Sometimes I imagine Saint Bernadette, eagerly and devoutly praying the rosary at the feet of Our Lady. She reverently hold the beads, she carefully recites the prayers, her heart and her mind full of Mary’s love for her son Jesus.
That’s not how it usually goes down at our house.
Not when the kids are involved, and not even when I’m praying it all by myself.
Young Lady Saying the Rosary, Vincent Vidal. French (1811 – 1887)
When I say a rosary, it’s almost always kinda grudgingly, with all the other things I could be doing with that twenty minutes flashing through my mind. And I’m almost always distracted by kids and lists and schedules. I have to admit to never having had any particularly supernatural experiences of the rosary at all.
When we pray it as a family, the kids get wiggly. The kids don’t speak up. They stare off into the distance and forget to say the prayers at all.
They play with their rosaries instead of praying with their rosaries. They break their rosaries instead of praying their rosaries.
So, why bother? Why do it at all? There are other ways to pray, of course. Why the rosary?
Catholic tradition holds that Our Lady appeared to St. Dominic and Blessed Alan de la Roche sometime in the thirteenth century to impart the devotion of the Rosary. Monks of the time used beads to pray all 150 psalms from memory, but the rosary was given by Mary to St. Dominic especially for the use of lay people who couldn’t read to memorize all those psalms.
It’s been prayed continuously ever since, by Catholics all over the world. Rich and poor, religious and lay people, saints and sinners.
I love the connection the rosary gives us to all of those people. I love the resurgence the rosary has had among Catholics lately. And even among a few Protestants.
(This series of posts by a Protestant historian is a thorough and fair take on the common Protestant objections to the rosary.)
The rosary can be prayed alone or in a group.
When I’m alone, I am still participating in a communal prayer of the Church. No matter when I’m praying, I can be certain other Catholics are praying the rosary at the same time, alongside me.
And when I’m praying in a group, I’m still also praying personally. I’m not a spectator.
While it’s easy to imagine a nun or a pious old church lady sitting at home alone with her rosary beads, the Church actually encourages us to pray the rosary with our family or religious community or in a church. The indulgence is better:
A plenary indulgence is granted when the rosary is recited in a
church or oratory or when it is recited in a family, a religious
community, or a pious association. A partial indulgence is granted for its recitation in all other circumstances.
So if I’m tempted to think I’d be better off just praying by myself and not bothering to pray with all these kids, I remember I’m getting paid overtime for it.
(For more on the concept of indulgences, see here.)
I like to be busy. The rosary is perfect for that.
It gives me something to do with my mouth: say the prayers, and something to do with my mind: meditate on the mysteries.
I also get something to do with my hands.
When our family says the rosary we are sharing traditional prayers, taken almost completely from scripture. And we are contemplating the lives of Jesus and Mary, through the mysteries of the rosary.
Few things warm a Catholic mama’s heart like hearing the stunted first few words of her children learning to pray. It’s pretty great. And I love how my kids’ relationship with the rosary develops over time. How they learn the prayers a few chunks at a time, and eventually are able to lead the prayers. I love how they can shout out the mysteries, and how they have favorite ones. Frankie, for instance, is rather partial to the Scourging at the Pillar.
On the other end, my grandmother suffered from severe dementia at the end of her life and couldn’t place me, and thought my son Jack was her son (my dad). But it only took saying the first few words and she could recite the whole Apostle’s Creed. That’s a powerful thing to be left with at the end of life.
I love how portable and flexible the rosary is. We usually say our family rosary sitting in the living room, or around the table. But if we’re short on time, we say it in the kitchen while we all work on the dishes.
We say it in the car whenever we have a long drive. We say it in church with the church ladies after Saturday morning Mass.
Yesterday, on the Feast of Pope St. John Paul II, we said it while walking home from our nature hike.
When the kids have trouble falling asleep, we suggest that they say a rosary. If they fall asleep in the middle, it’s okay. St. Therese didn’t mind, and that’s good enough for me.
