Salina — Families gathered to listen and pray in Colby July 28 and in Salina July 29 as part of the Night of Prayer and Praise for Children and Families. In Colby, Jennifer Bentzinger reflected on how family life can be a springboard for spiritual life. “Family life is a powerhouse for sanctification,” she said. “Family life provides us with a wealth of opportunities to be sanctified — to be made holy — and to seek sainthood.” She said having children and starting a family drastically altered her spiritual life. “I look back at my pre-children days and miss my old prayer life,” Bentzinger said. “Daily holy hours and spiritual reading. Daily Mass. The rosary. With the birth of my first child, all of that seemed to slip away and I found myself barely able to make it to Mass on Sundays and lucky to remember to bless my food before meals. After mourning the loss of my former spiritual life, I have come to realize that having a family and having a spiritual life are not, of course, mutually exclusive.” She said family life sanctifies us by making us die to ourselves and live for others, provides us with the opportunity to be contemplatives in the midst of chaos, sanctifies us by calling us to true, authentic, life-giving love and offers more than enough suffering to lead us all to sainthood. Bentzinger said while monastic life and family life seem like polar opposites, they are similar. Religious living in monasteries must be obedient to the monastic bell. When it rings, they must stop what they are doing and immediately report for prayer or the specified duty or activity. “When your toddler demands a drink of water, when your son requests help with is algebra, when the baby is crying, hear instead the monastic bell,” she said. “We ought to embrace the distractions of family life as a means to grow in holiness. It is precisely in the inconvenient interruptions of our spouses and children that God calls to be obedient in our vocation of married and family life.” Prayer is essential to family life but not always feasible to do in church. She said she takes the opportunity during daily tasks to pray for her family. “As I chop vegetables and prep meat, I can raise my heart and mind to God by thanking him for the healthy food he has given our family and asking him to provide for those less fortunate,” she said. Other opportunities for prayer are praying for the individual whose laundry you are washing, folding or ironing.
In Salina, Father Kyle Berens said he enjoys blessing a family’s house. “Often, people say ‘I don’t want you to come to my house because it’s messy … there are clothes around, walls are not clean,’ ” he said. “The reality is if I walk into a house that is spotless, I’m more concerned than if I walk into a house that is chaos. A house that is lived in, a house hold of sinners is going to be a little chaotic.”
He said Americans tend to think holiness is perfection. “In reality, that’s not holiness,” he said. “I think there is a lot of suffering over perfection, when indeed we are certainly need to seek holiness.” The definition of holiness is simple. “An easy understanding of holiness is allowing the ordinary to become extraordinary,” Father Berens said. He said another hindrance to family life and holiness is pornography. “What I’m going to say is inspired by the confessional and statistics,” Father Berens said. “As a priest in the confessional, men woman and children come into the confessional and talk about their experience with pornography. “The sad statistic is the average age of first exposure to pornography is eight years old. The simple fact is people do not just seek it out it is now seeking us out.” He suggests the book “Good Pictures, Bad Pictures” by Debbie Fox and Gail Poyner as a way for parents to talk with their children about pornography. “It’s a good way to introduce it to young children so they have a concept of how to talk about things they experience,” Father Berens said. “So often it’s not their choice. They’re watching something on YouTube and something else pops up. They become victims of an organization that is out to get them. So we need to protect them.” He also suggested families remove the television from the main living space. “These screens are constantly keeping families from talking to one another,” Father Berens said. “It’s easier to sit on the couch in front of the screen and not talk about serious issues than sit around a table and look at each other in the eye and talk about what really matters.”
Musicians Mike and Kelley Burns, from Columbia, Mo., provided praise music for both events. “We were very pleased with the participation at both locations,” said Corey Lyon, Director of Family Life for the Salina Diocese. The evening included the talk, as well as Eucharistic adoration and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. “If only one soul was moved to conversion and drawn closer in their relationship to Jesus Christ truly present in Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, it was all worth while,” Lyon said. “As we move forward, our hope is to provide more opportunities for whole family catachesis, worship and shared experiences of Christ.”