A Brief Rule of Life for Catholic Families

“In families, we argue; in families, sometimes the plates fly; in families, the children give us headaches,” Pope Francis said in Philadelphia. “In families, there is always, always, the cross.” However, he added, “the family is a factory of hope. …. There are difficulties, but these difficulties are overcome with love.” Here is a brief Rule of Life for families based on Francis’s wisdom and others.

God’s Most Beautiful Creation

“The most beautiful thing that God made, the Bible says, was the family.”
– Pope Francis

Key to Family Unity

“The family that prays together stays together.”
– a favorite saying of Pope Francis, St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Kolkata

Above All, Love

“The strength of the family lies in its capacity to love and to teach how to love.”
– Pope Francis

Five Ways to Say I Love You

Words of affirmation
Quality time
Giving gifts
Acts of service
Physical touch
– From Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages

Family Communication Rules

Your family member is not your enemy! Disagreements are opportunities to love and grow. Seek resolution, not victory.

When you speak
• Just state the facts – don’t interpret them or assume you know motives.
• No blanket statements – never say “you always” or “you never.”
• Don’t act out feelings – state them; with feelings, telling is better than showing.

When you listen
• Don’t interrupt – let the other finish and do your best to listen.
• Walk in their shoes – try to see the argument from their side.
• Repeat back what the other said – accurately and fairly.

When you finish
• Always say “I’m sorry” when you realize you were wrong.
• Always reply “I forgive you” to the words “I’m sorry.”
• Important: It is not necessary to sound sorry. It is not necessary to sound forgiving. Saying the words is enough.

The Action Plan

“With these two things you have the action plan: the Beatitudes and Matthew 25. You do not need anything else.”
– Pope Francis at Rio World Youth Day.

What to Keep in Your Pocket

“In my pocket, I always carry two things. A rosary and a small Way of the Cross. Thanks to these two things, I never lose hope.”
Pope Francis to African children

How to Keep Your Kids Catholic

• Parents must be authentic Catholics themselves.
• Pray with them every day.
• Pray for them every day.
• Talk about faith questions they have.
• Talk about faith questions you have (ask them to explain!).
• Do works of mercy together.

The Gospel on Five Fingers

Hold up one hand and count one word per finger (from Mother Teresa):
“I did it to him.” (cf. Matthew 25)

Works of Mercy

Deeds of service capture kids’ imagination more than pious words.
Read You Did It To Me by Father Michael Gaitley, and create a service plan for your family.

Your Family Daily, Monthly, Yearly

Pray every day.
Attend Mass weekly.
Serve the poor monthly.
Confess yearly.

Go to confession every month (or two).
Take a pilgrimage to a special shrine once (or twice) a year.
Attend a retreat or faith camp yearly.

Your Family’s Week

Have a weekly family routine. A typical schedule:
Sunday – Family Day: “Home” day, pilgrimage, museum or hike.
Monday – Family “Meeting:” Tell everyone the week’s plan.
All Week – Schedule a nightly Rosary.
Friday – Game night, family movie night, or parents’ date night.
Saturday – Work together. Serve locally. Teach kids through projects.

Media Criteria

Rule of thumb: If you don’t want them to imitate it, don’t let them watch it.
Developmental studies warn that TV should be severely limited for small children. Studies show that teens who watch mature TV shows have higher pregnancy rates. We all imitate what we watch.

Check out these Movies for Future Men and Movies for Future Women.

Must-Have Books

The Bible (Catholic edition)
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (shorter Catechism including “Common Prayers” and “Formulas of Christian Doctrine”)
The Case for Jesus by Brant Pitre (Okay this isn’t a must-have, but it’s very very good)


Receiving good Catholic publications — National Catholic Register, Magnificat, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic Answers, for instance — in your home reinforces your family’s Catholic identity and provides helps for Catholic living.

This appeared at Aleteia.

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II and The Fatima Family Handbook, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas and hosts The Extraordinary Story podcast about the life of Christ. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, he served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia.org and the Register. He and his wife, April, have nine children and live in Atchison, Kansas.