Advent/Christmas Retreat: Forming Families as theTrue Domestic Church
by Thérèse Bermpohl, MA
Director, Office for Family Life
Diocese of Arlington
period of recollection is meant to help families encounter Jesus by praying
with Sacred Scripture using Ignatian-style meditation. Through this exercise,
we hope that the family may ultimately discover, as Pope Benedict XVI states in
Porta Fidei, "a taste for feeding . .
. on the word of God" (no. 3) and through this practice of
prayerful meditation transform not only themselves and their families but also
the culture and the world. It should take ninety minutes to two hours.
- Cope and incense
- Table at the rear of church for handouts A
and B, pads or booklets for journaling, pens/pencils, Bibles, and worship aids
- Adult Bible for each participant (and a
children's Bible for each child under twelve)
- Icon or image of the face of Jesus on the altar
near the Eucharist (optional)
- Candles to be placed around the Eucharist
and the image of Jesus
- Worship aid or music sheets with "O
Salutaris Hostia," "Tantum Ergo," the Divine Praises, and "Holy God, We Praise
- Round tables for families to gather for
discussion after holy hour with copies of handout C
- Concluding prayer "A Family Prayer for the
Year of Faith" (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops)
- Welcome (5 minutes)
- Explanation of why and how to pray with
Sacred Scripture (5 minutes)
- Explanation of the
basic steps of praying with Sacred Scripture (5 minutes)
- Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament (10 minutes)
- Reading of the Sacred Scripture (5 minutes)
- Reflection guidelines (5 minutes)
- Silent meditation (10 to 15 minutes)
- Benediction (10 minutes)
- Break and move to gathering space with
tables (10 minutes)
- Family discussion (15 minutes)
- Group discussion (10 to 15 minutes)
- Closing prayer (5 minutes)
permission from the pastor and secure a priest or deacon to officiate at
Eucharistic adoration with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
the Bible at Luke 2:1-14.
up the chapel with candles, monstrance, cope, and incense.
holy hour handouts, pads, pens/pencils, Bibles, and worship aids on a table for
families to pick up as they enter the church.
up round tables and chairs for the family discussion time and place handouts
with family discussion questions, pads, and pens/pencils on the tables.
place in the Church) (5 minutes)
of Why and How to Pray with Sacred Scripture (5 minutes)
(May want to
paraphrase the following for children.)
Priest/Deacon/Leader: Praying with Scripture is meant
to be an encounter with Jesus that is needed to transform the person, the
family, the Church, and the culture. So convinced was he that this practice can
bring about a much-needed renewal in the Church, Pope Benedict XVI said in an
address commemorating the fortieth anniversary of Dei Verbum, "The diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied
by prayer brings about that intimate dialogue in which the person reading hears
God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to him with trusting openness of
heart (cf. Dei Verbum, no. 25). If it is effectively
promoted, this practice will bring to the Church—I am convinced of it—a new
spiritual springtime" (www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2005/september/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20050916_40-dei-verbum_en.html).
And we are reminded in the Catechism
of the Catholic Church that the Church "specifically exhorts all
the Christian faithful . . . to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ,
by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. Ignorance of the Scriptures is
ignorance of Christ" (no. 133).
Explanation of the Basic
Steps of Praying with Sacred Scripture Based on the Spiritual Exercises by St.
Ignatius of Loyola (5 minutes)
Priest/Deacon/Leader: Today we will place ourselves in
the presence of God and of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Be mindful
that you are totally loved and cherished by God the Father, the Son, and the
Holy Spirit. Be free with him. We are going to read a passage from the Gospel
together and then you are going to read it quietly to yourself and use the
reflection questions to begin your prayer to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Prior to our
reflection, think about this: If you were about to meet Jesus, Mary, and Joseph
in Bethlehem, what would you want to say to them? What would you hope would
happen during your meeting? Treat this like a live encounter with Jesus, his Mother,
and St. Joseph.
the Blessed Sacrament (10 minutes)
Priest/Deacon: (Expose the
Blessed Sacrament and lead the families in "O Salutaris Hostia.")
Reading of the
Sacred Scripture (5 minutes)
Priest/Deacon/Leader: (Read Luke 2:1-14.)
alternative scriptural reflections and activities for children, you may want to
consider Guided Meditations for Children:
40 Scripts and Activities Based on the Sunday Lectionary for Children by
Sydney Ann Merritt. Depending on the ages of the children, the leader may want
to read the children's guided meditation aloud to make it easier for them. The
children's meditation is meant for children eight years old and older. For
adults, you may want to consider An
Ignatian Introduction to Prayer: Scriptural Reflections According to the
Spiritual Exercises by Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV.)
Guidelines (5 minutes)
Read Scripture quietly to yourself. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you. As you read,
think about the meditation questions on your handouts. Close your prayer time
by talking with Jesus, God the Father, and/or the Holy Spirit. In your journal
or on your pad of paper, write down anything that touched you during your time
with God. Make note of any feelings (good or bad). Be open to the Lord.
Meditation (10 to 15 minutes)
Priest/Deacon: (Repose the
Blessed Sacrament and lead the families in "Tantum Ergo" and the Divine
Praises. Conclude with "Holy God We Praise Thy Name.")
