About seventeen years ago, a lovely neighbor named Mary, whom I knew through a library toddler activity, asked me to join her at the moms and tots group at our parish. Through this group, I met her closest friend Chris, and the three of us hit it off nicely.
Our children were similar ages; I had two kids to Mary’s three and Chris’ four, but I was expecting number three and Chris was expecting number five.
A few weeks later, Mary invited me to her home on Friday to pray the rosary with her family, Chris’ family and two other families. My husband, not Catholic at the time, didn’t come but offered to babysit our little ones while I went. What I found was a fun, lively group who enjoyed pizza, a glass of wine or a beer (the grown-ups not the kids) and then sat down to pray a very child-led rosary.
The children read the meditations—those who were old enough to read—and Chris’ husband led an appropriate hymn in between each decade. All of the children knew all of the prayers, even as young as three years old. They sang with abandon and at the end were rewarded with a loud song including hand motions.
After prayers, dessert and relaxation was the order of the evening while everyone discussed weekend plans and scheduled playdates, birthday parties and sleepovers.
I loved it.
When I went home and asked my husband to join me on the next Friday, he was understandably apprehensive, having grown up with no faith tradition, but when I explained that all the dads were cool and there was beer, he decided to give it a try.
Seventeen years and eight hundred eighty four Fridays later, we are still praying together. Two other families have joined us, and one or two others float in and out as time allows them.
We are often asked how to start a family rosary night, so I thought I would share a few of the things that have worked for us over the years.
1. Ask Our Lady to send you a family to pray with.
All you need is one other family to get started. Do you have friends at church with similar-aged children? Is there a lady at the library with some toddlers who wears a miraculous medal? What about a fellow homeschool mom? Bring these things to prayer and Our Lady will place the person who needs you most on your heart. I promise this works.
2. Keep it local.
Our prayer group is not a homeschool family prayer group, although three families do homeschool. Since we pray on Friday night and there is no work or school the next morning for most of us, we can go a little late. It just makes sense to have a short ride home on a Friday evening with a bunch of kids.
Don’t be too hung up on it being a homeschool group, but rather be open to whomever God sends your way.
3. Rotate homes.
There are five regular families in our group, so we each take a Friday. This way no one family is overwhelmed by having to host a large gathering every week. There is no schedule, rather an “I haven’t had it here in a while so it must be my turn” kind of schedule.
Around Wednesday afternoon, whoever decides to host sends out an email or texts and says “We will be having rosary, who is in for pizza?” and everyone responds by Friday afternoon. Sometimes life interferes and you can’t host for a while, when homes are being renovated or there are extended house guests. It doesn’t matter because we are in this for life, and at some point you will make it up.
It’s all very relaxed.
4. Have food.
There is nothing like sharing a meal to bring a festive and happy air to a gathering. In our case, we all chip in and the host family orders pizza. Everyone bring desserts, beverages and starters like veggie trays and chips. If you’ve had a crazy day and can’t bring an extra, it’s OK because there is always next week.
In Lent we leave off desserts and in Eastertide we double them up because we love to celebrate.
5. State your intentions.
Before we begin, everyone gets to state whom or what they are praying for. This can mean that fifty or so people will be praying the rosary for your intentions.
That’s a lot of prayer and grace, so make sure everyone gets a turn. It’s also wonderful to see how the children learn to pray for each other and keep their friends’ struggles in mind while they are praying.
6. Be flexible.
Our rosary night is Friday, and we usually start showing up between 7:00 and 7:30 pm. This is because the dads all have long commutes. We eat in a leisurely manner to allow for stragglers to get there, and often people continue to arrive after we’ve begun prayers.
That’s OK. People have busy lives and lots to do, so don’t get caught up in rigid schedules and timelines. It’s more important to include people and welcome them than to get done by a certain hour. If you have very young ones, maybe an earlier start time would be better for you.
The most important thing to remember when beginning to host a family prayer group is that Our Lady will greatly bless any efforts you make to honor her in this beautiful devotion and that anyone who wants to pray with you will, in some way, bless your life.
Every effort we make to keep our little group going every Friday is worth it a thousand times over, and I know that we will always have this in our lives.
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