You probably didn’t even know there WERE 490 ways to be a Catholic family, did you?
If you didn't know there were 490 ways to be a Catholic family, relax . . . you didn't miss some obscure Catholic factoid. I just made that number up! In reality, there are many ways of being a Catholic family, probably too many to count.
So why bother throwing out a number at all? You can't quantify faith, can you?
Well . . . no and yes. No, you can't mark off items on a checklist until your faith is "done." Saint Peter isn't going to meet you at the Pearly Gates with a clipboard and measuring tape. Right?
On the other hand, we quantify our physical health all the time. We keep track of how many calories and carbs we eat, our BMI, our resting heart rate, our blood sugar level, the number of cavities we have. Some of us even keep track of how many miles we can run or how many pushups we can do. None of those numbers, by themselves, offer a clear-cut definition of physical health. But taken together, they help us keep on track with our physical health.
At a minimum, your doctor probably urges you to make sure you follow a handful of core practices to stay healthy. You know what they are, so say them with me now!
Eat a balanced diet. Get plenty of exercise. Get plenty of sleep.
Brush your teeth and floss twice a day. Avoid stress
and unnecessary encounters with killer rabbits.
Or so says my doctor.
Well, anyway, you can see where I'm taking this, right?
Five key practices for your family's spiritual health
Over the past few decades, researchers have done a lot of work to figure out the best ways to nurture a spiritually healthy family. And guess what? It turns out to be the sort of thing we all kind of knew all along, but like "eat right and exercise," it took a bunch of university-educated experts to remind us, because somewhere in the rush to the twenty-first century, we might have sort of lost track of some of these basic practices.
In case you were wondering, here are what the researchers have identified as the keys to a healthy family life. Ready?
Praying together as a family • Loving and serving others
Celebrating rituals and traditions
Talking about faith • Eating meals together
For a more detailed breakdown of the research, see John Roberto's Best Practices in Family Faith Formation.
(*Incidentally, the research also shows that spiritual health has a substantial effect on kids' physical health and overall well-being; see the National Study of Youth and Religion for details.)
Meet your family's spiritual trainer
Those are the core practices, which I've reworked a little:
- praying together
- walking together in service and love
- celebrating faith traditions and rituals
- and talking about faith together in an intentional way.
(I lumped "eating together" into the "celebrating" practice.)
These four core practices of faith-filled families sound great in the abstract, but like the general advice to "eat right and exercise," it helps to have a more specific plan of action. It's kinda like how My Plate, the ultra-simplified diagram of the U.S. government's dietary recommendations, offers a good starting point—but it's not a complete diet and exercise plan.
Well, consider this website and its accessories the spiritual diet and exercise plan you never knew your family needed. Like Atkins, but with more carbs. Like BodyPump, but with less sweat.
Over the next year, I'll be posting a series of Catholic faith practices, with family friendly age adaptations. The practices are both classic and new; they are drawn from the wisdom of the Scriptures and the tradition of the Church, as well as the more contemporary wisdom of Catholic moms and dads.
Your challenge? See how many practices your family can try this year. No, you don't have to try them all, any more than you have to run a marathon to kickstart your exercise plan.