Prayer Is at the Root

Prayer Is at the Root

More excellent thoughts fromPope Benedict on the family and catechizing children:

. . . the family and the Church – in practice, parishes and other forms of Ecclesial Community – are called to collaborate more closely in the fundamental task that consists, inseparably, in the formation of the person and the transmission of the faith.

We know well that for an authentic educational endeavour, communicating a correct theory or doctrine does not suffice. Something far greater and more human is needed: the daily experienced closeness that is proper to love, whose most propitious place is above all the family community, but also in a parish, movement or ecclesial association, in which there are people who care for their brothers and sisters because they love them in Christ, particularly children and young people, but also adults, the elderly, the sick and families themselves. The great Patron of educators, St John Bosco, reminded his spiritual sons that “education is something of the heart and that God alone is its master” (Epistolario, 4, 209).

The central figure in the work of educating, and especially in education in the faith, which is the summit of the person’s formation and is his or her most appropriate horizon, is specifically the form of witness. This witness becomes a proper reference point to the extent that the person can account for the hope that nourishes his life (cf. I Pt 3: 15) and is personally involved in the truth that he proposes.

On the other hand, the witness never refers to himself but to something, or rather, to Someone greater than he, whom he has encountered and whose dependable goodness he has sampled. Thus, every educator and witness finds an unequalled model in Jesus Christ, the Father’s great witness, who said nothing about himself but spoke as the Father had taught him (cf. Jn 8: 28).

This is the reason why prayer, which is personal friendship with Christ and contemplation in him of the face of the Father, is indispensably at the root of the formation of the Christian and of the transmission of the faith. The same is, of course, also true for all our missionary commitment, and particularly for the pastoral care of families: therefore, may the Family of Nazareth be for our families and our communities the object of constant and confident prayer as well as their life model.


Basilica of St John Lateran
Monday, 6 June 2005

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  • I found Aletha Solter’s books, especially “Tears and Tantrums” to be helpful when my children were this age. In particular the idea if you allow children to cry at home with loving attention, they won’t be prone to tantrums and acting out in public i.e. the grocery store, church, etc. Distracting her from crying may only be a stop gap until the next opportunity appears. She may need to _really_ cry and rage until she gets it all out.

    The description of Sophie being angry at you but still wanting your presence reminded me so much of the storms of adolescence with my older daughter…

  • You do books… try “The Tantrum” by Kathryn Lasky.  There are many copies in Minuteman, or you can buy it for little money on Amazon.  Worked for me!  I would also try asking Sophie to think about tantrums and what she can do to calm herself.  I am not much for child-driven discipline, and asking may get you nowhere at three.  (It worked more with my boys later on.)  My mother-in-law always swore by the ignore-it solution, but I had trouble with that in small apartments; I tended to isolate and ignore – but it was hard to be consistent when a child was yelling at the top of her lungs.  In the meantime, as you know from Bella, remember that three too will pass.

  • Is it terrible that I felt a little less alone reading about your struggles with Sophie? I wouldn’t even say it if not for the reason being, although I only have your blog to go on, that I doubt it’s something you did or didn’t do. It can be hard otherwise to see how my sweet, easy baby girl (not yet 3 but almost) became so, uh, feisty, so fast…

  • Cathy, I’ve been pretty lucky in that she usually doesn’t unleash her tantrums in public. I can only think of one time and that was when my mom was here and we went out for lunch. We needed to leave before Sophie was done eating and my mom took Anthony out to the car while I picked up trash and packed up the rest of the kids. Sophie freaked out over them not being with us and screamed and refused to move. It was very embarrassing. Mostly though she calms down out of the house. Sunday she was raging and raging into the car and halfway to church. But she was good as gold during Mass.

    Katherine, It’s not that five is so wonderful and Bella is a saint. It’s just that in comparison to Sophie she’s usually more open to reason.

    scotch meg,
    Once—once!—I had a productive chat with her about self-calming and she decided to go outside to calm down. Oh it was marvelous! I thought it was a major breakthrough But the same tactic hasn’t worked again since. For a long time she was having some success with self calming with her blanket and a cup of water but of late those things haven’t been enough. Isolate and ignore tends to result in things being thrown and doors being kicked loudly and my temper often gets worse not better.

    ex-new yorker, Yes! Three is hard. And yes, it starts a little before the birthday. And I totally understand. Knowing that you’re not alone sometimes makes all the difference in the world.

