When we were still a very young family — our first three children aged five, three, and 16 months — we visited some good friends who had moved to another state. They had only just moved, so most of their items were still in boxes.
They, too, were a young family, with three children under five.
The first thing we noticed, upon entering their modest new home, was that the first items they’d chosen to unbox were their “holy reminders.”
While my husband helped hang the artwork (paintings of the Holy Family and the Last Supper, along with a crucifix for each room), my girlfriend, Krista, and I set up their prayer space in the living room. There was a corner table with a simple embroidered tablecloth, their Bible, and two baskets: one basket contained prayer cards, and the other was filled with an assortment of rosaries.
Picking up a rosary, I examined the wood and noticed that the beads were a little damaged. Were those… teeth marks?
She laughed. “It’s broken, too,” she pointed out.
I lifted the rosary out of the basket and, sure enough, the loop was snapped in two. “We just give Andrew that one to chew on while we’re praying our nightly decade,” she explained.
I looked up at her...
“You actually pray your Rosary as a family? With the babies too?!”
“How are you able to focus on your prayers?” I asked, placing the broken rosary back into the basket.
She smiled at me. “I’ll show you.”
Half an hour later we gathered together
for the family Rosary...
There were ten of us: four adults, plus six children under six.
Krista dimmed the lights, and handed each of the children a rosary. She also passed out a few board books with pictures of Jesus and Mary, for the kids to flip through. The final touch was a bit of gentle choir music in the background, which she easily pulled up on the iPad from the counter.
I was surprised at how smoothly it went.
Krista’s husband led the prayer, and the three other grown-ups chimed in at the appropriate times.
I noticed that the four oldest children were watching us, and their mouths were often moving in unison with ours. Sometimes, they fiddled with their beads or flipped through the books Krista had given them. But mostly, they sat quietly.
The babies crawled over our laps, but they didn’t fuss, they just babbled occasionally.
I must admit, it felt cozy.
I felt a sense of peace and gratitude.
That being said, not every family Rosary runs as smoothly as ours did that night.
We had the novelty of another family’s presence, and that family happened to be seasoned veterans at praying a family Rosary. But that night, I learned a few tricks that have made it easier for my family to build a habit of reciting the Rosary together daily.
Here are a few of Krista’s suggestions that I’ve found particularly helpful as I’ve practiced the habit of the daily family Rosary over the years:
1. Get your spouse on board
As with any important family choice, unity is key.
The commitment to a family Rosary only works if the whole family is on board — and that won’t happen without complete buy-in from both spouses.
Your children look to you for guidance, and if they sense a rift, they’re not likely to take the commitment seriously. This might just be the most important factor in the whole process.
2. Start with one decade per day
A full five-decade family Rosary can feel overwhelming when you’re first getting started.
So, start small. Pray one decade as a family for the first week…
or even for the first month.
Krista’s family rule was that the children were required to stick around for the first decade and pray it with their parents. After that, the parents kept going; the children could choose to stay, or to go play quietly. Most often, however, the children chose to stay for the full five decades.
3. Schedule your Rosary time
As with your personal prayer time, family prayer time must be scheduled.
For most families, evenings either before or after dinner work the best. Krista found that praying their family Rosary after baths, right before the children’s bedtime, helped to calm them down and transition peacefully into a good night’s sleep.
This is something you may have to experiment with to find out what works best for your family.
4. Create a prayerful atmosphere
Dim the lights.
Light some candles.
Put on some Gregorian chant as background music to create a prayerful atmosphere while your family settles in for the Rosary.
If your children are old enough, assign these preparatory tasks to them to involve them and help quiet their hearts for prayer time. Younger children can carry a small basket filled with rosaries, so each family member may select a rosary to use during prayer.
As part of your prayerful atmosphere, you may choose to select a Scripture passage (or passages) on which to focus for each meditation.
Before diving into each decade of Hail Marys, try doing a family round-robin reflection on those passages. This is an especially effective way to get older children and teenagers involved — particularly if they are rolling their eyes or yawning in boredom.
After your Rosary or decade of the Rosary, turn the Gregorian chant back on (I recommend using the Salve Regina), and have the children blow out candles, turn lights back on, and gather up the books and rosaries.
This will help them ease back into family life.
If it’s too close to bedtime, try using the dim lights as an opportunity to herd the children toward the bathroom for brushing teeth and preparing for bed.
Family life is crazy, and family prayer time may be a little crazy, too.
Don’t get bent out of shape if your toddlers are acting as if they’re coming off a sugar binge, or your teens look like they’d rather be anywhere else. That’s completely normal when you’re first getting started with a family Rosary.
As your family Rosary becomes a habit, things will start to run more smoothly.
So take a deep breath, and don’t pressure yourself to make the family Rosary a “perfect” prayer experience. That will come with time.
Stay the course
No matter what your current family prayer time looks like, I encourage you to keep trying.
Our children are with us for only a very short amount of time, and the habits they learn while they’re under our roofs will carry them into adult life.
An adult friend recently confided to me that, in times of extreme stress, his mind flashes to his elderly grandmother, who used to chant the Rosary to him when he was just a young boy. To this day, the repetitive Hail Marys keep him calm during his toughest moments on duty.
Keep this in mind as you’re wrangling toddlers and bringing antsy children back to the prayer circle.
No matter what it looks like from the outside — they are listening.
If you’re committing to praying a daily Rosary this Lent, please let us know!
Follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and join the growing Rosary Crusade community. Go to our Facebook page to share pictures of your rosary, your prayer corner, or to post what you’re doing to stick with your prayerful commitment. May this Lent and our community both inspire you to continue praying a daily Rosary—even after the Lenten season has passed!