by Michaelyn Hein –
The first time my family attempted to pray a Rosary together was, admittedly, a disaster. My toddler broke one of our rosaries, my preschooler whined her way through it and my husband increased the speed of praying so that the words were nearly indecipherable. I understood his desire to get it over quickly.
“Mary,” I thought, “I am so sorry. This is a complete mess.”
I’d had high hopes. I had imagined my youngest falling asleep to a lullaby of Hail Marys while my older two eagerly vied for who would get to lead each mystery. Instead, God allowed me to be humbled.
The next evening the temptation was strong to ditch the whole effort altogether. Who, in her right mind, would want to recreate the previous night’s debacle? I dragged my feet getting the kitchen clean. I let the pre-bedtime baths linger a little longer. I insisted I just had to get one more load of laundry switched before we could attempt our second family Rosary.
Eventually, though, I had to relent to the soft tug of the Holy Spirit, who called me into the living room far more gently than the manner in which my toddler would soon be pulling at my hand as he tried to get me to play instead of to pray.
“Start small,” I felt something within me say. I ruminated on that thought. In my sudden eagerness to be a Rosary-praying family, I’d tried to get my children to shift from one Hail Mary in their bedtime prayers to 53 of them in evening prayer (a new concept in and of itself). Perhaps, I’d come on too strong. If we were going to pray Our Lady’s prayer, I needed to give my children the grace that Mary gives us.
So that second night, I altered the plan. “Okay, kids,” I said, “get your rosary. Tonight, though, we are saying only one mystery – just 10 Hail Marys instead of 50. Can we handle that?” The children smiled, relieved, and as we settled in together for just a few minutes, I, too, felt relief.
We prayed more slowly. We prayed with greater concentration on the mystery. And best of all, no one ended that night’s family Rosary with frustrated tears in their eyes (particularly me).
It’s been well over a year now of praying a daily family Rosary, and while it doesn’t always go perfectly (okay, it never goes perfectly), we now get through all five mysteries in one sitting. It took some practice, but we’ve managed to find ways to help the Rosary become the prayer of our family. What follows are some of the most successful strategies for igniting (or re-kindling) a devotion to the family Rosary.
Make it simple
Though long, the Rosary really is a simple prayer. Comprised of the first prayers children learn, it is accessible to us all. It is a humble prayer given by the Mother of Humility herself. If the Blessed Virgin believed even the young children of Fatima could handle reciting it daily, then surely all families can do the same.
Still, there is much we can do to make it easier for little ones to grasp. If just beginning, we needn’t start with all five mysteries. Help children to work up to five decades by starting with one, then adding another mystery when the family seems ready to handle the augmentation. Keep working in that manner, and before long, you’ll forget there was ever a time when your family didn’t pray the entire Rosary in one sitting.
Make it engaging
Most nights, our family says the Rosary as we sit on our living room sofas. But we’ve also found more creative ways to keep committed to the prayer. We’ve made rosaries out of fruits, candy, nuts or sweet treats, and snacked with every Hail Mary we said. We’ve recited our Rosary together as we hiked local trails. We’ve sat around our fire pit on cool Fall evenings, resting in its warm glow as we traded turns leading mysteries.
The Rosary needn’t always be a strict, rigid prayer. When we keep it fresh and fun for our children, we make all our time together as a family more fruitful, which is surely part of Our Blessed Mother’s hope for us.
Make it personal
My children truly began to adopt and claim the Rosary for themselves when they were each invited to take responsibility for a decade. As the leader of their mystery, they know that the intention we pray for (and we do name an intention or request a grace at the start of each mystery), is solely their choosing. As such, they are each eager to claim at least one decade to lead. And to hear a child’s request of Our Lady is assuredly a treat for us parents, too.
Make it communal
When we began our evening Rosary, the Covid lockdowns were just beginning. The world was abnormally isolated. When a relative invited us to join a nightly Rosary on Zoom, praying it with a half dozen other families, we jumped on board, eager to reach out across the web to rebuild long-missed connections.
Our children were suddenly excited to hop on the internet to pray Our Fathers, Hail Marys and Glory Bes with their cousins. More than a year since the last lockdown day ended, we still change up our evening routine by occasionally joining our loved ones on an evening Zoom Rosary.
Our faith is communal, and the Rosary is the quintessential communal prayer. It joins us, if not physically, then spiritually, with our praying brothers and sisters in Christ. While the world suffers division, the Rosary brings us back into communion. Let us begin by uniting our families around its beads, and soon, the world may follow.
Michaelyn Hein is a freelance writer, wife and mother who resides in Hopewell, N.J. She is a regular contributor to Soul Magazine and the Fatima blog for the World Apostolate of Fatima, USA.