Something important was missing. Home after home, I could not find it: not a crucifix, not a cross, not an image of Jesus was to be found. This is something we take for granted, that every Christian home has some holy image on their wall. Not here in Coopevega, Costa Rica. Thus, a ministry was born: teaching family prayer, promoting the domestic church and installing prayer altars in homes. Every family is called to be a place of prayer, service and love, a little church of the home.
The pandemic challenged us to get creative in how we were going to minister to the people. Our local church closed and therefore we could not participate in formal ministries there. We decided, if we cannot invite them to church, then we will bring the Church to them. Poco-a-poco (little by little), we are visiting the homes of those interested in learning how to pray as a family.
The idea is to focus on a few families, teaching, mentoring, and discipling them into a life of prayer in the home. Thanks to the generosity of mission partners back in the States, we have been able to supply homes with a few items to create a prayer altar: a pair of candles, the Holy Bible, and a cross. We encourage the parents to set a time each day to gather around their prayer altar as a family to pray. We empower the parents to model a life of prayer that will inspire their children. We help the parents recognize that the most important school of faith is in their own home.
Currently there are six families that we visit every other week. When we first arrive we begin with singing songs of praise to get things animated. At first, the children are timid and quiet. Then we instruct the family on a new prayer. Our visit ends with fellowship, sharing a snack, and sometimes making a craft or playing a simple game.
Our goal is to teach the parents prayers that they, in turn, teach to their children. It has been a trial-and-error process as we are discovering which prayers they already know. We are realizing that it will take much repetition before they can lead the prayers without help. Some are new to prayer, so we start with the basics: the Sign of the Cross, Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be. For those who already know the basic prayers, we teach them how to pray the rosary, the Divine Mercy chaplet, the Stations of the Cross, and how to put on the Armor of God.
Our hope is to find some local faithful to join us on these visits teaching prayers to families. As they grow in being discipled, we can reach more families. Alba is our first local teacher. She and her husband, Geraldo, were married in the Church three years ago after being mentored by other FMC missionaries.
Alba is still learning herself how to pray these prayers, but she is motivated to learn them and to share them. We meet each week, training her in the prayers one week and then taking her with us the next week to teach the same prayers to a family. Eager and enthusiastic, Alba recently offered to be the godmother for a five-year-old boy of one of the families we are visiting. God willing, his parents will make the commitment to attend the baptism classes at the local church, and their son will be baptized in the spring.
We encourage each family we visit to ask the questions: “How do I develop a deeper prayer life?” and “Can I love God more?” We pray God will move hearts to desire prayer, because as Father Peter John Cameron says, “It is God Himself who prompts us to want to pray more meaningfully and to love Him more authentically.”
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