“To maintain a joyful family requires much from both the parents and the children. Each member of the family has to become, in a special way, the servant of the others.” –Saint John Paul II

It’s dinnertime for the family. Kids bring over dishes and help set the table. As everyone seats themselves around the table, two of the kids are arguing about who beat who in a video game. The oldest, Maddy, is glued to her phone, texting a friend.

The youngest, Liam, is ready to eat but is even more excited for prayer. He keeps saying, “Grace! Grace! I wanna say grace!”

Both spouses lock eyes across the table, knowing someone has to calm this storm. The husband clears his throat once, audibly. The two arguing quiet down and the oldest puts her phone away. But the youngest keeps saying, “Grace, grace, grace! Can I say grace, please?”

A father holds his son (credit TOBET, The Body As Sacrament)

The father suggests to Liam, “Why don’t you let me lead like normal, but you do special intentions?” Ecstatic to be included, the youngest agrees good-naturedly.

After the blessing, everyone begins passing around plates, each taking their share. One of the middle kids asks, “Why does Dad always bless the food? How come Liam couldn’t say grace? He knows, ‘Bless us, O Lord’ by heart.”

The mother chimes in, “Fair question. Like priests shepherd the spiritual family of a parish, your dad does that for us. He leads us in prayer because he’s the spiritual leader in our home.”

Maddy pipes up, “But why can’t you lead us at home, Mom? You give me advice all the time. And Dad’s not the only one who taught me how to pray. You’re the one who taught me about Marian devotion and stuff.”

The father speaks, “Your mom can and does lead in prayer, Maddy. Who says grace and leads daily prayers when I’m away for work?”

She pauses for a moment, and says, “Well, Mom does. I guess you both have your part to play.”

He responds, “Exactly. As the spiritual leader of our family, I can’t do it alone. Your mom supports me in leading our family’s devotions like the Church supports Christ’s teachings. It’s what makes our relationship work so well.”

The mother continues, “You could call it complementarity, which means that your father and I are made to fit and work together in harmony. When one is away, we step in to balance out the leadership.”

After taking all this in, Liam pipes up, “Like when the bishop visited and Fr. Simms let him lead Mass?”

The father says, “Exactly, Liam. Just like that.”


Amanda Hoyer writes for TOBET from Irving, Texas.

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