I am a family rosary dropout. In fact, I’m a true defector from the whole family rosary camp. Don’t get me wrong. I love the rosary and say it as frequently as I can, but when it comes to saying it together as a family, count me out, at least for now.
Years ago, when I didn’t know any better, I pictured my family, perhaps surrounded by soft candlelight, gathered together for prayer time. Me, with a peaceful baby cuddled in my lap, sitting close to my husband as we joined our children’s sweet voices, as our lips moved in sync, sincerely invoking the Blessed Mother’s intercession over all of our family intentions.
Yet despite my earnest efforts to adopt this beautiful practice in my family life, what I ended up with was quite different. What I got was hair pulling, side comments, pinching, giggles, requests for water and various snack foods, and my three-year-old begging me incessantly to “stop saying that!” These experiences were anything but peaceful and most assuredly ended with my blood boiling, mean glares, harsh reprimands and anxiety. Oh so much anxiety.
After one such maddening attempt, I started to reflect on the purpose of my efforts. I was so very envious of the families I knew that said the rosary together. It just wasn’t working for my crew. And I didn’t want my children to think of prayer, or to associate the beautiful words of the Hail Mary and profound mysteries of the rosary, with dread or torture (or a crazy mother). I wanted them to love prayer, to lean on it, to naturally engage in it. I wanted them to come to know, without even realizing it, what a valuable tool prayer is in all of life’s circumstances: that it has the power to calm, heal, fix, comfort, and bring peace and even joy.
I knew I had to regroup and refocus. My kids are young. So for now it had to be about the easy, the short and the frequent. I began to incorporate prayer into different times in our day, and much to my surprise my children responded. As we have continued this practice, my kids have even been known to begin a prayer impromptu or to remind me that it was time to pray.
Before school, and as we start our busy days, we simply say, “Dear God, I give you this day. Everything I think, do and say.” Followed by a Hail Mary.
When we hear a siren, we say a Hail Mary to comfort the person in need and for the paramedics and firemen that are sent to help them.
When something is lost, which is frequent, we petition St. Anthony by saying the old-school, and sing-songy, “St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come around. Something is lost and can’t be found.” This is usually followed up with a request for Grammy in heaven to help locate said lost item. As she was the most notorious offender in the “I can’t find” category, my children are assured that she will sympathize with their frustration and intercede on their behalf. (At this point, besides my iPad, it’s never been known to fail.)
At the start of a trip, for anything further than a quick errand, we pray to Our Lady of the Highway and ask that angels post themselves at each wheel of our car.
And at night, when the day has come to a close, we pray the Guardian Angel prayer, followed by this modification that was added to ease the fear of nightmares: “Dear guardian angel, please wrap your wings around me so that no bad dreams can get in. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, please watch over me as I sleep, that I may have a peaceful night and a happy tomorrow.”
Although I still aspire for family rosary gatherings, I am content with the here and now modifications that come with having spirited little children. I just needed to expand my view and not espouse such a narrow, only rosary, of the wise saying “a family that prays together, stays together.” The dream hasn’t died completely. But for now, for my family, our candlelit prayer time is just a few years off.
Maria Garabis Davis holds a Juris Doctor degree and a BA in theology. A former youth minister and now practicing attorney, she resides in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and four children.