I don’t get all filled with warm fuzzies when I say the rosary. But that’s okay. I say it as a spiritual exercise, to strengthen me.
I pretty much never FEEL like saying the rosary, but I’ve never regretted saying it when I was done.
I’m sure prayer is hard for everyone, but I’ve always wondered if it wasn’t ESPECIALLY hard for mothers of young children. Our lives are lived at the whims of the little people around us. It’s difficult to have a regular schedule of quiet prayer time.
But, for me, that’s the great thing about the rosary. It’s only twenty minutes, less if I really hustle through it. I can do it at any time of day and in any place. I can do it with the kids or on my own. I don’t even have to have any equipment, because I’ve always got my fingers with me.
There’s really not a good excuse for me to NOT get to a rosary during the day. And if all I get to in a day is a rosary, that’s still pretty good. (Although I do make a point of trying to include other prayers in my day as well.)
Our Lady told us at Fatima to pray the Rosary daily. The bishops told families to pray the rosary daily. Popes and saints have told us to pray the rosary daily. They didn’t say I have to like it, just that I should do it.
And wow, are there ever a lot of lovely things associated with saying the rosary.
There are rosary promises, and rosary miracles, and rosary messages. All of these are considered “private revelation” and as such are a pious tradition, which a person is free to believe or not believe.
But I know it’s something that I want to be a part of our family culture. I want it to be a tool in my kids’ tool kits. I want them to know it’s there and know how to use it. I feel like our family rhythm is better when we are in the swing of a daily family rosary.
We haven’t always, ALWAYS been great about getting to it. The family rosary has been a part of our family life since the husband and I got married, but our consistency
has fluctuated quite a bit. These past few months of uncertainty about house buying,
however, have been VERY motivational for us. We’ve been saying it every
day, and hoping for our miracle, in spite of our wiggling bodies and wandering minds.
Here’s how we do it, usually . . .
Here’s how we do it on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary . . .
Here are some tips from Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas . . .
If you are not yet a person who regularly prays the rosary . . . this is a good month to start.
you used to be a person who regularly prayed the rosary and then you
had kids, or a job, or school and now, not so much . . . this is a good
month to pick it back up again.
If you are a person who regularly prays the rosary . . . this is the perfect month to keep up the good work.
I’ve got some resources for all y’all. And people get to win them!
A cute little book to help you guide your children (or your childlike self) though meditations on each of the mysteries of the rosary. It’s written by Michele E. Chronister of My Domestic Monastery and illustrated with original folk art by Heather Sleightholm of Slightholm Folk Art.
This book is one of four available, one for each set of mysteries of the rosary. It has a two page spread featuring the prayer and a different work of art for EACH BEAD of the rosary. I think it’s intended for kids, but would also be quite useful for distractable adult-types.
It’s published by Peanut Butter and Grace, a Catholic family company with a really great selection of useful and practical resources for Catholic families.
Kids are tough on rosaries, but I don’t want to be that mom who won’t let anybody touch anything. So I am really grateful for GOOD child-friendly rosaries. Mary Jane’s godparents gave her a Chews Life Rosary, and we love it.
Shannon of Chews Life makes fun, safe, brightly colored rosaries that are supposed to be for babies but have proved very popular with all my kids, even the thirteen-year-old. The beads have a very comforting give to them!
“Give me an army saying the rosary and I will conquer the world.” -Pope Blessed Pius IX
“To recite the rosary is nothing more than to contemplate the face of Christ with Mary.” -Pope St. John Paul II
“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.”
-Fr. Mark Kirby
There will be four winners, announced next Friday. To enter, just leave a comment on this post telling me the last time you said a rosary (“not yet” is allowed!), and/or your best tip for remembering to say a rosary or wrangling kids while saying a rosary.
I was provided some of these items for review, and some links are affiliate links.
Stay tuned. I’ve got even more October giveaways to come!