Inspiring children to pray in turn inspires us

by Connie Dulany

Connie’s “proxy” grandchildren. The praying hands paperweight is placed beside the photo to remind her to pray for them. (submitted photo)

Catholic culture in the home can be fashioned in many ways. In my childhood, it was the hallway rosary holder that held a minimum of nine rosaries needed for our family of seven children and our parents.

We each took our own and knelt around our parent’s bed to pray the rosary. Sometimes we knelt around a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary my mother hand-painted when she was a young girl. I hoped it would someday be mine. The tradition of putting your name on a slip of tape on the bottom of a cherished item assured you of getting it someday.

Now, many years later, Mary stands atop my dresser alongside framed photos of my adult sons. The most indelible memory for me growing up is the image of my mother sitting at the dining room table every afternoon with her prayer book (another possession I somehow managed to obtain). This was her quiet time for prayer amidst the busy household between morning chores and preparation of the evening meal.

I’m the religious education coordinator at Sts. Anne and Joachim Church in Fargo and each week before catechists begin their lessons, they are encouraged to do as my mother did – give the children some quiet time to settle in. The catechist might read a scripture passage a few times for the children to meditate on in hopes that their harried little spirits can settle and be ready to learn. The catechist may create a prayer corner using the bible, a rosary, a candle, holy water, a statue, holy card, etc. Sometime during the year, the children might be encouraged to create a prayer corner in their bedroom. One child went to great lengths to share with me all the items her mom has in her bedroom prayer corner, with the remark, “that’s where she goes when she wants it quiet.”

I don’t have my own grandchildren, but I am blessed to be a proxy grandma to four precious children. This role started simply as a kind gesture to a co-worker needing someone to watch her baby boy. Now, four children later, two boys and two girls, I’ve been repaid to the fullest.

Sleepovers are the most fun for us because they assure us plenty of time to play after dinner. I also get the opportunity to enforce their parents’ routine to pray before eating. If one of them doesn’t pray properly the others are quick to tell me that at home they would start over until they all prayed right. It doesn’t take more than a second attempt to get it right.

During my years as coordinator of religious education, I have received several religious-themed gifts that fit this and that nook in my home. My little friends know they are welcome to look at and carefully hold them... after all, what good are they if I put them up when little ones are around? We’ve had many enjoyable conversations about who or what they are. Willow Tree angels are a big hit.

On an end table in my family room is their picture, a set of coasters, my wooden rosary, and a praying hands paperweight. The oldest, Caelum, was quietly checking out these items a few years ago, pondering each one for a while. I told him the praying hands by their picture reminded me to pray for them when I walked through the room. I didn’t think anything more about it until later that day when I was tidying up. I noticed that he had created a bit of a shrine, stacking the coasters with the praying hands on the top and moving their picture closer.

I stopped in my tracks when I saw his creation! Guess he wanted to be sure I remembered to say my prayers for them. Such a simple innocent exchange struck me how once again children have a greater capacity to understand then we give them credit for.

Connie Dulany is the religious education coordinator at Sts. Anne and Joachim Church in Fargo.