Back in 2002, Pope John Paul II issued a document entitled Rosarium Virginis Mariae, or more simply “The Rosary of the Virgin Mary,” to foster a renewed devotion to the Rosary in the new millennium. This magnificent teaching is for all the faithful, but in a very special way the Pope is speaking to families. Here is what he said to us:
“A similar need for commitment and prayer arises in relation to another critical contemporary issue: the family, the primary cell of society, increasingly menaced by forces of disintegration on both the ideological and practical planes, so as to make us fear for the future of this fundamental and indispensable institution and, with it, for the future of society as a whole. The revival of the Rosary in Christian families, within the context of a broader pastoral ministry to the family, will be an effective aid to countering the devastating effects of this crisis” (no. 6).
It’s not an overstatement, then, to say that the family Rosary can and must play a pivotal role in the renewal of our society. For that reason, I’m going to dedicate a post each week during October to this issue, and in doing so I hope to provide practical encouragement and assistance to individuals and especially families to “put out into the deep” (Lk, 5:4) and make the Rosary part of their daily life.
Today, I simply want to note that praying the Rosary as a family has a teaching component. Yes, it’s primarily a prayer, but the focus on the individual mysteries over time provides important catechetical formation for everyone involved, especially children.
I must admit that I didn’t have a particularly high opinion of the Rosary as a child. I don’t want to be critical of my late father. I like to say that as the youngest of fourteen children I’m grateful that my Mom and Dad didn’t have the “good sense” to stop at thirteen! But my Dad, for whatever reason, didn’t even mention the mysteries as he prayed the Rosary, but just seemed to be rattling off the prayers. That seemed empty and boring to me.
Now, the prayers themselves are powerful, but it’s very important that we don’t skip over the meditative dimension of the prayer. After all, while the prayers are the percussion, the meditation is the melody.
Next week I will discuss ways to introduce this prayer to children, but for now I simply want to emphasize the importance of announcing the mystery. And particularly when praying the Rosary with one’s family or in some other group setting, I’ve found it very helpful to include a short biblical reading with each mystery to further aid our entry into the given mystery.
More to come. And by the way, my wife Maureen and I wrote an entire chapter on the family Rosary in Catholic for a Reason IV: Scripture and the Mystery of Marriage and Family, which is available through Emmaus Road Publishing.