It started with the bickering. It was the first Monday of the school year, and the day was already feeling long when I picked my children up from school. Tensions escalated as we approached the dinner hour. My 8-year-old daughter erupted over something and stormed down the hallway, slamming the door to her room. I breathed a sigh of relief when my husband got home from work, took our fussy baby, and distracted the other children from all of their arguing. My 8-year-old finally emerged from her room and seemed to have cooled down a little, and I was able to resume dinner preparations in a rare moment of peace.
But just when I thought our evening was looking up, the baby spit up all over my husband while simultaneously creating a toxic waste of a diaper. My four-year-old, having witnessed all of this, promptly walked into the kitchen and threw up all over the floor. And it was at about this time that my husband and I realized our 13-year-old had slinked off to play video games without permission.
So…put baby and four-year-old into the bath, discipline the 13-year-old, console the 8-year-old, all while yelling at my 6-year-old to “Stay out of the kitchen until I can clean up the throw-up!” Dear God, please don’t let anyone else throw up!
As I mopped up the mess, I looked at the book on my kitchen counter and remembered. This was going to be The Night. The night we sat down to a peaceful family dinner and started the prayers and conversation starters in the book Feeding Your Family’s Soul : Dinner Table Spirituality by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle.
In the midst of a busy family life, there never seems to be an ideal time to intentionally teach our children about our faith. We attend Mass, but it’s often a panicked rush out the door during which we realize that someone is missing their shoes. We pray before bed, but the raspberry-blowing baby has everyone giggling the entire time. We sit down for a family Rosary, but the tired toddler is screaming and using the Rosary for anything but sacred prayer. I want to read stories of the saints to my children, but between homework, piano practice, and bedtime exhaustion…when?!?
Maybe the chaos is a blessing in disguise. As a family, if we are going to live our faith, we have no choice but to act on it during the messiest times of life. We have to squeeze bits and pieces of focused discussion and instruction in when we can, and use the rest of our time to actually live our faith. We have to practice patience with each other when we’re all tired and hungry. We have to take a few minutes to set aside a portion of our family’s meal to share with someone in need. And we have to take advantage of time in the car together to pray a decade of the Rosary.
We’re living the missionary life in the heart of our domestic church. And Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle’s book is a help-mate along the way.
So, after I cleaned up the throw-up last Monday evening, I finished getting ready to feed my family’s bodies, and then I grabbed Feeding Your Family’s Soul and prepared to do just that. I want my children to know their faith; I want them to always embrace the Church and her teachings; I want them to become saints and get to heaven. But those things will be much more difficult to achieve if I don’t take consistent steps to help them.
Feeding Your Family’s Soul gives our family simple steps to follow–steps that seemed simple and do-able even after an especially chaotic afternoon. In each of the 53 chapters of her book, Donna-Marie gives a short dinner time prayer, a brief lesson on an aspect of our Catholic faith, some points from a related saint, and a plan to put the lesson into action over the next week. There are also some fun recipes to try with your family. It’s easy. It’s flexible. And it works! The discussion questions have opened up lively conversation at our dinner table, while also giving us focused, Christ-centered reflection. Sometimes my children have a lot to say in answer to the reflection questions at dinner time. Other times, they bring up an idea for carrying out the “dinner table teaching” long after the dishes have been washed and put away.
The purpose of the book is already evident in the climate of our home. Most evenings, we only get around to briefly discussing one reflection question, but it sets the tone for our actions for the entire week.
My goal is to work through all of the chapters in Feeding Your Family’s Soul over the next year. Watch for more “Soul Project” posts as I chronicle our successes and learning moments while we grow in our faith.
Copyright Charisse Tierney 2017