How We Say a Family Rosary

by | Apr 4, 2013 | Parenting, Parenting Advice | 10 comments

Hey all, while we’re out of town for Easter Break, I’m cleaning out my drafts folder.  So if this sounds like it was written a while ago, it probably was.  I’ll still be checking comments, so feel free to have an opinion.  And a very happy Easter to you and yours!

We have a devotion to the Family Rosary, the execution of which ebbs and flows based on our evening sporting and activity schedule.  But, what with it being Lent and all, and me just finding out that the US Council of Catholic Bishops apparently issued a Call to Prayer last December (if they called here, I didn’t get the message) that urges, among other things, a DAILY FAMILY ROSARY. We’re good, but we’re not THAT good.  So, today I’m going to share what we’ve done that has worked long term, and what we are doing now to incorporate a Family Rosary more solidly into our daily routine.

Like many Catholics my age, I grew up with a glow-in-the-dark Rosary that I thought was super nifty, but didn’t have any idea how to actually use.  As an adult, I have come to understand how to pray the Rosary and why we ought to do it.  And I see the power and beauty in it (even while I struggle not to begrudge Our Lady the time it takes).

But how to go from that realization to this actuality:

Ahh, the power and beauty of the Tierney Family Rosary.

The biggest problem for me, was knowing that five decades of quiet peaceful reverence in which people never forget the words to prayers they’ve said 1000 times, or fall off their chairs, or use baby-hulk moves to snap a Rosary into multiple airborne projectiles, was probably not going to happen around here.  Certainly not at first.

It took reading the recommendations of multiple saints and Popes, summarized nicely here by Father Mark Kirby:

The devil, of course, hates the Rosary, precisely because it changes hearts, detaches from sin, attaches to the all–pure Mother of God, and leads to conversion. One of the ploys he uses to deter people from praying it is to suggest that unless one can pray it well, i.e. perfectly, one shouldn’t pray it at all. I would suggest, rather, that the Rosary, even prayed badly, is better than no Rosary at all.

to make me realize that unless I was willing to offer a very imperfect Rosary to God, I wouldn’t be offering one to Him at all.  He loves my children, and desires their company, wiggles and all.

So, I had to just be willing to start and hope for improvement. The place we started was the car.  They’re all strapped in, for one, which makes things easier, and since I’m stuck in the car anyway there’s nothing “better” I could be doing.  (The stuff I’d be doing at home would not, of course, actually be better.)  And I had something they wanted, with which they could be easily threatened — the DVD player.  We already had the rule that the DVD player was used only on long car rides (for ease of understanding, I define as “long” those car rides requiring the use of the freeway rather than surface streets), so we just added the extra step of saying a family Rosary before the DVD player came on.  My kids would literally BEG to say the Rosary.

Also, I award the choice of movie to whichever kid does the best job of SPEAKING UP (speaking up pleasantly).  Which brings me to my second issue with involving my kids in my Rosary: when I say it on my own I never have to whisper-SHOUT, or SHOUT-SHOUT at anyone.  But, since I had already decided that saying a family Rosary was a Worthy Goal Worth Effort, I decided to just push on through that one too.

So, sometimes Rosaries get stopped and people get patiently reminded / yelled at for things like Not Saying the Rosary, or Trying to Lasso Your Brother, or Piping Up on Unrelated Topics, or Not Saying the Rosary.

Sometimes we start it over again, or they get to finish the Rosary standing (if we’re at home), or sitting on their hands, or touching the roof of the van (character building!).  Sometimes they don’t get the movie afterwards at all.  (It doesn’t take much of that for things to improve in a hurry.)  But the Rosary gets done and it has gotten much, much easier over time.  Practice makes . . . passable.

Once we had established the in-the-car family Rosary, we tackled the at-home family Rosary.  I sometimes used Rosary worksheets, that the kids color-in as we go, and I toyed with the idea of sewing Rosary activity quilts, but never did.  And both are lovely and entertaining, but stuff like that ends up feeling like a short-term solution to me.  In general, I don’t think gimmicks are the best way to form habits.

I figure that if other families have been able to manage a Rosary, a regular ol’ Rosary, where we hold the beads and sit in the living room together and Speak Up, I don’t see why we can’t. And it turns out we can.

We do have some rules of course, since I think rules are awesome.  But not many.

  1. You can sit wherever you want, but no changing spots once we start.
  2. No putting the Rosary on knees or feet or other people.
  3. Speak Up!

