“…if you wish peace to reign in your homes, recite the family Rosary.” Pope Saint Pius
The Blessed Mother and countless saints have exhorted us to pray the Rosary every day with our families. This is all well and good for those saintly families whose children gather happily around the table each night, rosary beads in hand, arms springing into the air for the opportunity to lead the next decade. Yet those families account for… maybe 1% of Catholic households? (And perhaps I’m being generous?!)
Let’s face it. In today’s world, far more families are throwing dinner on the table, lucky to get the whole crowd together for three bites before one parent rushes off to soccer practice and the other bolts out the door for a school board meeting. On the rare occasion mom or dad finds the time to pray a full Rosary with the kids, young voices immediately arise:
“Do we have to?”
“C’mon, Dad, it’s so boring!”
“I’m too tired!”
There are ways, however, to sweeten the pot, squeeze in those decades, and begin to reap the benefits of the family Rosary prayer. Here are just a few.
1.) Don’t Let Perfection be the Enemy of the Good.
If you’re hoping to get all your kids kneeling, eyes closed, hands steepled in angelic prayer as they meditate devoutly on the life of Christ… prepare to be disappointed. There will be fidgeting. There will be complaining. There will be attempts to play with every single lose object within a three-foot radius. And, while you can move the magazines, remote, and other gadgets out of arm’s reach, you’ll probably want to stop short of chopping their hair or peeling off their fingernails to fully eliminate the many things children will find to fidget with!
There will inevitably be bumps and boibles on the road to praying the Rosary. Do your best, learn from each experience, and celebrate every Hail Mary like an Olympic qualification!
2.) Focus on Quality Rather than Quantity
Praying a full Rosary takes 15 minutes, minimum. Add squirming kids, mis-recited Our Fathers, and sibling squabbles, and you’re in for a solid 20. A lot of today’s kids aren’t wired to sit still that long, especially after a full day at school! Rather than aiming for the full five decades, how about choosing a single decade, and seeking to delve well and deeply into that particular mystery? Explain the mystery before you begin, and give the children a few ideas of things they might think about during the prayers. Use visual aids like Bead by Bead: The Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary for Children, which provides beautiful imagery for each of the mysteries, or follow along with one of the many YouTube videos available, some of which are specifically designed for families.
3.) Combine the Family Rosary with Another Activity
A funny thing happens once you leave the house with your kids: they’re stuck with you! Take advantage of this fact by adding a family Rosary to car rides, walks, or even hikes. This approach bears the added bonus of fewer distractions and minimized complaints. If they want to get where you’re going, they’ll settle down and pray up!
4.) Make it Part of the Bedtime Ritual
One of the best bedtime practices I’ve implemented with my own children over the years is praying a decade of the Rosary with each of them when I tuck them into bed at night. It provides an opportunity for me to talk one-on-one with each child about that particular mystery and how it relates to events happening in their lives, and my kids revel in the time alone with Mom. In fact, I often find that, even on nights when I feel it’s too late or I’m pressed for time, the kids beg me to pray a decade with them!
I also use the Rosary as my #1 recommendation for older children who can’t sleep. Meditating on the lives of Christ and Mary is a great way to take one’s mind off whatever troubles are keeping them awake!
5.) Last but not least… Use Bribery
You got that right. No child is immune to the proverbial dangling carrot! Whether it’s dessert, a family movie, a favorite game, or help with chores, you know your child’s currency. Take advantage of the things they want to give them what they need — a deepened life of faith and a lasting experience of the power of prayer!