The Peaceable Family Wreath
The prophet Isaiah gives us a beautiful picture of the Peaceable Kingdom (Isaiah 11:1-9). In this kingdom, natural “enemies” live in harmony and justice. There is no deceit or harm because all are filled with the spirit of the Lord.Your family can work together to create a beautiful visual symbol of peace and unity in your home. All are called to live with the spirit of the Lord.Make a plain grapevine or straw wreath, or purchase one from a craft or discount department store. Either a round or heart-shaped wreath would be appropriate. Choose decorations to suit the décor of your family room or dining area-ribbon, dried flowers, silk greens or flowers, lace, a string of white or blue lights. You can do anything from country to contemporary.
Then add a personal touch, and be creative! Some suggestions:
- Have each family member make a thumbprint using poster paint on brown squares cut from a grocery bag. Punch a hole in each square with a paper punch and hang them on the wreath with yarn.
- Cut cameo pictures of each family member from old photographs. Paste each on a heart-shaped background, and attach them around the wreath.
- Hook symbols onto the wreath that represent each family member. These can be personal things like a fishing lure, earring, paintbrush, hair ribbon, or sports card. Then add some symbols of the ties that bind all the individuals in your family together: favorite music, shared clothing, a favorite pet, a favorite meal.
Hang your “peace and unity wreath” in an area of your home where your family often gathers. Let it remind your family of the unity you share, and help you remember how important that unity is to you. Whenever it is strained or broken, thank God that the circle can be mended again with the bonds of family love.
All Fired Up!
Here are some suggestions for bringing faith into your home and keeping the Spirit alive in your family life. Hopefully they will produce bursts of enthusiasm (from the Greek for “filled with God”) as well as lulls for contemplation and peace.
- After church on Sunday, talk about the Scripture that was read. Ask everyone to briefly summarize the message in their own words. Then challenge the family to come up with a way to get the same message across to somebody who had never heard of Jesus or Christianity. Discuss how this message can be spread in daily life.
- Some evening before bedtime, sit around and take turns telling your favorite Bible stories. You might be pleasantly surprised at how much you have to share.
- Gather the whole family together and go shopping. Spend an hour or two walking through the mall or department store looking for all the things your family does not need. Talk about the difference between needs and wants. Enjoy the time together, and be absolutely sure that no one buys anything!
- For every season there is a psalm. Psalms can be used to express joy, cries for help, gratitude, praise, longing, fear, and contentment. Try praying a psalm for night prayer that is suited to what is happening in your family. You might ask an older child to look through the book of psalms and select such a prayer for the family. Or you can use part of the psalm from the Liturgy of the Word for the current Sunday.
- For a creative yet familiar family prayer, gather the music to favorite hymns. Sing the hymn together in the evening as a way to end the day, or read the words to the hymn as a refreshing approach to familiar words.
Simple Exercises for the Whole Family
Get your family in great shape! These simple exercises are guaranteed to increase flexibility and strengthen family bonds. Practice them daily for maximum benefits.
- Let others have their way instead of insisting on your way.
- Try to understand how another family member is feeling.
- Go out of your way to be kind or patient. Be the first to say “I’m sorry.”
- Volunteer to help a family member with a special project.
- Volunteer to help a family member with regular chores.
- Listen more than you talk.
- Welcome your child’s presence even when you are extremely busy.
- Let someone else have the last cookie, or the last word.
- Be understanding when someone is sick or tired.
- Give family members the benefit of the doubt.
- Admit when you are wrong.
- Grip another’s hand firmly and shake in a friendly manner as a sign of making up.
- Raise fists to cheer another on, but never to hit or threaten.
- Hold hands in times of fear, loss, pain, and uncertainty.
- Wrap both arms around a family member and squeeze tightly, or gently, as the situation dictates.
- Pat a family member on the shoulder for a job well done.
- Get the whole family together for a giant hug.
- Place one arm around your spouse’s shoulders and pull him or her close enough to kiss.
With your child, or your entire family, go to a place you have never visited. Choose one of these methods:
- Drive to an unfamiliar town or destination. Ask your child to help you read the map as you drive along.
- Use a new city bus, train, or subway route involving stops and changes. Let your child help with directions.
- Explore a new hiking trail. Take a map along and let your child give directions.
Once you arrive at your destination, enjoy some time there together—sightseeing, touring, visiting a museum, having a meal—whatever you enjoy. Then talk about the importance of following the correct route. Relate this experience to following the Ten Commandments—God’s rules that help us stay on the right path in life. Talk about what would happen if you got lost along the way—what could you do? What would you do?
Celebrating Family Forgiveness
As your family prepares for the Sacrament of Reconciliation occasionally, set aside some family prayer time to focus on forgiveness and reconciliation. You can create a custom-made family celebration using one or more of the suggestions below.You will probably find that as circumstances and your family change, so will your prayer. What is important is getting your child (ren) comfortable in recognizing wrongdoing, admitting it, expressing sorrow, and celebrating the certainty of forgiveness. Always end with a sign of peace.
Create the proper atmosphere. You want family members to feel peaceful and reflective, not threatened or nervous. Try soft lighting or soft music. Lead a short examination of conscience.
Read Scripture and talk about what the story or teaching means to you. You might want to read: Use the Psalms as prayer. Try Psalm 23:1-4, Psalm 25:4-5, Psalm 27:1, Psalm 51:12-13, Psalm 67:2, Psalm 136:1.
- The Lost Sheep (Luke 15:1-7)
- The Lost Coin (Luke 8-10)
- The Story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10)
- The Forgiving Father (Luke 15:11-24)
- The Parable of the Two Sons (Matthew 21:28-30)
- The Penitent Woman (Luke 7:36-50)
- The Good Thief (Luke 23:33-43)
Pattern a prayer on the general intercessions familiar in Mass. Take turns beginning, “For the times when I (or we)?.” All respond, “Lord, forgive us.”
Gather around a campfire, barbecue grill, or fireplace. After an examination of conscience, or a general discussion of “how things are going around the house lately,” invite family members to jot down any sins or faults they need to eliminate or any grudges they are holding. Then burn the pieces of paper in the fire, symbolizing the destruction of sin and division.
Share a visible sign of reconciliation: Offer one another a sign of peace—a sincere handshake, or a hug. Make promises to one another about how you will “make up” for the discord you have caused.