Children of the Teti family in their St. Paul School uniforms pause for a photo outside St. Paul Church, Princeton. Photo courtesy of Mary Alice Teti
Children of the Teti family in their St. Paul School uniforms pause for a photo outside St. Paul Church, Princeton. Photo courtesy of Mary Alice Teti

By Mary Alice Teti | Special Contributor

I met my husband on the first day of my sophomore year at Princeton University.

After a wonderful summer at home with my family, I was returning to school with a renewed interest in living out my Catholic faith, but unsure of how to fit religious practice into my busy life on campus.   When I mentioned these concerns to the cute guy I was getting to know through a theater project, he invited me to meet him for Sunday Mass at the University Chapel.  He has a beautiful singing voice, and I knew early on that standing next to him at Mass was the happiest I would ever be.

Twenty-one years later, we are the parents of seven children, and our weekly attendance at Sunday Mass is still a central part of our relationship.  With work, school, sports and music lessons, we have plenty of stress, but we are not alone in finding that praying together helps our marriage.  W. Brad Wilcox, Senior Fellow of the Institute for Family Studies, says that “men and women who report praying together frequently (almost once a week or more often) are 17 percentage points more likely to say they are very happy together. Joint prayer is likely to engender a heightened sense of emotional intimacy, communication and reflection about relationship priorities and concerns, and a sense of divine involvement in one’s relationship.”

Our family needs that “divine involvement,” so we have some routines to make our home the “domestic Church” that will be a school of virtue for our children and a living example of Christ’s love.  On a daily basis, we pray grace together before each meal and offer some simple prayers at bedtime.  We are grateful that our children are learning the traditional prayers of the church while attending St. Paul’s School in Princeton, and we often pray the Angelus when we are together at noontime.  Those moments of spoken prayer may only be a few minutes of each day, but we hope that they remind us to keep Christ at the center of all that we do.

My husband and I also try to incorporate the rhythms of the liturgical year into our family traditions.  For example, we encourage each child to read a biography of a saint during the month of November and pray the Rosary together or make a small pilgrimage to a local image of the Blessed Mother each May.  We display a nativity scene in our home in December and read the Nativity story almost nightly as part of our Advent tradition, so that our preparation for Christmas welcomes Christ into our home.  We keep things fun by having special meals such as enchiladas on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe or shepherd’s pie on St. Patrick’s Day, so that our children can experience the communion of saints as an extended family. 

We put our faith into action by taking advantage of opportunities to do service together as a family.  As often as we can, we spend Saturday mornings at the Loaves and Fishes meal at St. Mary’s Cathedral.  Sharing this meal with less privileged members of our community reminds us that the many activities throughout the week which make us feel busy are truly blessings and not burdens.

As the children get older and have more independence to confront the complex questions of the world, we parents pray especially to the Holy Spirit to help us to guide them, and to sustain them with the gifts of faith and wisdom. Our experience has been that when we have a regular plan of prayer in our daily lives, it is easier to turn to God and know that He loves us when things seem difficult, to thank God when things go well, and to praise Him for the beauty and joy that we encounter in nature and in one another.

Mary Alice Teti and her family are members of St. Alphonsus Parish, Hopewell.