My father, now in his 70s, remembers coming downstairs in the morning as a child and seeing his mother in a chair, fingering her rosary beads and quietly praying. This example probably had a lot to do with dad’s own devotion to the rosary as an adult. Children emulate what they see, and when what they see is good, it bears great fruit.
During Lent in my own days of childhood, dad would gather his family in the family room and together we would recite the rosary. Some would kneel. Some would sit. Dad would look up. Those who were sitting would kneel.
During those nightly recitations my mind would often wander. But the soothing sound of voices together praying would bring me back to concentrated prayer. No wait. Actually it was mom clearing her throat because she saw someone slouching. Some would complain (I’m not naming names), or wiggle (lots of little kids). Dad would stop to firmly … but kindly … correct. Some would recite the words very quickly. Mom would slow them down.
In looking back I imagine it took a lot of effort for Mom and Dad to institute this family devotion. I grew up in a family of 13 children so evenings were busy and making time to pray was a challenge. First of all, the dinner dishes (which, piling up looked like a small restaurant’s after the busy lunch hour) had to be cleared, and the kitchen cleaned. That in and of itself caused kids to slip into one of the several bathrooms for a good long exercise in avoidance. It took a few knocks on the door and gentle reprimands to get offenders out and emptying the dishwasher. I’m sure it would have been easier for mom to simply pick up the kitchen mess herself, but she was wise and kept pulling us back.
Another reason it took effort to institute the family rosary is that we kids usually had a lot of weeknight homework (on account of the good Catholic schools we attended, of course). It would have been easy for mom and dad to excuse us from prayer for valuable academic work, but they didn’t. A third reason it took effort to institute the family rosary is that mom and dad had to corral all their children, who by post-dinner, post-dragging-out-of-the-bathroom time were often scattered about the house. Also — and this is very important — they had to first discipline themselves to want to gather the children and pray. How easy it would have been simply to skip the whole effort.
I share the little challenges of instituting the Lenten family rosary time because I want to paint a realistic picture of what this entails. Most Catholic families are not perfectly organized, with their members, old and young, happily pitching in to make a sparkling kitchen after the dinner meal. Most parents don’t have at least a little challenge in gathering (even very good) children to pull out their rosary beads and pray.
It’s worth the effort, of course, and it’s important to try. God takes us where we are, and the act of trying is a good first step.
I called this thought to mind when my husband and I introduced our own children to the Lenten rosary when they were little. We would try. We would really try. In fact, I decided that we were going to do it even better than my parents did. I would let my kids sit, not kneel. How could they complain? To help the children learn the mysteries, I purchased a set of laminated 8×10-inch illustrations for them to hold, look at and hopefully ponder piously during the recitation. I knew the tricks of youth. I would nip those in the bud. I was sure. I was confident.
I was wrong.
The kids still pulled their tricks. They even thought of new ones. I still had to extricate toddlers from underneath sofa legs and deal with deep sighs of annoyance of the older ones on occasion. Ah, human nature.
I tried not to let it deter me. “You guys at least get to sit,” I told my children, “I had to kneel.” My husband thought kneeling was a good idea so that was that. As the circle of life continued we faced similar challenges that my parents had in instituting praying the rosary as a family. Life is funny. But still, like my parents, my husband and I pressed on.
Today, when my older young adult children call or email to share a concern or upcoming stressful situation, the words just roll off my lips, or the words off my typing fingers, “I’ll say a rosary for you.” I usually hear a sigh of relief on the other end of the phone, or if the conversation takes place via email, a quick “THANKS!” is quickly received.
The rosary is powerful … necessary … and parents absolutely need to pass this devotion to their children, particularly critical for our modern times.
At Fatima, in a series of Church-approved apparitions, the children visionaries shared the words that the Blessed Mother spoke there: “Say the rosary every day… .”
With or without children.
Whether or not they slouch, or hide or grumble.
It is a parent’s privilege and responsibility.
Great faithfulness will bear great fruit.
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