One of the beautiful things I relish about our Catholic Church is how we celebrate the Liturgical year. This year, I love how the end of the Easter Season overlaps with the month of May, the month dedicated to honoring Our Blessed Mother. Surely this is part of God’s plan. He wants us to look to Mary, who willingly suffered with her Son every step of the Passion, and thus played a key role in the redemption of mankind. Mary is our co-redemtrix and our Queen, and it is right that we give her our honor and praise.
But I think that we honor Our Lady most when we love her as a young child loves its mother, with simple and trusting devotion. Faithfulness in praying the rosary is one of the best expressions of our devotion.
“The Rosary is the most beautiful and the most rich in graces of all prayers; it is the prayer that touches most the Heart of the Mother of God…and if you wish peace to reign in your homes, recite the family Rosary.” Pope Saint Pius X
In his apostolic letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, St. Pope John Paul II urges parents to pray the rosary for and with their children.
The family that prays together stays together. The Holy Rosary, by age-old tradition, has shown itself particularly effective as a prayer which brings the family together….
The family that recites the Rosary together reproduces something of the atmosphere of the household of Nazareth: its members place Jesus at the centre, they share his joys and sorrows, they place their needs and their plans in his hands, they draw from him the hope and the strength to go on.
To pray the Rosary for children, and even more, with children, training them from their earliest years to experience this daily “pause for prayer” with the family, is admittedly not the solution to every problem, but it is a spiritual aid which should not be underestimated.
Yes, we know we should pray the rosary with our children, but it isn’t an easy task, is it? In our home, just getting through one decade without Rascal doing flips on the couch or Rascal and Princess fighting over a rosary is difficult enough! Sometimes, I just want to give up trying.
To make matters even more challenging, the rosary is supposed to be a contemplative prayer. It is not meant to be a mere repetitive rambling of Hail Marys and Our Fathers. When we pray the rosary, we are supposed to meditate upon each of the mysteries, just as Mary continually contemplated the life of her Son.
Mary lived with her eyes fixed on Christ, treasuring his every word: “She kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19; cf. 2:51). The memories of Jesus, impressed upon her heart, were always with her, leading her to reflect on the various moments of her life at her Son’s side. In a way those memories were to be the “rosary” which she recited uninterruptedly throughout her earthly life…
The Rosary, precisely because it starts with Mary’s own experience, is an exquisitely contemplative prayer. Without this contemplative dimension, it would lose its meaning, as Pope Paul VI clearly pointed out: “Without contemplation, the Rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation runs the risk of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas, in violation of the admonition of Christ: ‘In praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think they will be heard for their many words’ (Mt 6:7). St. Pope John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae,
The rosary is supposed to be a prayer of contemplation. If that’s a tall order for a highly distracted mom (and it is!), how are we supposed to teach our children, especially the little ones, to contemplate the life of Christ? St.Pope John Paul II understood the difficulties we face, and he encourages us to be creative in helping young people to pray the rosary.
It could be objected that the Rosary seems hardly suited to the taste of children and young people of today. But perhaps the objection is directed to an impoverished method of praying it. Furthermore, without prejudice to the Rosary’s basic structure, there is nothing to stop children and young people from praying it – either within the family or in groups – with appropriate symbolic and practical aids to understanding and appreciation. Why not try it? With God’s help, a pastoral approach to youth which is positive, impassioned and creative – as shown by the World Youth Days! – is capable of achieving quite remarkable results. If the Rosary is well presented, I am sure that young people will once more surprise adults by the way they make this prayer their own and recite it with the enthusiasm typical of their age group.
He even offers some suggestions:
Announcing each mystery, and perhaps even using a suitable icon to portray it, is as it were to open up a scenario on which to focus our attention…
In order to supply a Biblical foundation and greater depth to our meditation, it is helpful to follow the announcement of the mystery with the proclamation of a related Biblical passage, long or short, depending on the circumstances. No other words can ever match the efficacy of the inspired word. As we listen, we are certain that this is the word of God, spoken for today and spoken “for me”…
Listening and meditation are nourished by silence. After the announcement of the mystery and the proclamation of the word, it is fitting to pause and focus one’s attention for a suitable period of time on the mystery concerned, before moving into vocal prayer.
With these suggestions in mind, I have made a collection of prints for my children and yours. Each print is a beautiful piece of art by a famous painter depicting one of the mysteries of the rosary. I have chosen paintings that are appealing to children and that will capture their imagination. Looking upon these masterpieces intently, a child will be drawn into contemplating the life of Christ. Interestingly enough, several of these paintings happen to have young children in them, allowing our children to place themselves into the scene as if they were that child. See if you can find them in two of these samples:
I also found short bible verses to go with each mystery. I kept them short for those of us who have very young children.
As for the moment of silence after the bible verse, we can only encourage our children to be as reverent as possible and leave the rest to their guardian angels! But we can tell them that it is a good time to offer up the decade for a particular person or intention.
This collection of pictures with the bible verses is available here: The Mysteries of the Rosary in Art for Children. Happy Be-lated Mother’s Day! It’s my free gift to you and your families. I suggest you print them out on card stock if you have a color printer. Otherwise, you can have them printed at Staples or Office Depot. There you can spiral bind them to keep the prints all together.
If we manage to pray even one decade really well with our young children, I think Our Lady will be very pleased. I sincerely hope these pictures will hold your children’s attention (and mine too!) and help them contemplate the life of Christ.
Finally, I encourage you to read St. Pope John Paul II’s beautiful letter on the rosary, Rosarium Virginis Mariae. I think you will gain deeper insights into the rosary and its mysteries. I certainly have.
How do you pray the rosary with your children? Chime in and let us know.
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UPDATE: Two weeks ago I printed these out Rosary pictures for my niece as a First Communion gift. Yikes! It cost way more than I anticipated… forty dollars at Staples! So, I put them in a book format along with some meditations I had written for my kids and now they are available at Amazon for $11.93 (the cheapest price Amazon would allow me to sell for).
UPDATE NO. 2: One Mom sent me a picture of a mini rosary she made for her little ones. Instead of praying only one decade per day, she prays five mysteries with her children. However, they pray only three Hail Marys per decade instead of ten. Would that be a tri-cade? In any case, this allows them to meditate on the different mysteries while making allowances for children with short attention spans. I love the idea!
Here’s a picture of the mini rosary, made out of a pipe cleaner and beads. The white bead is for the Our Father, the orange is for the “O, My Jesus”, prayer, the blue beads for the Hail Marys and the green for the Glory Be. You can slide the blue and green ones. What a great idea! So simple and clever! Thank you, Erin W.!