Introducing “Family Night” by Emily Cavins

Many mother's and father's want to have family devotions but struggle to find good materials to use. Over the last eight years my wife Emily has put together a weekly devotion for family's to use which helps make family devotions easier. She would like to make these "Family Night" devotions available to you weekly here on my blog. You may want to download the first three documents now. To get started we have provided an Introduction, Family Night Prayers and Family Night for Sunday, February 18, 2007.

The following is taken from the Introduction.

We think your family will enjoy the time spent together in fun activities, discussion time and even sharing a creative snack. Each Family Night corresponds to the current Sunday readings and is about three pages in length. Each new Family Night session will be online before the upcoming Sunday to give you time to prepare for the special night. Plan on roughly forty-five minutes per session, but feel free to lengthen or shorten as you wish.

Select an evening when all the family is home. Sunday evening usually works best, but pick a consistent night for your family to meet each week. A Bible for each person who can read is important. For children who cannot read yet, a picture Bible or Bible storybooks would be helpful. A Catechism of the Catholic Church is also an essential tool for Family Night.

It is also important to create an atmosphere or "holy space" for the evening where you plan to meet. Perhaps you could arrange the furniture special for the occasion or set up a small table as an altar with Bibles, rosaries, a crucifix, candles or any special holy item. This is especially helpful for younger children to recognize this as a special time. As the weeks pass you may add items the children have made or put their artwork on display.

Each session follows the same outline, but a different theme is presented each week. In the first section What's the Point? you will see a synopsis of what you are trying to get across to your family that week. We suggest you read through this section before your Family Night session to become familiar with that week's theme. It does not have to be read aloud during Family Night.

To begin your Family Night, select a Traditional prayer from the Prayer Supplement or from your own prayer book. We have provided a suggested prayer in the outline, but please choose what ever you wish. It may be good to continue using the same prayer for several weeks so everyone can memorize it. This is also an excellent time to pray a family rosary.

After the opening prayer, proceed with the Sunday Readings section. The citation in bold print is the essential one to read for the evening although reading all of them is beneficial. Divide the readings among all those who can read. Stand when the Gospel is read.

The Family Activity section will have two or three ideas listed. Choose the ones you feel are most appropriate for your family. Please check a few days prior to Family Night to be sure you have the necessary items for each activity.

Take time to read the entire catechism paragraph cited in the Catechism Connection. Only a portion is written out in the study to give you an idea of what the paragraph talks about. Reading the catechism and the Saintly Examples sections will aid in answering the discussion questions in the following section, Let's Talk About It. The discussion questions are meant as springboards to get the family talking. It's up to you how long you wish to spend on this section. If you aren't sure of an answer to a discussion question, focus on another one or spend some time searching the Catechism or Bible cross references for answers. Include in your discussions any correlations you have drawn between the Sunday readings. Try to foster in your children the habit of drawing correlations between the three texts during the Sunday mass. If restlessness is a problem for the younger children during the discussion time, allow them the freedom to play with other toys or color until snack time.

The Family Commitment section is an opportunity for your family to respond to the Sunday readings. Write one or two sentences defining what you commit to do during the following week. Children will learn that it's not good enough just to hear the word of God, but it must be acted upon.

The Snack for the evening is for fun, but it also ties in with the evening's theme. Older children can have fun preparing these ahead of the session. Encourage them to use their imaginations.

Before praying the provided closing prayer, ask family members if they have any needs or intentions for which they would like prayer. This is also a good time to remember the Pope's prayer intentions.

Ending the evening with praise and hugs for the children is an excellent idea. Bless the children and tell them you love them. You may want to have a chart with stickers by their names for quietness or good participation or to score if they got the quiz question correct. Assign clean-up helpers.

While enjoying the time with your children, pray that their hearts will be open to hear the voice of Christ.

Jeff & Emily Cavins