Break (10 minutes)
explains that we will be taking a break and then meeting back in the rooms with
the round tables for family discussion.)
Hour Questions for Family Discussion" handouts.)
Discussion (10 to 15 minutes)
families to reconvene as a group. The leader asks whether
anyone would like to share how their prayer time has touched their family and/or
how/whether they plan to carry on the tradition in the future.)
Closing Prayer (5
O God our Father,
in Jesus you call all Christian
families and homes
to be signs of living faith.
By the light of the Holy Spirit, lead us to be thankful for the gift of
and by that gift
may we grow in our relationship with
Jesus, your Son,
and be confident witnesses to Christian
hope and joy
to all we meet.
In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.
(You can order the prayer card from the USCCB's website:www.usccbpublishing.org/productdetails.cfm?sku=7-385.)
XVI. Address to the Participants
in the International Congress Organized to Commemorate the 40th Anniversary of
the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation "Dei Verbum." September 16, 2005.
Apostolic Letter. Porta Fidei. www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/motu_proprio/documents/hf_ben-xvi_motu-proprio_20111011_porta-fidei_en.html.
Catechism of the
(2nd ed.). Washington, DC: Libreria Editrice Vaticana–United States Conference
of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), 2000.
Vatican Council. Dogmatic Constitution on
Divine Revelation [Dei Verbum]. In
Vatican Council II: Volume 1: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents,
edited by Austin Flannery. Northport, NY: Costello Publishing, 1996.
United States Catholic Catechism
Washington, DC: USCCB, 2006.
USCCB. A Family Prayer for the
Year of Faith. October 11, 2012. www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers/family-prayer-for-the-year-of-faith.cfm.
Meditation for ParentsRead Luke 2:1-14
several times silently to yourself.
that you were there with the Holy Family. Watch and listen as they travel from
Nazareth eighty miles to Bethlehem. Become a part of the journey.
traveling must have been arduous. Imagine the cold, the animals, the dusty road,
the throngs of people, and the anxiety of St. Joseph as he moved from inn to
inn searching for proper shelter. Finally, imagine the birth of Jesus, who is
both God and man, in a little stable.
do you think the Blessed Mother was experiencing/feeling? Was she worried how
the delivery would go? Was she concerned about her unborn child? Was she
consumed by responsibility? Was she trusting in the Father's plan?
was St. Joseph experiencing? Fear? Anxiety? Confidence in God?
you ever worry that you won't be able to provide for your family? Do you trust
that God will give you what you need? Do you offer your concerns to God?
the moment when Jesus entered into the world. Imagine holding him. What would
you say to him? This child is the same person whom we receive in the Blessed
Sacrament and who is living within each one of us.
with him about what is on your heart, about your fears, concerns, hopes, and
sorrows. What did you hear God saying to you during your time together?
Meditation for Children
Read Luke 2:1-14 quietly to yourself.
pretend that you are with the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph. You set out on a
long journey a long way from your house.
how hard it would be to travel such a great distance with nothing but a little
donkey to carry you and your belongings.
Mary must have been incredibly uncomfortable. Both she and St. Joseph were most
likely cold and tired. Imagine traveling such a long way and then finding that
there is no place for you to sleep. That is exactly what happened to the Holy Family.
The baby Jesus had to be born in a little stable filled with animals and hay.
about the baby Jesus. He is not just a human baby; he is also God. Isn't that
amazing? Would you like to hold him?
- Write down what
you would want to say to the baby Jesus.
- Tell him about
your family and friends.
- Tell him about
what is happening in your life.
- Tell him about any
problems you may be having and ask him for his help.
- What do you think
Jesus would say to you?
- Make a list of all the good gifts God has
given to you. Thank him for each one as you list them.
- Write down what you would like to say to the
Blessed Mother and St. Joseph. (Remember, they are both now great saints in
Heaven who want to help you to be good and to get to Heaven.)
Post Holy Hour Questions for Family
can take turns asking the questions or appoint a leader. Each member of the
family should be encouraged to share but no one should be forced to share.)
were some of the ways you encountered Jesus during your prayer with
What are some of
the ways that you were comforted by this passage?
How can praying
with Scripture on a regular basis change who you are as an individual and how
you act as a family?
what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say about
family prayer: "The Christian family is the first
place of education in prayer. Based on the sacrament of marriage, the family is
the 'domestic church' where God's children learn to pray 'as the Church' and to
persevere in prayer. For young children in particular, daily family prayer is
the first witness of the Church's living memory as awakened patiently by the
Holy Spirit" (no. 2685).
Are you willing
to set time aside each day for prayer?
resolution about how you can incorporate Sacred Scripture into your everyday
lives (for example, as a family you will reflect one day a week on Sunday's Scripture
and talk about the significance for you in your life as you did here today).
© 2013, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC. All
rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted to duplicate this work without
adaptation for non-commercial use.
Excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI,
Porta Fidei, copyright © 2011, Libreria Editrice Vaticana (LEV), Vatican
City; Address, 2005, copyright © 2005, LEV. Used with permission. All rights
from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, second edition, copyright ©
2000, Libreria Editrice Vaticana—United States Conference of Catholic Bishops,
Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture excerpts used in this work are taken from the New
American Bible, revised edition,
copyright © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine,
Washington, DC, and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All rights