January 28, 2011

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Praying for children is an important duty for parents

Sean GallagherI like to wake up early in the morning so that I can have some quiet time for prayer and reading before everyone else in our home wakes up.

But it is not uncommon for my 3-year-old son, Victor, to come quietly down the stairs while I’m eating my breakfast and doing my daily Scripture and other spiritual reading. Then he will quickly scamper across the kitchen floor to the table in the breakfast nook where I sit.

Victor will give me a hug with a big smile on his face and then say, ‘I’m just so hungry.” I really don’t mind being interrupted by something so cute. I’ll pause and smile at him then get him a bowl of cereal.

But before he starts eating, we’ll always pray a meal prayer together. Now Victor isn’t yet able to say the words of the prayer. But he’ll fold his hands like a good little boy. And when I place my folded hands next to his, Victor will often look up at me and smile then try to place his folded hands inside mine.

How can so much cuteness be fit inside such a little boy?

While Victor’s little breakfast routine is cute, I’ve also seen some deep spiritual meaning in it.

Parents have a lot of responsibility in raising their children. It’s their duty to teach them so many things. Some are profoundly important: knowing right from wrong, how to build a relationship of love with our Lord and with other people, etc. Others are more mundane, but are still significant: learning how to get dressed, go to the bathroom, bath oneself, etc.

But among all the day-to-day duties of a parent, one should never be forgotten: prayer. We should always be praying for our children.

When we fold our hands in prayer for them, their hands should always be spiritually inside of ours just like Victor’s are in my hands when I pray with him at breakfast.

The responsibilities that parents have for their children are so great that, in all honesty, they outstrip our ability to fulfill them. Our heavenly Father is the only parent truly capable of carrying the burdens of caring for his children. But he is always there to help us do the same in our families.

So, parents, go to him in prayer every day and ask him to help not only you but all other parents as well. It’s good for us to know that we not only have God on our side, but so many other parents as well.

The image of having our children’s hands in our hands is a powerful image in another way. For centuries, when one person places his hands in another’s, it’s been a deep symbol of that person pledging fidelity to the one who holds his hands. At the same time, the one who holds the hands of the other is symbolically pledging to care for that person.

This gesture is used today when a man is ordained a Catholic priest. At one point during the ordination ritual, the man places his hands in the hands of the bishop, who is ordaining him and promises to obey him and his successors.

When Victor places his hands in mine at the breakfast table, such thoughts are obviously not going through his young mind. And the occasion certainly isn’t solemn like an ordination.

But it still reminds me in a touching and poignant way of the sweet burden that God placed on my shoulders and those of all parents when he blessed us with the great gift of our children.

The duties of parenthood can seem bitter when we are tempted by selfishness. But when our children’s hands are spiritually in our own when we pray for them, our heavenly Father will keep these burdens sweet. †

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