The main obstacle to us saying a daily family Rosary has been putting it off all day in the hope of saying it all together in the evening, then busy evening schedules and early little kid bedtimes getting in the way.  The solution is to just take what we can get.  We would, of course, prefer to include Daddy in the family Rosary every day.  But, an incomplete family Rosary is better than no family Rosary at all.  So, I’m having us do an in-the-car Rosary in pieces even on shorter trips.  Or, we’re working in a Rosary-saying walk during the school day.  Both of these options appeal to my multi-tasking-loving heart anyway.

And we’re almost always able to do a whole-family Rosary on the weekend days.

We like to go ahead and do the whole Rosary if we start it, but if you prefer to start with one decade at a time, Monica over at Equipping Catholic Families has designed a paper craft Revolving Rosary that can help you keep track of where you are.

The family Rosary is a grace-filled tradition that CAN be managed by actual families, all it takes is commitment and flexibility and shouting*.  But it’s worth it.

* okay, despite what I’ve told you here, shouting during the Rosary is NOT required or encouraged by the Catholic Church or the Tierney family.  (And I’m going to work on it.)


  1. Jenna@CallHerHappy

    This is so great! We have been trying to do a family Rosary, but failing a lot. I sent it to my hubs for inspiration!

  2. Christine

    Thanks for all these thoughts. We are inconsistent about saying a family Rosary…we'll be good every day for a month, then not even do it once for two months. Sometimes it seems so hard to "fit in", but of course, there's very little else that is more important for us. I like the quote you shared about it being better to do it badly than not at all. And I agree about some things seeming gimmicky.

    Our oldest is not even three yet, so "family Rosaries" at this point are really just my husband and me praying while the kids sit on our laps. Recently, we've been having our son join us for one decade (he *kinda* knows the prayers), then allow him to sit near and play quietly.

  3. Blair

    I missed this when you posted it but what a great encouragement! My family needs to work on both imperfect rosaries and imperfect daily masses 🙂

    I love your writing and just showed my husband your Italy vs. US post. Hilarious!

  4. Amy @ Motherhood and Miscellany

    Aaah! I have been meaning and meaning and meaning to start working on making this a part of our daily routine and I always put it off. I think largely because I want to wait to do it when my husband gets home in the evening and then all that stuff you mentioned happens and it never gets done. I'm going to take this post as a kick in the pants and, since it's October, actually start DOING this instead of just thinking about it.

  5. Nicole Cox

    Any advice for ages to begin (or ages to completely avoid including in the family rosary? {Ahem, my 3 year old})? Our oldest just turned 6, then we have a 4.75 year old, 3, and 8 month old. We’ve been hesitant to jump in because the average age is still so young and our evening family prayers,which take about 10 minutes, can be pretty brutal for the tired 3 year old to get through without major explosion (from us or her? I’ll never tell!).

    Is it better to add a rosary for just the older two and get the 3 year old to bed? Or just make everyone try and get through a decade?

    • Kendra

      The car is a great way to introduce the Rosary to all ages. Our three year old actually likes to lead the prayers and be involved! Evenings and kids younger than that can be more challenging, but I’d rather it feel like a whole family activity, and then if, after a couple warnings, a kid is being disruptive, he or she gets unceremoniously taken to bed and the rest of us continue. I think that way, younger kids are more motivated to want to be involved.

  6. Lisa

    My kids are all out of the house now, but we officially started a family rosary in 2001 after St. John Paul II asked families to again take up the family rosary daily. I converted to the Faith in 1995 at which time we eased into the rosary beginning with a decade each night and 5 decades on Sunday. When we started the daily 5 decade rosary my kids were aged 1-11. While I would have liked us all kneeling, etc. that didn’t happen. There was a basket of children’s rosary books and puzzles for the littles to engage with. The children would each lead a decade beginning at about 4 or 5yo. We started from youngest to oldest and our”rule” was that once you prayed your decade you could fall asleep. Baths, books, and pajamas were already done, so after the rosary the sleepers would be carried to bed and the others went up on their own. Thus , I nicknamed it their “evening lullaby” and we never had sleep issues in our house.
    I would like to add that all of my children are practicing their Faith now, one of the major fruits we hoped for. However, sadly 3 out of 5 are not practicing. Regardless, they know that in our home, we pray the rosary each evening and will sometimes join us when they are here. I trust the graces are there and often bring those precious days before Our Lord and implore their return to the Faith.


  1. The Family Rosary: Why is it SO Hard? - Catholic All Year - […] How We Say a Family Rosary […]
  2. Being Catholic in the Car: five ways to pray and live liturgically while driving - Catholic All Year - […] talked about this one many times on the blog, starting here, and here’s the video version . . […]

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Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

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