  • I don’t have any advice. I don’t have any wisdom in that regard. I am having my own difficulties with Cecilia. She desperately needs an attitude adjustment and I need more sleep.

    I just wanted to say that I sympathize with your struggle and I have faith in you as her mother, knowing you love her so much, that she is in the very best of hands and, no matter what works or what doesn’t, when she gets through this phase she will be happy to have your arms to run to. Prayers for both of you.

  • In the misery-loves-company vein, the worst tantrum I had to deal with was from my oldest when she was five or six.  Not that you want to hear that tantrums can continue for that long – and, alas, my more stubborn kids threw tantrums up to about age ten, which should tell you how stubborn they are.  Anyway, that child was put in her room behind a baby-gate and told not to come out.  I forget now whether there was a time limit or a calm-down limit, and I also forget what the infraction was.  What I have not forgotten is sitting in the living room with my second child and listening to her scream “I hate you” for at least twenty minutes.  Not my favorite memory of a bright, delightful daughter. 
    The storms DO subside.  Eventually.

  • What a great story about dealing graciously with young ones.  I am resolving to work that into my repertoire immediately—and am already thinking on what variants of her beautiful tactic I’ll use with “oh my gosh”!

  • Small success today. Sophie had a major meltdown when I announced that it was time to go to the grocery store. I managed to keep my temper and eventually defused it. I was very afraid I’d have to just go and leave her behind with my sister. I realized that she was upset because she both wanted to go and yet wasn’t ready to stop her game of dress up princess. I was able to acknowledge that I understood her frustration and emphasize that I would help her get dressed. Understanding why she’s upset makes it much easier to defuse. It’s so hard when I just have no clue what’s set her off.

    Of course by the time we got through all that it was so late and our grocery trip ran over into lunch time. Ben went down for nap with just string cheese and a chocolate chip cookie from the bakery counter in his belly. Oh well.

  • Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy,

    I’ve been trying to think of how to counter “oh my gosh”. 

  • Megan, Thanks for the reminder. I just kicked them all outside. There was wailing and gnashing of teeth at first but now they’re setting up a tea party for the dolls.

    I’m realizing that part of the problem for us is that the dew tends to stay on the grass all morning so they don’t like being out in it. I so wish we had a patio or deck where they could play when it is damp.

    Unfortunately during the actual meltdown Sophie usually doesn’t want to be touched. She seems to need to get the screaming out of her system. She does like to be cuddled after the worst of the storm has passed. Of course it’s all made so much more complicated by a nursing baby. HAving to put him down to deal with disciplinary things and having him wailing for milk makes it much harder to deal with things calmly and to take the time they really need. I feel pressure to resolve it quickly so I can get back to cuddling and nursing the baby.

    Definitely doing lots of praying of the “Oh God, help!” sort.

  • OH, wow. Yes. Three was not such a stormy time with my oldest, but oh WOW is it terrible with Aliza, my younger daughter. I really wish I had some words to offer you. I find myself praying daily (and often), Lord, please help me!

    Outdoor time seems to help calm and recenter her. When she is in meltdown mode, all I know to do is hold and console. And quietly pray. Seriously. I got nothing other than that.

    Three is like a hurricane. Pretty much all you can do is board up the windows and ride it out.

  • Much luck to you with your daughter’s tantrums!  My son is coming up on two, and it can be so trying sometimes.  I try to look at it from his perspective.  It can’t be easy being so little and not being able to convey things they way you want to.  Or saying exactly what you mean to say, and still having Mommy and Daddy not get it.  Or just getting told, “No,” and not understanding why it’s better for you not to dance on top of the dining table…

    I’ll be praying for your priest’s friend, the mother of four and her children.  That’s a lovely way to approach telling a child not to take the Lord’s name in vain.  Shoot, it’s a great way to approach anyone about it!