Not sure why, but last night as I was getting ready for bed suddenly it seemed very urgent to write a blog entry about our bedtime prayers with Isabella. Maybe it’s because I’ve been reading two good books about Catholic motherhood and prayer, Prayerfully Expecting and Mom to Mom, Day to Day and so have been thinking more about the intersection of parenting and prayer life. Maybe because recently when I tell people I’m praying for them I feel this urge to also tell them that I’m usually praying for them with Bella and Dom in context of Bella’s prayers. Maybe it’s just that to me this is one of the best moments of the day, the center of our domestic church, and it feels right to share a little description of it with my readers.
Much of our ritual is borrowed and adapted from the one Dom’s sister, Evelyn and her husband, Peter, use with their kids. Before we were married and before we had Bella we frequently had opportunity to join their family for bedtime prayers when we had gone over for dinner. I loved their little rituals, was so touched when the girls blessed my head with holy water and prayed for me in their intentions and invited me to add my own. But of course, we’ve also added our own touches.
Here’s the rough version of what we are doing now.
Isabella’s Bedtime Prayers
First, we pull out the bottle of holy water and Isabella sticks her finger in. (She loves that part.) I help her to cross herself: “In the Name of the Father…” and then to bless me with a cross on the forehead (God bless Mommy), to bless Daddy, and to bless “the baby in mommy’s belly”. Then Dom and I repeat the ritual: crossing ourselves and then blessing Bella, each other, and my belly.
Then Dom and I say together: God bless you, Isabella. May your guardian angel watch over you. We pray that you sleep all night long, stay healthy and strong, and grow up to be a good Catholic girl. Amen.
Then we say an Our Father, a Hail Mary and a Glory Be.
Then: God bless Mommy and Daddy, Isabella, baby Francis, and the baby in Mommy’s belly, Nana and Nanu [Dom’s parents], Grandma and Grandpa [my parents], all your aunts and uncles, all your cousins, and Grandma Millie [my grandmother].
God bless all those who are sick, especially… [We list all the names of friends, family, including online friends and all those people we have been asked to pray for.]
God bless all those who have died, especially…
God bless all the mommies who are expecting babies, especially… [very long list here!]
God bless all the mommies who have recently had babies, especially…
God bless all the parents who are struggling with infertility and who have lost children (sometimes we specify those who have had miscarriages, but that’s also implied in losing children.), especially….
God bless all those who are praying for us and those who have asked for our prayers, especially….
God bless all those who are looking for work, especially…
Thank you God for Daddy’s job and bless him in it.
God bless all those who don’t have a place to live and help them find a home. Thank you God for our new home, bless us in it and keep us safe.
We add other intentions that come to mind, sometimes we pray for married couples and ask God to bless all marriages and to help married people to faithfully live their sacrament as a sign of Christ’s love for his Bride, the Church. Sometimes give thanks for particular things about the day.
So How Does It Actually Work?
Most of the time Bella is tired and cranky and ready for bed and does not sit happily on my lap through prayers. Often I give her a plastic rosary to play with. Frequently that does not satisfy. Usually I let her begin nursing and, as we finish praying, Dom kisses her, tells her he loves her, and then goes out. She finishes nursing and then I put her down to sleep.
I like the practice of praying for a child’s future spouse, if he or she is called to marriage, and as Bella gets older I’d like to put more emphasis on that. Now, I usually forget to include it.
As she gets older I’m sure this bedtime ritual will develop and change, and she’ll start originating petitions and participating much more.
Another thing that my sister-in-law and her family do that I like is invoking patron saints and other saints they have particular devotions to. Again, I never remember it when we’re praying.
Dom and I usually pray Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours before we go to bed. I know it should be said in the evening; but with dinner and dishes and putting Bella to bed, it often gets lost in the shuffle. And it’s nice that prayer together is the last thing we do before going to sleep. Sometimes when it’s really late or we’re tired, we say the night prayer at our bedtime. Sometimes we do get our act together and say evening prayer after dinner, which usually leads to some nice together time as we continue to sit on the couch and talk about other things after the prayers are concluded.
Please feel free to share your own family’s prayer rituals. I love getting a glimpse of how people pray with children and want to get more ideas.