October 7th, Feast of the Most Holy Rosary
Today is the great feast of our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary. This feast commemorates the most important naval battle in human history – a battle which, if lost, would have left Rome as the new Istanbul and St. Peter’s as a second Hagia Sophia.
For the history of this feast, consider a good article from Catholic Culture [here], and the poem of G.K. Chesterton [here].
Our Lady has saved the world through the Rosary, and she desires to do so again. More particularly, in our own day, there can be no doubt that our Lady wants to save the world through the Family Rosary. But how can a family succeed in the practice of the Family Rosary?
Two excellent articles on praying the Rosary as a family
First, an article for moms, from Leila Lawler [here]. Go read this article, men and women both. It is so good! Here are some of the point Leila makes (in my own words):
1. Be patient! It’s ok if you are struggling with keeping the kids focused. God understands!
2. The man of the house should lead the Rosary – at least, he should announce the mysteries.
3. Small beginnings! Don’t start with five decades all on your knees. Rather, build from something as small as a Creed, three Hail Marys, and a Glory Be. Take the whole month of October if necessary. Build slowly – then pray the Rosary for the rest of your lives!
4. Don’t use prayer time as teaching time! This isn’t catechism or CCD, this is a time for prayer. Certainly, the kids will learn a lot about their faith through praying the Rosary – but, when you pray, you should be talking to God, not talking to your kids. Thus, when you announce the mysteries, be praying rather than lecturing. [read her article for more on this point]
5. Don’t get discouraged!
Second, an article for dads, from Taylor Marshall [here]. Go read this article, men and women both. It is so good!
1. Pray the Rosary in the same place (a small chapel or prayer area with icons, statues, and Crucifix), at the same time, every day.
2. Adjust the setting for prayer – dim the lights, light a candle, etc.
3. Dad should kneel for all (or at least some) of the Rosary – he sets the example.
4. End by invoking the patron saints of all the members of the family (maybe have each child invoke his own saints, as able).
5. Build the habit of the Rosary gradually. Start with one decade for a week, then go to three, then five.
Fr. Ryan’s thoughts on the Family Rosary
Though I could give many tips on praying the Rosary as a family, I will limit myself to five – based on the questions: Who?, What?, When?, Where?, Why? I will attempt to make some points which can be added to those already made above.
1) Who? Who should be praying the Family Rosary?
It seems that we can sometimes get hung up on the thought that, if not everyone is present, it doesn’t really count as a “family” Rosary. This is not helpful – it is letting the perfect become the enemy of the good.
Younger children (especially those between two and six) may not be able to stay for the entire Rosary. They should certainly be encouraged to do so – and it is ok to give them some reward for joining the family for the whole Rosary (perhaps an extra book read to them at night?) – but we ought not to be too upset if a three-year-old has a hard time sitting still for around twenty-five minutes of prayer.
One idea, which may work, is to gradually build the habit of the Rosary in the child. Have all the kids stay for at least the first decade. Perhaps a three or four-year-old can lead this, and then he can go play (quietly!). Let the five or six-year-old lead the second decade, and then he can go play too (or perhaps he can leave after the third decade).
It does seem that most children from seven on up should be able to stay for the whole Rosary most of the time. But there is no reason why all the kids should have to kneel, or even stay upright through the entire Rosary – here again, some sore of gradual habit-building may work. Let the children sit and be comfortable for the decade that they are not leading (or have them only kneel for the third joyful mystery, the fifth sorrowful, the first glorious, and the fourth luminous, since these are the central mysteries of each set).
Finally, it may happen that occasionally (or even often) one of the parents is unable to be present for the Family Rosary. That’s ok! That’s life! It still counts as a Family Rosary (for those who are present). This may be especially difficult in a mixed marriage, but the Catholic parent should still persevere and lead the Rosary with the children (as best as possible).
2) What? Exactly what should we be thinking about during the Family Rosary?
The father should announce the mysteries – if he is not present, then let the mother do so. He shouldn’t simply give the name of the mystery, but should rather call to mind some of the central points of each mystery.
Further, it will be good to speak to Jesus during the opening of each mystery. Take this for example: “The third sorrowful mystery, The Crowning with Thorns. Our Savior, having been whipped and mocked, receives a crown not of gold but of piercing thorns. The thorns cut into his forehead and cause unspeakable pain to our Lord. Oh my good Jesus! You have suffered a crown of thorns out of love for me! Your merciful eyes, filled with both blood and tears, looked upon your persecutors with the greatest tenderness and love. Let me then love you! Let me bear every humiliation and hardship out of love for you. When others mock me or hurt me, let me love them just as you love them! Oh my gentle Jesus! Let my heart be so emptied of pride and self-love as to be filled with the purifying fire of your love for souls!”
This is not CCD, this is prayer-time. The goal is to use our intellects in the consideration of the love of God revealed in these mysteries so as to arouse our wills to great acts of love in return.
3) When? What time of day is best for the Rosary?
Though many families find that the night is a good time for the Rosary, I will always insist that the morning is the time of the day which is most suited to prayer. The early morning, especially, is a time when the children will be quieter and less apt to horse-play. Certainly, they (and may you too) will be tired, but all the saints tell us that the morning is the time for prayer – why not instill this in your children through a morning Rosary?
Personally, I think that the parents ought to get up another half hour earlier, so as to make some time for mental prayer even before the Family Rosary.
4) Where? Is there any reason why the Rosary should be said in one place over another?
You will never succeed in praying the Rosary well, without having a place in the house especially designated to prayer. It may not be an entire chapel, but at least a prayer-spot is needed. If you have a place for the TV, you should have a place for the Crucifix and a statue of Mary (and, perhaps, some icons).
If the Family Rosary is said in a special place (especially if it is said in a special room) which is only used for prayer, this will be a great help in focusing the children. Further, the parents themselves will realize that even adults need to have a special place for prayer – that is why we say Mass in churches rather than gymnasiums, and why we don’t allow coffee. No food or gum or toys during the Family Rosary! (but do be patient with the littlest ones)
5) Why? A final thought on why your family should pray the Rosary every day.
Why should any family make the effort to pray the Rosary every day? First of all, don’t worry if you don’t manage to pray the Rosary quite every single day! We are still human! But do be sure to pray it every Saturday, and especially to point out First Saturdays to the children.
Why pray the Rosary every day?
Because Mother Church wants you to: The Church grants a plenary indulgence to those who pray the Family Rosary. There is no great sign of approval and encouragement than this! Read my earlier article on this [here].
Because Bl. John Paul II wants you to: “As a prayer for peace, the Rosary is also, and always has been, a prayer of and for the family. […] We need to return to the practice of family prayer and prayer for families, including the Rosary. […] The Holy Rosary, by age-old tradition, has shown itself particularly effective as a prayer which brings the family together. […] The family that recites the Rosary together reproduces something of the atmosphere of the household of Nazareth.” (Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 41)
Because it will save your family: “The family that prays together stays together.” This was first used in relation to the Family Rosary, by Fr. Patrick Peyton! If you pray the Rosary as a family, and if you recite it with devotion (not simply hurrying through as fast as possible, but saying it with love), your family will not only remain united on earth (according to God’s plan), but you will all be happily re-united for all eternity in heaven!
Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, Pray for us!