Forced Family Prayer Pros vs. Cons


Thank you for the mostly thoughtful replies. I had to wait a day to post this because there’s a limit for new members. I guess my initial comment should’ve been more specific. I don’t need counseling and didn’t come here for support, just information. I was curious if what I experienced is normal for people raised as Catholics. Sorry if this wasn’t the right place to enquire.

Whether or not it was technically or legally or morally abuse, it felt like it to me. In all those years Mom never once asked me if I believed in God. Maybe belief was so easy or logical for her she assumed it was the same for me. I was too afraid of her fierce conviction to volunteer the information, and if I had, I’m quite certain she would have become even more relentless and determined. I couldn’t just make myself believe. The only thing I can compare it to is hypnosis. I tried, twice, to be hypnotized to help me quit smoking, and both times they gave up on me, insisting that I didn’t really want to be hypnotized.

When I was living on my own Mom would ask if I was saying my prayers and going to church, if I was still wearing my rosary and scapular (we’d been required to wear those at all times) and would make comments like “it breaks my heart that you’re abandoning your faith”. A completely honest answer would’ve been “I’m sorry, but it was never my faith” but that would’ve been rubbing salt in the wound.


I will also say that…having grown up in an emotionally abusive family, there are a lot of things that looked a lot like what normal families do, that weren’t actually good at all. And it’s really hard to explain the problem to those who don’t have that sort of experience.

I realized eventually that it’s often a matter of pattern and background as much as individual incidents. Sometimes, this one thing, or that other thing, no one thing by itself would be a big deal, but when you add all of them in they cause a problem. Sometimes there was stuff that was just a bit over the edge, but it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly how, and it’s often something that takes several years to figure out.


I think we can safely conclude that what your Mom did wasn’t the norm for a loving Catholic parent. A lot of us have loving and caring parental memories centered around prayer; Mom hearing our prayers at night, or teaching us children’s prayers, before comforting or pretty statues of saints or pictures of Jesus, that sort of kindly thing.

It sounds to me like your Mom may have meant well, but was perhaps not raised by loving, religious parents herself and did not really understand how to go about bringing up her children in the Catholic faith in a way that would make them want to continue the practice as teens and adults.

I am sorry you did not get a chance to experience a loving faith upbringing.

I will pray for you and your Mom.


As to this:

Children being expected to join in family prayers is normal. The times you describe are not normal, especially not for small children. Generally young children are either asked to join in short prayers, or given more interactive activities. Being expected to kneel to the point of pain is also not normal (I’m not even sure I could do that . Usually there’s also an effort to introduce children to prayer more slowly and by explaining prayer in an age-appropriate fashion rather than simply ordering children to repeat words.


What are the mortifications you were considering? (Just curious.)


I read the novice monks [desert fathers] were given a branch or a stick. If they felt any lust etc, they would smack their leg to get rid of it.

Father did not care for this, which brings in obedience, so I gave up the idea.


Requiring children to pray is not bad. Forcing them to kneel for an hour without being able to lean against furniture to relieve pain in knees and back is extreme.

That’s where the issue lies with what you post.

God Bless.


Yes, way to go. If you want your child to associate prayer with physical pain. And to consider you an abuser because of your unreasonable, age-inappropriate requirements.

Otherwise, no.


What you are describing sounds an awful lot like how my dad was raised. Of the 5 brothers 3 of them left the faith. It left such a negative impact on my dad that he hated the rosary and we never once were actually taught it, said it as a family or any family prayer other than grace at meals.

I’m sorry you had that experience. I’m constantly reexamining myself because my dad and his brothers are what happens if you push too hard, too inauthentically or too age inappropriately, but I want my kids to pray with us, see us praying and not wrassle with their own faith authenticity like I did as a kid. I want that for them more than anything in the world.


Forced? Would you have felt the same way had you started before you were old enough to complain?

This reminds me of serving as a kid. We used to complain about having to kneel on the marble steps as servers and the priest more or less responded that “Christ had to carry His cross to His death and you can’t kneel for 15 minutes on a marble step?” Thank God for that priest.


How could I possibly know how I would have felt if I’d been raised Catholic since birth? For what it’s worth, I didn’t complain right away, or often. What would’ve been the point, when the complaints were always dismissed?

Your antidote seems like a logical fallacy that might work on a child, but could be used to justify almost anything.


We’re talking about truth in faith here, not just anything.

Matthew 19:14: But Jesus said, Let the little ones come to me, and do not keep them away: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

Your mother certainly was not out to harm or abuse you. She was trying to do the best for you in the limited way she knew how. Perhaps we could have all been done better by growing up.


This wasn’t 15 minutes.


It may be your mother went about it wrong. Telling a child “It doesn’t hurt that bad”; not letting you lean on furniture to relieve discomfort --these things suggest she was doing it wrong.
That being said:

Were you ‘forced’ to attend school?
Were you ‘forced’ to eat healthy, nourishing meals?
Were you ‘forced’ to be vaccinated?
If you got sick were you ‘forced’ to visit a doctor, and perhaps ‘forced’ to take medicine?

Parents have a duty to raise their children, and to teach them right from wrong. If your mother’s teaching methods were needlessly harsh and rigid, that does not mean what she tried to teach was wrong.

Prayer is important. It helps set us right with God.
Please, don’t let your mother’s mistakes turn you against the truth.


She did not say only boring. She said also painful.
I suspect you’re making the same mistake her mother did, by trivializing her complaint.


Starfish11 said she complained to her mother about the pain and her mother denied that it was painful. “It doesn’t hurt that much”.


Legally, you may well be right. But if starfish11 was in pain and saw what was being done as daily punishment, we ought not to trivialize that by quoting legal definitions.

And I would suggest that ‘I spent years planning how to run away from home as soon as I could’ counts as a real consequence, even if she wasn’t sporting visible bruises.

‘I hate what she did and I don’t pray now’ is a real consequence also.


That’s why I specified “at another time.” I can tell you that my children complain all the time in the moment to get out of doing something. It can be difficult sometimes to figure out what’s a legitimate complaint and what’s just griping because kids are kids.

But, at other times, when it’s not contentious, I do explain why we do things as a family and invite their input, although they still know that what dad and I say, goes.

The prayer was not the problem here, and the communication patterns of this family were not healthy or typical among Catholic families.



Points taken.


I deleted those posts for a reason.


Excessive kneeling can be child abuse.



I’m not sure that always helps a whole lot.

Hidden as slightly off topic

I can’t help but remember my own mother. She would give long lectures whenever I had some perceived wrong, usually starting with what I was accused of but almost always turning into a litany of how I had been a bad child since I was a toddler. When I cried, she became angry and told me I had better stop the crocodile tears right away because they wouldn’t work on her, and I would get punished for attempting to manipulate her.

It was hard to explain to people, for a while, because I’d just say “my mother lectured me for a long time” or “my mother punished me for crying,” and those don’t really capture what happened. It took me a very long time to figure out how to explain coherently what the issues were,in a way that would make

Did she mean well? Perhaps. I don’t get the sense that she intended to harm me. But I do get the sense that she had a temper that was not under control, and that what was going on ended up being her venting her anger on me under the guise of discipline. I somewhat expect that is the more common case - not that the parent means to harm the child, but that their failure to deal with their own issues ends in them being taken out on the child. In either case I find the lack of intent to be little comfort.

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