October is the month of the rosary in the Catholic calendar and October 7 is the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary, established by St. Pius V “on the anniversary of the naval victory won by the Christian fleet at Lepanto. The victory was attributed to the help of the holy Mother of God whose aid was invoked through praying the rosary. The celebration of this day invites all to meditate upon the mysteries of Christ, following the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary……” (Book of Christian Prayer)
I could write about the 15 promises made by the Virgin Mary to those who persevere in praying the rosary but you can read more about them here. Most Catholics have heard or read of these promises at some point in their lives. The question is, even with the good news of the rewards of praying the rosary, why has praying the devotion fallen out of favour with Catholics?
For a few years, I was part of a volunteer team that went into Catholic schools once a month and prayed the rosary with the children. Depending on the grade, the team prays a shortened version or the full 5 decades. Part of the Rosary Apostolate program includes catechesis based on the mysteries. It was easy for me to spot the children who prayed the rosary with their families. They were the only ones who could answer questions. Sadly, I could count on less than 5 children in each Catholic classroom. If I factored my own kids out of the equation, the numbers were even lower. Parents would tell me how surprised they were that their children knew how to say the prayer or that their children were asking for their own rosaries.
So what’s the problem? Even in families who regularly attend Sunday Mass, a devotion to the rosary isn’t being cultivated. The most frequent excuse is time. On any given day, parents are going to work, driving kids to extracurricular activities, helping with homework, doing housework. There’s no time, everyone’s too tired, the kids are too young, it’s boring.
In our home, we have an imperfect devotion to the rosary. We pray most nights of the week but sometimes we slip up and fall on the usual excuses. But we try to do better next time. Sometimes, the older kids will say that they prayed during the day or they’ll pray on their own, but on most evenings, whoever is home will gather together. Very rarely do we pray all 5 mysteries. We pray 3 mysteries, alternating between the first, second, third mysteries one week and the third, fourth, fifth mysteries the following week. After the mysteries, we add a few additional prayers including the Guardian Angel prayer, St. Michael the Archangel, a prayer to the Holy Spirit and one to St. Joseph.
My point in all this is that the rosary can be modified to suit the needs of individual families. We started this devotion when our 20-something year old kids were very young. Praying 3 Hail Marys was an achievement in itself. As the size of our family grew and the age difference began to widen, we geared the length of prayer to the younger kids. The important thing is that we are praying as a family, cultivating a devotion to the rosary and reinforcing in the children the traditional prayers of the Catholic church.
But what about the excuse of being too busy and the rosary takes too long? Those who pray the devotion regularly have figured out how to fit it into their daily life but people who continue to make excuses may need a bit of help. Here are some suggestions to motivate the latter. Add your own and pass it on.
- Set the alarm 10 minutes earlier in the morning and pray one decade.
- Pray a decade while waiting for the bus.
- Pray one decade when stuck in traffic.
- Pray on the subway.
- If you’re fortunate enough to be able to get to a church at lunchtime, pray a decade in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
- Pray a decade while sitting on the bleachers at the kids’ sports practice.
- Pray instead of watching the latest reality show fad.
- Pray while waiting for your nail polish to dry. Ten colourful fingers equals ten colourful beads.
- Pray while dinner is in the oven.
- Pray as the family heads out on a long car trip.
- Pray while walking the dog or walking yourself.
- Pray on the treadmill.
- Pray a family rosary right after dinner before clean-up and homework time.
- Pray a family rosary before the youngest kids’ bedtimes.
- Pray when you’re on vacation.
- Find opportunities during the day to pray and encourage your children to do the same. You don’t need rosary beads. Use your fingers.
- There are many CDs, apps and downloads to help get you started. Find one that works for you.
Some people give boredom as the reason for not praying the rosary. If it’s variety you want, the rosary has the answer.
- The Clausular Rosary is the oldest form of the prayer. Meditating on one decade of this form of the rosary has a very peaceful effect.
- The Brigittine Rosary is the form used by the Discalced Carmelite Order.
The Year of Faith which begins this month is the perfect time to take inventory of our faith life and make much needed improvements. Beginning a family and personal devotion to the rosary is a wonderful way to answer the Holy Father’s call of Porta Fidei…..opening wide the doors of faith. Encourage others to do the same.
To Jesus, through Mary, in the Holy Rosary.