“As the saying goes, ‘The family that prays together stays together.’ So often we underestimate the power of prayer or we reduce it to a grocery list of things to ask of God. In reality, prayer is our response to God, who is always searching for us. In prayer, we encounter Him; we enter into a dialogue with Him. Through prayer, we become aware of His presence and His providence in our lives. Prayer reminds us that we are never alone. God is always with us.”
   — From “Enriching the Church: The Role of the Family in the Life of the Church of Syracuse and Beyond”

With the publication of his new pastoral letter, “Enriching the Church: The Role of the Family in the Life of the Church of Syracuse and Beyond,” Bishop Robert J. Cunningham announced a special Year of the Family, which began in the diocese on Dec. 3.

In his letter, Bishop Cunningham reflects on the mission of the modern family – evangelization – and how it can be accomplished by forming an “ecclesia domestica,” a “domestic church.”

“How does the modern family strive to live God’s plan for marriage and family today, namely, by forming a domestic church of their own?” Bishop Cunningham writes. “Allow me to suggest a few time-honored, but very practical, powerful, and effective ways: (1) prayer and worship, (2) formation, (3) community, and (4) service.”

Throughout the Year of the Family, the Diocese of Syracuse and its ministries will focus on each of these pillars and provide resources families can use to build their domestic churches. This week, here are four ways your family can strengthen its prayer life:

1. Attend Mass together. “Participation in the celebration of the Eucharist every Sunday is what grounds us in this life and forms and shapes us for the glory of the life to come,” Bishop Cunningham writes. “Without it, the Christian family is not simply incomplete. It is lost.” Visit syracusediocese.org/find-a-parish to locate parishes and Mass times near you.

2. Pray the Prayer for the Family before meals. Father Joe O’Connor has composed a prayer for the Year of the Family (adapted from the Roman Missal on the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph), perfect for praying together around the table. (See prayer at left, and download a copy at syracusediocese.org/year-of-the-family.)

3. Learn about the Holy Family icon used on the Year of the Family prayer card. “Many icons of the Holy Family depict Joseph beside, but not touching, Mary and Jesus, as a way of communicating Joseph’s role as protector,” Father O’Connor writes in his description of the image. “This icon, however, depicts closeness in the Holy Family — so close that all three persons are touching hands while Joseph has his other hand around Mary’s shoulder. The couple leans into one another as a sign of affection and mutual support, while Jesus sits apart and upright as the center of the family, indeed the center of the universe.” Visit syracusediocese.org/year-of-the-family to read or watch more. (Prayer cards were distributed to and are available in each parish. Cards are currently available in English and Spanish versions, and will soon be available in additional languages.)

4. Watch a special reflection video. Every week during the Year of the Family, Bishop Cunningham will offer a video reflection on a timely family topic. Additionally, each week during Advent there will be a video from a diocesan ministry leader, offering a reflection on one of the four pillars of the domestic Church. The first video from Bishop Cunningham is below; visit syracusediocese.org/year-of-the-family each week to watch more.

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