Catholic Sentinel photos by Ed Langlois
The Wade family — Joey, Matt, Anna, Paddy, Barbara and Clancy — pray the rosary in their Southeast Portland living room.
Catholic Sentinel photos by Ed Langlois
The Wade family — Joey, Matt, Anna, Paddy, Barbara and Clancy — pray the rosary in their Southeast Portland living room.
From a Southeast Portland living room, the Wade family showers regular praise on the Lord of the Universe.

A nightly rosary is just one part of family prayer for these members of St. Agatha Parish. The Wades have five children, ages 19 to 1.

“It’s about prayer throughout the day,” explains Barbara, the mom. “I constantly talk about faith and I think that is part of family prayer, sharing this relationship with God where everyone can feel God has a presence in your life, not just in church.”

The Wades make sure to eat together, too, and pray before and after meals.  

Catholic leaders say family prayer is one of the most important acts on the planet— not only does it give praise to God, it binds the family and helps create healthy relationships. The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls the home “the first school of Christian life.”
“Our kids start praying when they are old enough to say ‘Amen,’” Barbara says. Toddlers can make the sign of the cross early on. As they mature, the children are given more advanced roles. Joey, 9, uses a book to introduce each mystery briefly. By first Communion time, the Wade children can recite the full rosary.

Paddy, 18, still takes part and sees the value.

“It’s definitely given me a stronger sense of family,” Paddy says.

Barbara and Matt give their children a chance to design how family prayer goes for the year. They can select certain prayers and claim certain duties.  

As with most families, prayer in the Wade house is not always placid through and through. The family usually prays in shifts, with the youngest children going first and going to bed before the older members pray the rosary. On the occasions when everyone prays together, 4-year-old Anna can last awhile, but eventually gets antsy.

Clancy, 1, walks happily from worshiper to worshiper, but sometimes wants to claim hold of Anna’s rosary, prompting her to object strenuously.

The parents soothe the situation skillfully, then shrug. That’s family life.

There are evenings the Wades feel exhausted but pray anyway.

“It’s more important to do when you don’t want to,” says Paddy. “That’s when you need it.”  

Barbara knows that teens rebel against family prayer and that force doesn’t  work. She realized that teens need their space and often will flourish once they get it. The oldest son now prays on his own, and even joined the Confraternity of the Rosary.  

Barbara grew up a member of St. Matthew Parish in Hillsboro, praying regularly with her family. “It made me realize God is a person and not just a deity,” she says. “He really was part of our lives.”

After she married, she stopped saying a family rosary for years. It left a void that she sought to fix a decade ago by reviving family prayer. It has made her feel “whole.”

Matt had long practiced silent contemplative prayer, and still does, including the perpetual adoration chapel at St. Agatha. But he describes the vocal prayer as vital to his family’s unity. “It focuses us on one thing together,” he says. “It’s a deep experience we share.”

The Wades have made an impact on their parish community.
“They are a very faith-based family,” says Karen Blodgett, office manager at St. Agatha’s. “They are uplifting to be around.”

Family prayer can create long memories. Maria Fazio, an 83-year-old member of Holy Rosary Parish in Northeast Portland, was a girl in Italy during World War II. At one point, the hill her family lived on was sandwiched between German soldiers and Italian soldiers.

Each evening, her father had the family pray the rosary — then said in Latin — loud enough for both camps to hear. It was not before the family could detect both Germans and Italian troops praying along. Fazio believes the prayer saved her family from being hit by crossfire and bombardment. To this day, she hosts parish friends for a weekly rosary and Bible study on her house on Sauvie Island.   

“We always encourage families to start small,” says Susan Wallace of Holy Cross Family Ministries in Easton, Mass. “Say grace at dinner, pray at bedtime, thank God for the day. Then add more: maybe holy water at the door. Parents and children blessing each other is a beautiful thing you can do.”

Holy Cross Family Ministries carries on the work of the late Holy Cross Father Patrick Peyton. He is the one who coined the now-famous phrase, “The family that prays together stays together.”  

Wallace says children should be encouraged to pray about matters of daily life that concern them: being bullied, trouble with a teacher, conflict with a sibling. Praying for other people slowly makes them less self-centered, she says.

“We want to have peace in the home and unity in the home and have those moments when we can forgive each other,” Wallace says. “Prayer gives the opportunity and the grace for that to happen.”

Best of all, Wallace explains, home prayer shows kids that faith is not something just for Sundays at church.

“If you pray at home, it becomes a part of who we are,” Wallace says. “We need to know there is something beyond us we can rely on.”

For tip sheets, instruction videos and other information about family prayer from Holy Cross Family Ministries, call 1-800-299-7729 or go to hcfm.org.