Husband & Wife Articles


Practical Prayer Plans

Ways for families to keep the faith at home

By Kevin DiCamillo

We’ve all heard of Father Patrick Payton’s saying, “The family that prays together, stays together.” The question, though, is how to pray together. As our lives change, our prayer lives must change as well.

Early in our marriage my wife, Alicia, and I attended Monday night holy hours at our parish, which included exposition and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the holy rosary, silent meditation and Benediction. We always prayed for children during those evenings. After five years, our prayers were answered. We were blessed with adopted newborn twins. Yet with the sudden double child care duties, we no longer had time to make holy hours together. So we developed a practical prayer plan: family Mass on Sunday, grace before meals and prayers with the kids before bed. We found wisdom in what St. Francis de Sales tells us, that it would be nonsense for a married couple with children to spend their days in church – even though, we agreed, a quiet church setting would bring some peace to the endless stream of housework, bath time, and meal-making!

The author with his wife, Alicia, and their two children, Giovanni Paolo and Agnes.

Over the years, we’ve adapted new forms of prayer for our family. The Angelus in the morning, at noon and around 6 p.m. takes all of about two minutes as we contemplate the Annunciation and the Incarnation. We try to fit this into our individual prayer lives, together as husband and wife, as well as with our twins. Coupled with the Angelus, the Seven Dolors (sorrows) of the Blessed Virgin Mary also makes an excellent prayer to Our Lady and gives us a few minutes of peace.

There’s also the Divine Office, known today as the Liturgy of the Hours. Though learning how to pray it in full can be daunting – four volumes, five ribbons and a guidebook written in an inscrutable code known as an “Ordo” – there are simpler ways to learn it. For those who have not yet discovered this “ever ancient, ever new” form of prayer, perhaps the easiest way to begin is The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Compline (Night Prayer) is the shortest “hour” and is comprised of just one psalm and two very short readings. It is, after several attempts, easy to memorize. Alicia and I prayed it together early and often in our marriage because Alicia worked varying shifts at the hospital.

The Catholic Book Publishing Company also produces A Shorter Liturgy of the Hours. It contains what are considered the two “hinge hours” of the Divine Office : Lauds (Morning Prayer) and Vespers (Evening Prayer). I learned to pray the Divine Office by choosing one of them and saying it five times a week, trying to get into the rhythm. It helped that each time took all of about 12 minutes. Once you’ve gotten the hang of praying Lauds and Vespers, the one-volume Christian Prayer is a great resource that incorporates all of the hours.

There’s also the rosary. From start to finish the rosary takes less than a half-hour. Growing up, on any car trip over 30 minutes long, my family always prayed the rosary. And as we got older my brother and sister and I were encouraged to lead a decade. This is a tradition I’ve tried to keep with my own wife and children.

St. John XXIII and the Council Fathers at Vatican II envisioned the Liturgy of the Hours as no longer the exclusive province of priests, bishops, deacons and religious. After it was translated from Latin into the vernacular, it became more accessible to the laity. Doing so didn’t change the contents of what the universal Church prayed, but offered a lesson in finding a way to pray most fit for the present moment. In addition, the Divine Office, holy hours, Angelus and rosary allow the domestic church to do the same.

Kevin DiCamillo is a freelance writer and editor based in northern New Jersey. He has been a member of Don Bosco Council 4960 since 2002.