Neither my husband nor I grew up Catholic. What I mean by that is we may have gone to Mass with our families every Sunday (or every Christmas and Easter), but outside of church, our day-to-day lives did not include God, the Gospel, or other religious traditions. Thankfully, with age came wisdom.
Before we married, we had fully embraced Catholicism by our own volition. So when we became parents, we were both determined to incorporate our faith into our family’s daily life. It wasn’t easy. So from the beginning, we practiced small rituals each day: praying before and after meals, praying to our guardian angels before bed, making brief but frequent visits to the Tabernacle. Little by little, these rituals simply became natural parts of our everyday life. I used to worry our children might find these traditions boring or treat them as a chore. But, as usual, the Holy Spirit surprised me.
If you hope to renew your family’s faith, try this seven-day challenge based on the seven heavenly virtues. If it doesn’t work out the first (or fifth) time, don’t worry. Pray like St. Josemaría Escrivá: “O Lord, here I am beginning, beginning, always just beginning! I will try, however, to push forward each day with all my heart.” God will bless your efforts!
Any conversion of heart begins first and foremost with prayer. Choose one that your family will commit to saying at the same time every day. Appoint a particular saint or theme depending on your family’s needs. Our family likes to say the St. Joseph prayer for purity.
O Guardian of Virgins and holy Father St. Joseph, into whose faithful keeping were entrusted Christ Jesus, Innocence itself, and Mary, Virgin of virgins, I pray and beseech thee by these dear pledges, Jesus and Mary, that, being preserved from all uncleanness, I may with spotless mind, pure heart and chaste body ever serve Jesus and Mary most chastely all the days of my life. Amen.
Print out and frame your family prayer. Hang it somewhere prominent in your home. Keep the prayer saved on your phone so you can say it together even when you’re out and about.
Hope is both desiring something and expecting to receive it. Live out this virtue by making a “Hope in a Jar.” Each person writes a special intention or name they want to pray for on small slips of paper. Fold and place them in the jar. Each morning, choose one slip of paper. Whatever is written will be your family’s personal intention for the prayers, works and sufferings of that day.
Decorate your jar with the word “hope.” Keep a small pad of colorful sticky notes and a pen beside it so everyone can easily add prayer intentions to the jar.
True charity is loving God above all things spiritual and material. Instead of giving like the rich man who lets the poor man eat the scraps from his table, practice “giving the shirt off your back.” Each person chooses to donate a personal item they would be glad to give to a friend.
Place these items in a donation box in a visible spot in your home. When it gets full, take it to your nearest church, donation center or drop-off location. You can also go online to Pickup Please or Salvation Army to schedule a free pickup from your home.
Fortitude is enduring fear, pain or adversity with courage and strength. Together, read Psalm 27, verse 1:
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The Lord is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?
Each person shares one fear they want to overcome, and the whole family brainstorms small ways they can conquer it. For instance, if someone is shy, suggest they introduce themselves to someone new, greet a stranger or speak up in school or at work.
Print out these free printable candles for each family member. Write down their goal (e.g., be brave) on the first candle and “light” it by coloring in the flame. Each time someone practices fortitude, “light” another candle. Once all the candles are “lit,” celebrate Christ as light for your family with a “re-birthday” cake or other special treat.
Justice is ensuring every person is cared for as a child of God. Choose an organization your family will sponsor through prayer, volunteering, fundraising, etc. Reduce poverty in the United States through Catholic Charities. Advocate for the dignity of all human life through Live Action. Or respond to emergencies by helping the poorest and most vulnerable people overseas through Catholic Relief Services.
Visit the organization’s “Stories” or “Media” page and read about the real ways they have changed the lives of individuals and families. Create a small collage of people and places you’ll be serving through your family’s contributions.
Temperance is the practice of moderation and self-restraint. Is there something your family likes to indulge in (e.g., dessert after dinner, movie night or dining out)? List all the delights you’re thankful to enjoy together as a family. Then choose one or a few of them to give up for a period of time.
Make it visual by placing a grain of rice or bean in a bowl each time you or a family member engages in temperance. Each grain represents a dollar amount your family can use toward a new image, icon, crucifix or other religious article for your home. After all, the more you practice self-control, the more space you’ll have for God and others.
Prudence is often referred to as the “mother of all virtues” because it’s what enables us to manage all other virtues. It is viewing situations through the eyes of Jesus and responding as He would. On day seven, look back and reflect on how prudence enabled you to live faith, hope, charity, fortitude, justice and temperance over the week. Ask yourself: What is one virtue you would like to renew beyond this challenge?
Have each person write their virtue on a white flash card. Tape or string them together to create a banner. Hang your family’s “chain of virtues” on or above the door you use most often so you’ll remember them whenever you enter or leave your home.
Living virtuously isn’t just for clergy or religious. It enables us to be our most authentic selves. When we practice the virtues, we become more aware of the people around us and how we can serve them. This allows us to see true beauty, joy and holiness in the world around us, and we become more like Christ.