The importance of family traditions
Regardless of the ritual, taking time to be together is critical
By Theresa Blume
Growing up we did something that was normal in our family, but when I started school I found out that nobody else did such a thing.
Every single night, no matter what else was going on, our family of eight knelt at our sagging, tattered couch in the living room and prayed the rosary together. We held onto this tradition even as our family gatherings grew smaller with each child leaving the nest.
I have to admit that at that time I did not appreciate having to stop playing and kneel on the bare tile floor next to my siblings and repeat the same prayers every night, especially if I was mad at a brother or sister just before and we would try to elbow each other without being detected.
Dad would begin the nightly event by turning the TV off and announcing that it was prayer time. We all gathered our rosaries to follow along. I had a beautiful blue one that a distant aunt had gifted me when I reached a certain age of maturity.
We began by all performing the sign of the cross together, solemnly touching forehead, then our heart, then the left shoulder, and crossing over to the right shoulder. Then Dad led us along each bead, saying Our Fathers for the big beads and Hail Marys for the small ones.
Warm nights seemed to take forever as I felt my own hot breath on my clenched hands, and my knees ached from the hard floor. If I was next to her, Mom sometimes reached out and lightly rubbed my back, giving me a soft, ticklish feeling of wordless love.
Just when we thought we were finished, there was inevitably something or someone for whom we had to do an extra “mystery” or section of beads. Maybe it was to express thanks for something good, if someone was ill, or anything that Dad decided was important enough to acknowledge.
I realize now that it was not so much what we said or even what we prayed that was most important. It was the routine that was vital, giving us a secure feeling of knowing what to expect and a way to settle six kids down for the night. The fact that our entire family participated seems to be the powerful glue that continues to bond us together even now after Dad has passed away.