July 15, 2024

By Lois Heron

We continue our theme of the family altar this month by considering our “why” for prioritizing a holy atmosphere in our homes. Moses instructed God’s people to observe the statutes and ordinances of God diligently so that their children and children’s children may revere the Lord. He ended by saying, “observe them, that it may go well with you” (Dt 6:3).

Our children are growing up in a culture of competing worldviews manufactured to lead us to anywhere but God. The balance of living in the world and not of it seems more challenging to maintain than ever before. Where do our children learn a Christian worldview if not in our home?

All of us, at one time or another, search for the answers to the five big questions of existence. Where did I come from? Who am I? Why am I here? How should I live? Where am I going? God’s intention for our families is for them to learn the answers in the home environment. How are we doing at that?

Yes, the rubric for answering those questions is contained in the Sacred Scriptures and the worship of the Mass, but does it really answer life’s questions? A resounding yes!

Our children can learn to know their origin, identity and purpose as we create an environment where the answers to the questions of morality and destiny are woven moment by moment into the very fiber of our children’s understanding. So, let’s revisit the first lines of the Shema to observe how we can do this.

“The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength. Take to heart these words which I command you today” (Dt 6:4-6).

As discussed in last month’s article, these words are our Magna Carta for creating our home atmosphere around the truth, goodness and beauty of the faith. We must be intentional and remain at our post as parents and grandparents so that it will go well for our family.

Lois Heron is a parishioner at the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Sioux Falls. She is a retired educator and a writer.

Notice that Moses then instructed, “Take to heart these words …” What does that mean, and how do we do it? To “take to heart,” or more simply to “keep,” is to “cause to continue in a specified condition, position or course.” Webster’s Dictionary expands the meaning by referring to this phrase, “The guidance system keeps the machine on course.” When we “keep the faith,” we guide our family on the course of God’s desire for us and our future generations. How do we do that?

“Keep repeating them to your children. Recite them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up” (Dt 6:7).

There are so many things to keep track of in our busy family lives, aren’t there? Perhaps a minor assessment of the busyness of your family life is in order. What can you eliminate? Where can you carve out 15 minutes to unite each day as a holy family? There is always a way, but not always a will. Ask the Lord for his will to be your will for your family. Yes, it is inevitable to experience some resistance, but you are the parent! Stay the course.

One last thought about the word “keep.” As a noun, keep refers to a castle’s most vital or central tower, acting as a final refuge. Establishing a family altar in our home serves as a “keep” for our children. When we build our Catholic faith as the most substantial influence in our family life, our children will know where to return to when they encounter their existential crisis, which is inevitable for all of us.

The beauty of honoring the Lord as a family is that we learn together as we discuss the faith. I recommend a few age-appropriate Bible storybooks to you. The following recommendations are ecumenical in that they contain nothing untoward to our Catholic faith:

  • “The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name” is appropriate for 2-6-year-olds.
  • “The Action Bible: God’s Redemptive Story” is appropriate for school-aged children and adolescents.
  • I highly recommend “The Power of the Praying Parent” by Stormie Omartian (there is a grandparent version that we use regularly for our grandchildren). Prayer is the foundation for our success as holy parents and grandparents.

Holy Father, we are grateful that we are not alone. You are our teacher, always whispering to us, “This is the way; walk in it.” Help us to listen. Your word promises that we honor you in praise and worship, our future generations will declare you as Lord. We are banking on that, Lord. Lead us on!
–Amen (Adapted from Is 30:21; Ps 145:4)