Just the thought of summer fast-approaching could bring thoughts of rest and relaxation to mind. We may recall the lazy days of summer during our youth. Summer may also mean anticipated excitement and adventure: exploring new places or trying new things.
Some families plan escapes to beaches and paradise vacations, while others may stay home and plan day trips to fun spots, the local library, or parks and recreation centers.
Summertime can be a time of well-deserved rest and also a welcome change of scenery. While making plans for our families this summer, let’s not forget about prayer. A change in schedule once we hit summertime and an eagerness to “get away from it all” could cause us to lose touch with our spiritual needs.
One strategy to help us remain prayerful this summer is to begin each day with prayer. This simple suggestion may seem like a no-brainer to a praying individual; however the busyness of mornings and preparations for summer outings of even the well intentioned “pray-ers” can cause prayer time to become lost in the commotion.
Getting on our knees when we face each new day and giving it right over to the Lord will indeed start the day off with the proper disposition. Mothers should teach their children to do the same. A morning offering in our own words or a more formal version and prayer to our Guardian Angels at the breakfast table works very well with our captive hungry “audience!” We can offer our hearts to God throughout our days as well. Teaching our children to begin their days with prayer is an invaluable lesson that will remain with them as they grow older and navigate life on their own. Pope John Paul II emphasized the importance of family prayer
When making plans for family trips, perhaps we can think about including shrines, basilicas, and holy places in our trips. When researching places of interest for our family this summer, we can utilize the many Catholic magazines, newspapers, and websites that often highlight interesting places for pilgrimages and visits. We can attempt to attain that nice balance of nourishment for our family’s spiritual life and fun and enjoyment to relax and entertain our senses.
Summer travel affords us many opportunities for prayer. Prayers such as the rosary can be said in common in the family vehicle en route to a vacation spot or while traveling to the beach, park, or picnic area for day trips. Each child can voice a prayer of petition about something that is close to their hearts and offer prayers of thanksgiving for God’s gifts — including family time together. Naturally, we will want to ask our good Lord for His protection over our family as we travel.
Turning the Negative Around
Annoyances and inconveniences can crop up at any time. Summer doesn’t automatically translate into bliss. However, the traffic jams, whiny children, bug bites, sunburn, or unexpected delays and mishaps can be turned around and used for good. We have a perfect opportunity to “offer it up” to God and ask Him to use a small sacrifice or inconvenience on our part for the good of others, rather than allowing the situation to cause us to become annoyed or angry. Let’s keep our cool and turn to prayer. We can ask our Lord to use our sufferings for the souls in purgatory so that they can get to Heaven a little faster.
The late Rev. John A. Hardon, SJ, a world renowned theologian and author and my former spiritual director, said in his book, Theology of Prayer (The Daughters of St. Paul, 1979), “When I suffer prayerfully, I recognize that God is behind the suffering and I humble my head in faith… when I suffer prayerfully, I trust that God has reasons for permitting what I endure and that in His own time and way, the experience now suffered will eventually somehow be a source of grace.”
These prayer times are not only spiritually enriching and gifts for the recipient, they also become beautiful teachable moments, pointing our children to patience and thinking of others during trials, helping them turn to prayer rather than allow a negative situation to get the best of them.
Whatever your family plans may be this summer, be sure to have fun, enjoy, and offer your joyful heart to the Lord! Your example of prayer throughout the summer days will inspire your family and others that God puts in your midst. Have a happy and holy summer!