I was in high school when I first learned to pray the rosary, coached by one of my favorite Sisters of Providence.
My devout paternal grandmother, who became Catholic as an adult, fell asleep every night with a rosary in her hand, but I was a teenager before I learned the powerful prayer that settles my heart and connects me with Mary.
Teaching children the rosary at a young age helps them learn important prayers, highlights Scripture stories, and keeps their hands occupied when sitting in a prayer circle, writes Kathleen Butler, a longtime catechist at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Washington, D.C.
In “Teaching Children to Pray the Rosary,” published in The Catechist’s Journey at LoyolaPress.com, Butler says she compares the rosaries she gives to her students to the sacramentals they have used at home, such as Advent wreaths or crosses on the wall – sacred objects that they must treat with reverence and respect.
She adds that because her first-graders learn the rosary close to Mother’s Day, she focuses on the joyful mysteries and usually limits prayer to one decade at a time.
Lacy Lynch, a mother of four who writes on catholicicing.com, offers a number of useful crafts and activities – including instructions to make your own rosary – as well as YouTube videos about teaching children to pray the rosary.
To make the process easier for parents, Homeschoolinginprogress.com offers several suggestions for helping preschoolers understand and pray the rosary.
Introduce children to Mary at a young age.
Since Mary is our mother in heaven, children seem naturally drawn to her. Giving your children opportunities to become closer to Mary can help associate the rosary with her. These chance encounters can take the form of pictures and statues of Mary in the house and garden with the explanation that Mary is not only the mother of Jesus but the mother of us all.
Presenting young children with their own large rosaries made of easy-to-use wooden beads in bright colors can help familiarize them with the prayers.
Include children in prayer time.
If the rosary is prayed often during family prayer time, then it will become a natural part of kids’ lives.
Use prayer books to follow along.
It is important to have children memorize Catholic prayers, especially those prayed in the rosary. It’s helpful to have rosary prayer booklets or prayer cards available to read during the rosary. Even children who have their prayers memorized like to follow along in a rosary booklet.
Let children lead the prayers.
Not only do children like to be included in family activities, but they also enjoy being actively involved in them. So allow your children to take the lead while praying the rosary. Leading the rosary will also help them focus because they’ll need to know which bead everyone is on so they can say the correct prayer.
As with all important lessons, teaching children to pray the rosary is a process. During it, you can help your children develop a devotion to Jesus, love for our Blessed Mother, and a healthy prayer life.
The rosary “reaches deep down into our souls and puts us at ease, creating a peace that is rare and beautiful,” says Dynamic Catholic’s Matthew Kelly. That’s certainly a lesson worth sharing.