions on strips of construction paper (8×2 works well), then drop them into a box or basket.
- Remove an intention on the first day, fasten the ends together with glue or tape, and hang it as the beginning of your prayer chain.
- Make that intention the focus of your family and individual prayer time for the day.
- Follow the same steps the next day, adding the new intention as a link on the prayer chain.
By the end of Advent, you’ll have a visual record of all the people you’ve prayed for throughout the season. (For a Christmas card variation, choose one family a day as your prayer focus. Create a Christmas card banner with a hole puncher and string, adding cards as you pray.)
Use an Advent Prayer Planner
Yep – a prayer planner. We use planners and calendars for day-to-day business. Why not use one for prayer? I’m fond of this booklet from Catholic Box (it has an Advent wreath blessing, devotions, major feast days and space for personalization) but any planner or feast day calendar will work. Planners make intentions concrete: if it’s written down, it’s scheduled, and you’re much more likely to follow through.
Recite the O Antiphons
We all know that Jesus’ birth fulfills the promises of the Old Testament. The “O” Antiphons make this real, connecting Old Testament imagery to the birth of Christ. The Antiphons are an ancient tradition, having been part of the Roman church since at least the 8th century. They are simple, beautiful, and traditionally recited from December 17 -23. You can find them here, on the USCCB website.
Children are busy, and they’re going to be active during prayer time. Why not help them be active in a positive way – one that not only encourages participation but also a true understanding of the nature of the Advent season.
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