by Michaelyn Hein –
“Hail Mary, full of grace,” we recited, as our four-year-old dived off the couch to the floor.
Not to be outdone, our daughter followed her little brother, though with an intention not to crash to the carpet but to step carefully into a cartwheel.
“We are not done with the Rosary,” my husband sighed as he pushed his glasses aside to rub his eyes and then his temples.
We were four decades into our nightly family Rosary, and it had taken us about 40 minutes to get there. The temptation to cut it short was strong. Had I offered that option, I am sure my entire family would have agreed. But I offered no such exit, and so we pressed on.
My lofty ambitions of peaceful, meditative family Rosaries are long gone. Years ago, I urged my husband and children to join me in prayer that I naively believed would make us look like a bunch of joyfully gathered saints. But our Rosaries usually ended with at least one of my children pouring out the frustrated tears that I held in.
I’d like to say that since those early days our family Rosary has improved and that my little ones are eagerly engaged in more than 50 repeated Hail Mary’s every night. That we tie up our tidy Rosaries with peace and joy and a firm conviction that we just put a huge smile on Our Lady’s face. On the contrary, I often find myself mentally apologizing to our Blessed Mother multiple times mid-Rosary, as I imagine her sporting a painful grimace instead of a peaceful grin.
And yet, in my heart, I know that is not true. It has taken many months and thousands of prayers said on beads to accept that rather than be upset with my family’s messy Rosaries, Mary is more likely immeasurably pleased with our efforts.
I began to believe this as I got to know our Blessed Mother better, and as I reflected more on my own heart as a mother.
It is said that once, when Mary appeared to St. Bernadette, the girl sprinkled holy water on Our Lady in order to determine if she was of God or the devil. In response, our Blessed Mother did something so simple and maternal. She smiled. Mary did not chide; she did not reprimand or scold. Rather, she recognized the desire of Bernadette’s innocent heart and rewarded her with a smile.
In our family Rosaries, especially those interrupted by fidgety children, does Our Lady not respond in like manner? Surely, she sees our desire to honor her frequent and repeated requests for us to pray the Rosary. Rather than roll her eyes, as we might, at the interruptions that seemingly ruin our would-be perfect prayers, is it not more likely that our Blessed Mother smiles at our sincere, though imperfect, efforts to do the right thing?
Certainly, she sees the strong temptation to give up and indirectly teach our children that the Rosary is not worth the sacrifice it requires. She must see how easy it would be for us to turn our backs and abandon her urges for more prayer and penance.
But we stay. We pick up those beads, and whether it takes 20 minutes or an hour, a single evening or an entire day, we persevere through its approximately 70 total prayers for the sole purpose of pleasing our Blessed Mother.
As a mom myself, when my young daughter tries to ease my burden by washing the dishes, do I chide her for her attempts since they are never as clean as I would get them? No. Rather, my heart soars when her heart tries so hard to love.
And so, I feel certain, does Our Lady’s.
St. Therese of Lisieux agreed. “When alone, (I am ashamed to admit it),” she confessed, “the recitation of the Rosary is more difficult for me than the wearing of an instrument of penance. I feel I have said this so poorly! I force myself in vain to meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary; I don’t succeed in fixing my mind on them.”
Still, she added, “I think that the Queen of Heaven, since she is my Mother, must see my good will and she is satisfied with it.”
St. Pius X encourages us as well in this regard. “The Rosary,” he praised, “is the most beautiful and the most rich in graces of all prayers; it is the prayer that touches most the Heart of the Mother of God. If you wish peace to reign in your homes, recite the family Rosary.”
Our Lady knows families. She knows they are busy and often messy. But she is not disturbed by this. She knows, rather, that when we persevere through elongated and oft-interrupted decades, we teach our children that though it may be a struggle, the Rosary is worth the sacrifice.
Thus, when we feel tempted to abandon this prayer, we must ask ourselves the same question Mary posed of Lucia at Fatima: “Do you wish to offer yourselves to God to endure all the sufferings that He may be pleased to send you, as both an act of reparation for the sins with which He is offended and an act of supplication for the conversion of sinners?”
At such times, we have an opportunity, like Lucia, to give Mary our fiat. As was true of Our Lady, our assent will not be without sacrifice. But I believe it is precisely in this way that our imperfect rosaries please our perfect Mother.
Michaelyn Hein is a Catholic writer, wife and mother who resides in Hopewell, New Jersey. She contributes regularly to our Fatima blog and Soul Magazine.