Tips on Praying a Family Rosary
May is the "month which the piety of the faithful has especially dedicated to Our Blessed Lady... During this month Christians, both in church and in the privacy of the home, offer up to Mary from their hearts an especially fervent and loving homage of prayer and veneration.” (Paul VI: Encyclical on the Month of May)
What better way to please the Blessed Mother and her Son, Jesus Christ, than praying the rosary as she asked us to do at at Fatima. I’d encourage anyone who has thought of saying a family rosary to begin or continue for this month of May and see what a blessing it can be for your whole family.
Fr. Patrick Peyton’s (1909-1992) famous slogan was “the family who prays together, stays together”. While there are no absolute guarantees that praying together will help everyone stay together, it is a great way to help everyone better connect with God and each other and to please God as well.
Family prayer can create an extra special bond between all the family members and teaches them to pray. The Bible says to, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). There is no better way to teach than through example. Children not only see the parents praying but it is a great support to them in their prayer life as well.
By repetition, to rosary helps children to learn their formal prayers like the Our Father and Hail Mary. Plus by teaching them to think about or meditate on the mysteries of the rosary while they say their prayers as Mary taught us to do, they learn about the important events in the lives of Jesus and Mary and thereby get to know Jesus and Mary better.
The following article is an exerpt from my book, "How to Pray the Rosary as a Pathway to Contemplation", which includes art and scripture to help meditate on the rosary including the following tips on saying a family rosary:
Saying the family rosary with children can be a challenge, but it can also become a special time for the whole family. Following are some ideas that have worked for my family that you might want to try.
First of all, set a usual time that is best for everyone (not during favorite shows or activities). A good time might be right before the children’s usual bedtime or consider extending their bedtime by 20 minutes (the usual time it takes to say the rosary).
One idea is to give the children a choice of going to bed at the usual time or staying up an extra 20 minutes to say the family rosary. That way they feel they get to do something special that they wouldn’t ordinarily get to do and they are already winding down for the night.
It’s a good idea to get each child their own rosary and perhaps a small pamphlet with pictures of the mysteries of the rosary. If your children like to make things, you might want to make your own rosaries. Materials for making rosaries are available on the web. For small children you can even make or buy rosaries with big beads.
One idea to get the children’s attention and keep them focused, is to wait until it gets dark to say the rosary and then turn off most or all of the lights. Have a special candle to use while saying the rosary, and let one of the children light the candle. Let the children take turns lighting the candle before beginning the rosary and blowing it out at the end of the rosary. If the room is dark or semi-dark it helps the children to be quiet and not to get distracted. (Don’t forget to put the matches in a safe place.) Lighting the candle and prayer can become a family event of shared closeness with each other and God.
Another idea is to let the children take turns leading the decades if they are old enough and to let them each add their own intentions before beginning the rosary. If some children really do not want to join in, especially teenagers, it might be a good idea just to invite them and give them a choice, rather than forcing them. Parents often have a sense of when a little pressure will be good or when it is counterproductive.
Another idea is that little children (who often can’t pay attention very long) or even busy teenagers could be encouraged to say one decade and then be allowed to leave after that if they choose. The goal is to encourage them to want prayer as part of their life and to associate prayer with a positive experience and not to associate it with punishment or negative interactions. If they see the lights off, the candle burning and everyone else praying, this often pulls them in to want to be included.
Teenagers often have serious concerns. Offering to say the rosary for their special intentions may encourage them to want to be a part of the family rosary. Since they are at a time in their life where they are becoming adults, it is important to let them make more of their own decisions. Inviting rather than forcing becomes more important for older children.
Bribing is not recommended as a way to get children to pray! We don’t want them to think they only do good things if there is something extra in it for them. We want them to learn that praying, like virtue, “is its own reward”.
Also it is possible to obtain a plenary indulgence for oneself or a soul in purgatory when saying a family rosary, under the usual conditions. More information about this can be seen in the Enchiridion of Indulgences which is online at the Vatican website at www.vatican.va.
(c) 2006 Kathryn Marcellino