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“The family that prays together stays together.” This statement is attributed to Fr. Patrick Peyton of the Family Rosary Crusade. He is now a candidate for beatification, and he is now Venerable Patrick Peyton. The family that prays together stays together. All families have to pray. All families that ever roamed this earth have to pray except one. Who is that family? All families have to pray except the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
First of all, Jesus did not have to pray. He was God; He is God. Therefore for and what will a God pray? Mary did not have to pray. She was sinless. Joseph was taking care of God and a sinless woman. What for is there to pray? Yet among all the families that ever roamed this earth, it was the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph that prayed the most. They prayed more than any other family ever prayed. This ought to put us to shame because this family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph did not have to pray yet they prayed a lot, while we who have to pray, hardly pray.
On the Feast of the Holy Family, the focus is on the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, praying even if they did not have to pray, praying more than all of us had prayed together. They are an example of the family at prayer all the time. The family that prays together stays together.
What kind of prayer did the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph do? I am sure if I asked “Do you pray?”, The answer would be “Yes.” Actually what most of us might mean by “Yes, I pray” is “Yes, I say my prayers.” Saying our prayers and praying are two different things. In fact, in order to be able to pray better, we have to say less structured words called prayer because our prayer life is affected negatively by saying too much “prayer” that we are not able to pray at all. Our minds, our hearts are so concerned with reading our prayers, saying our prayers that we no longer have the time to listen to God and allow God to speak to us. We are always talking. We are always saying our prayers. What kind of prayer is needed then? First, personal prayer—there is no substitute for personal, individual prayer. What do I mean by that?
Did we not catch Jesus praying and going to the mountain in solitude to pray? Before choosing the twelve, He prayed all night. In the desert He fasted and prayed for forty days. Mary in the gospel, is always presented as Mary treasuring all things in her heart. That is prayer. Mary was not saying a prayer. Jesus was not saying prayers. They were praying. I am sure Mary did not know how to pray the “Hail Mary”, but Mary prayed a lot. She treasured all these things in her heart. Joseph spoke with God and listened to God in dreams. Search the whole New Testament, there is not one sentence attributed to Joseph. Joseph is always encountering God in his dreams. Personal prayer.
The second type of prayer is that the family must be a school of prayer. The family must engage in family prayer. They must pray together. It is not only Daddy praying and Mommy praying and Ate and Kuya praying, by themselves. That is correct. But more than that, the family—the father, the mother, the children—must pray together. The duty to teach prayer, the duty to teach the faith and transmit our faith rests on the parents not on the school. Good children are made at home by good parents. Parents can send their children to the best schools but unless they set their hearts on being good parents, money is just wasted on high tuition fees because the best teacher is the example of a good parent.
When most of us here were children, we did not have computers. We did not have game boys and we did not have the Internet. We wanted Stories. We asked our elders to read books to us. When I wanted stories, I told my parents, my elders, my ate and my kuya, to tell me stories. Now that I am an adult, I realize that when I asked my parents to tell me stories and they had no more stories, they just retold the old stories. I didn’t mind because those stories taught me how to be makatao. Those stories taught me how to be defeated and still be able to laugh. Those stories taught me how to win and yet be humble. Those stories taught me how to do pakikipagkapwa-tao. Unfortunately, when our children ask us to tell them stories, we tell them, “Please play with your game boy, go to your computers, surf the net and collect your stories there.” Unfortunately, there is no computer game, there is no computer story that will teach our children how to be human beings. Computers and machines have no feelings. I am afraid that when our children grow, up they will not turn out to be humans but computers incapable of feeling, teamwork, relating, and loving because these are things only a human being can transmit to fellow human beings.
The third component of prayer in the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is that they did not only pray individually. They did not only pray as a family. They prayed with other families. They prayed with other families in the temple. That is why Mary and Joseph carried Jesus to the temple. It is as if they were going to Church, fulfilling their obligations as all Jewish families do. It is very rewarding and heartwarming for me to see families come together for Sunday Eucharist. It is so fulfilling for me as a priest to see families coming together for Mass on Sundays. It is not only a privilege, it is a duty for parents and children to come together to the same Sunday Mass, to the same altar, partaking of the same bread and the same cup because a praying family is not only a praying family by itself. A praying family must join other families, realizing that we belong to a bigger family, with God as our Father.
The family that prays together stays together: If the whole word is our family, and if only the whole world will pray as a family, this world will stay together, and the threat of war will be behind us. War will not be a reality staring at our faces. It is also Fr. Peyton who said that, “A world at prayers is a world at peace.”
This is our reality: husbands and wives fighting, children fighting their parents, brothers and sisters fighting each other. My solution might sound simplistic but it has been tested by time and proven effective. The family that prays together, stays together. That is why Jesus, Mary and Joseph, their memory celebrated, is an example of personal prayer, family prayer and community prayer.
Love Like Jesus