We can all be honest for a moment and admit it. We can confess it happens even to the best, most well-intentioned, large, noisy, earnest, faulty and very real Catholic homeschooling family (like the one I come from!).
We try to pray the daily family Rosary. We really do try.
But some days (okay . . . make that mostly all days), the task seems arduous to the point of impossibility!
We dim the electric lights; we ignite the old-fashioned candles; we dig through the ‘Rosary Box’ (which, thanks to sweet but messy little kids, is often a tub of holy tangled spaghetti) and manage to arrange most of the children on the sofas (except for the toddler, who insists on running laps and leaping onto cushions with giggles of glee). We glance warily at the wiggling little ones, all of whom seem on the brink of hysterical laughter or malcontent eruption (depending on the day and the child).
And we wonder if anyone else can see where this is headed? Will we ever be able to successfully pray the daily family Rosary?
Yes, we can! Coming from a happy homeschooling family that once had little ones, and observing both my parents and other homeschooling parents I’ve come to love and respect over the years, I’d like to offer six easy steps for how we can make family Rosary time not only doable, but grace-filled!
1. Calmly press on through the CLDs (Cute Little Distractions)
Our family’s little ones will be little ones. But that’s okay: Christ loved little ones! True, they have boundless energy, irrepressible spirits and sometimes wandering attention spans, but their purity of heart is unsullied, and out of their mouths comes perfected praise.
So during the middle of the Mystery of the Visitation when someone starts giggling, whining, or chanting “Wheels on the Bus,” keep calm and carry on.
A gentle shush followed by persistent Hail Marys will carry on the prayer (and maintain our sanity) much better than slamming on the brakes and dealing out multiple corrections. If we keep our attention on the prayer, our family’s sweet children will soon learn to follow suit.
And in the meantime, Our Mother Mary won’t mind the careening toddler!
2. Go visual
Religious coloring books, laminated ‘Mysteries of the Rosary’ cards on a ring, or special picture Bibles brought out only during the Rosary: the use of any of these will help our restless little ones to sit more contentedly during Rosary time.
As they finger through the holy artwork, they can ponder in their innocence the faces of Jesus and Mary. And that’s really all the Rosary is about, right?
3. We’re not obliged to recite ‘Golden Hail Marys’
Hail Marys are termed as “golden” when they are prayed with considerable slowness, reverence, and meditation.
They’re genuinely beautiful to practice, but contained within a family Rosary, they’re probably best left until the children in our family are older and can appreciate the value of markedly slower prayer.
With little ones, it’s not at all irreverent of us to recite the Rosary at a steady, mildly brisk pace, so don’t feel guilty for it: they will still see our reverence of heart, our love for the Blessed Virgin and our earnest desire to please Our Lord!
4. Adopt the Buddy Prayer System
We can request that one of the older children in our family team up with a restless little one, and that they lead a decade together.
If we make it sound like a special, exciting honor (which it is!) for the toddler, and maybe reinforce this by rehearsing our ‘buddy prayer system’ for a few short minutes during our morning prayer time, chances are the little one will be looking forward to it by the evening (with the added chance to ‘show Daddy what they’ve learned,’ which is always exciting!) . . . and that’s one decade down!
5. Have visible intentions
Maybe we have a sick friend, a beloved priest or a deceased loved one we’re offering our Rosary for. Why not locate photos of these special people beforehand and put them up on the wall or fireplace during our family Rosary?
If the little ones get restless, we can gently direct their attention to the people they know and love and remind them, ‘Can you please try to sit still for a little bit longer? Can you pray extra hard for (Nana) tonight?’
Then maybe we can let them follow up afterward with a phone call to the family member or friend, happily announcing they offered a Rosary for them.
The gratification will motivate the kids to keep praying!
6. Pray for a peaceful prayer time
We’re gathered together, endeavoring to grow in love as a Catholic family by praying one of the most powerful prayers of our faith.
What better place to petition Our Lady for a peaceful and grace-filled prayer time?
By the way, voicing this intention aloud before the Rosary begins also serves as a not-so-subtle reminder to the kids . . . no harm in that, right?