The Father who doesn’t pray

Sep 28, 2021 / Written by: America Needs Fatima

Little Paul, who is only four-and-a-half-years old, is kneeling beside his bed saying his night prayers; they seem to be very long.

“Haven’t you finished your prayers?” asks his nurse.

“Yes,” answers the child slightly embarrassed.

“Well, then, what are you doing now?” The child blushes, and murmurs timidly, “I say two of them every night—my own and papa’s. I heard him refuse mama when she asked him to say his prayers; so now I am doing it for him.”

Precocious, would you say? Maybe so. But have children not often startled us with their insight?

How foolish are those parents who believe they can fail in logic before their children! How little do parents know of the workings of those little minds and those little hearts! How little do parents know how these little ones can put to use what they hear!

Lady Baker, a convert, writes in The House of Light that when she was 11 years old, she overheard a conversation between her father and mother on the subject of religion. The father was saying, “I heard a good sermon today; it pointed out how the Reform was a great mistake and that England would have been much better off without it . . . .”

“Be still,” interrupted his wife in a scandalized tone, “be careful before the children.”

“I was sent off to my studies,” continues Lady Baker, “and I heard no more of the conversation; but I took to dreaming over these strange words.”

That very evening, while taking a walk with the maid, she asked to visit a Catholic church. From that date, she says, the desire was born in her to study the beginnings of the pretended Reform and to change her religion later should this study prove that what her father had said was true.

It may be that I have not lost the habit of prayer, thanks to God’s grace, but it could easily be that I do not let my children see me praying often enough. To pray, and to let one’s children see that one prays, are two different things. It is not enough to pray as an individual only. My duty as head of the family is to pray in the name of the family, in the sight of the family and with the family. My boys must know that their father honors God. They must see that he conducts himself respectfully before Him. They must learn from his example the great duty of adoration and worship. Prayer, at least evening prayer, should be said in common. In many families where all gather together at the end of the day to honor God, it is the mother who leads the prayer until the time comes when each child will be able to take a turn. It would be much better if the father would take the lead. It is the function that belongs to him, a function that is almost priestly in character.

Should it ever happen that I have occasion to pass unfavorable judgment on a churchman or on some religious incident, though it could seldom happen that such an action would be my right, I must take care as to who is listening. Children don’t miss anything . . . let me give that some thought.

*Adapted from Father Raoul Plus, S.J.’s Christ in the Home (Colorado Springs, CO: Gardner Brothers, 1951), 241–243. Christ in the Home is a treasure chest of advice for Catholics on the practical and spiritual concerns of raising a family.