With the publication of his 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, 2017.

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,” through prayer and worship, formation, community, and 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.

A study guide has been developed by the Office of Evangelization to help Catholics “break open” Bishop Cunningham’s pastoral letter. The guide aims to help readers “understand the challenges facing Catholic families today, and how they affect our faith life” and “take action in creating environments which strengthen our own families as well as those around us.” The guide breaks the pastoral into seven short sections and provides a summary, reflection questions, action steps, and further reading for each section. The section “Prayer and Worship” appears hree. The complete guide can be downloaded at https://syracusediocese.org/year-of-the-family/study-guide/.

Prayer and Worship

Bishop Cunningham identifies four ways in which the modern family can live out God’s plan for the family and form a domestic church. The first is prayer. Because many families do not know how to pray, parishes must teach them and offer opportunities to pray together. Prayer is especially important because it prepares the family members for celebration of the Eucharist — the source and summit of Christian life — on Sundays.

Reflection questions

   • When and how do I pray on my own? If married, do we pray as a couple? As a family? How does prayer enrich our love of God and each other?

   • How can our family involve all members of the family when praying?

   • In what ways does our parish make families feel welcome at Mass? How might our parish improve?

   • How does our parish teach us to pray regularly, and offer opportunities to pray regularly, at times accessible to families?

   • How can our family share the love of the Eucharist with others, especially those family members who have fallen away from the Church?

Take action

   • Carve out dedicated time to pray.

   • Use time in the car to pray alone or with your family.

   • Use a prayer journal to see how God is answering your prayer.

   • Schedule regular times to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

   • Keep Sunday as a day dedicated to the Lord.

   • Check the daily and Sunday readings at usccb.org or via an app such as Laudate.

Further reading

   Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers (USCCB)

   Bored Again Catholic: How the Mass Could Save Your Life by Timothy P. O’Malley

   Eucharist by Bishop Robert Barron

   The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2685 (“Servants of Prayer”)

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