Picturing the Mysteries

In my last post, I mentioned the catechetical dimension of the family Rosary, a point which Pope John Paul II emphasized in his writings on this traditional prayer. But 20 minutes is a long time for a three-year-old to sit still. How do we keep our kids engaged?

First, I try to get them involved, as kids naturally want to “do something.” So my children get to hand out Rosaries and prayer books, light candles, and lead individual mysteries, among other things. This can make for interesting Rosaries, especially when the children are not old enough to count to ten or to remember all the prayers!

Second, I count on the children to remember prayer intentions. I receive lots of them, especially through my work at Catholics United for the Faith, and I find their little memories often work better than mine. Even more importantly, this exercise requires the kids to think outside themselves, and thereby grow in Christian empathy.

Third, the family Rosary is a time for the children to quiet themselves. We find it very helpful to have picture books or images for the children to help them enter into the mysteries. Of course, as they get older, they use prayer books with a little more text, or even the Bible itself for “Scriptural Rosaries.”

Incidentally, my family has been blessed to have a parish Church with beautiful stained glass windows depicting the mysteries of the Rosary. I refer to these windows as Gospels that little kids can read. It’s utterly amazing how much gets soaked in through their consideration of the events of Jesus and Mary’s life. It really builds their religious imagination, too.

A couple years ago I asked one of my daughters what her favorite mystery of the Rosary is, and she immediately said the Coronation. I was a little surprised, as I have always had a little more difficulty with that one, since the scene isn’t laid out in detail in the Bible. I asked her why, and she said, “When we pray that mystery, I think about what heaven must be like.” 

Isn’t that what we want our children to think about? It reminds me of Philippians 4:8: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Leon with his wife Maureen are coauthors of Hahn and Flaherty, eds., Catholic for a Reason IV: Scripture and the Mystery of Marriage and Family, which is available at www.emmausroad.org.  

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