Sherry Antonetti is a freelance writer, blogger and published author of The Book of Helen. She lives just outside of Washington, DC with her husband and their ten children.
The goal of Lent is to grow in holiness, which is possible only if we aren’t in our own way. That’s why we engage in these forty days of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
For years, I’ve known the gift of the Rosary, the graces of it, and on occasion, muddled through it with my children. But I’ve kept it primarily a personal devotion, with the kids added on as a side when I’m in their presence and happen to be praying.
But Christ is interested in both a deeper more intimate relationship with each of us, and our witnessing to the broader world. So when I cast about for a Lenten observation and thought about praying the Rosary or the chaplet with my kids, I admit that I balked. That resistance I felt told me, that’s your offering. I sat pondering why I felt uncomfortable with it in the first place. I’d been told by children in the past, “You’re going all Catholic mom on me.” And I know I worried subsequently about appearing too pious. Would I be doing too much? I know — the right answer in the moment should have been, “I am a Catholic mom.”
Praying is a necessary part of adult life — praying with our children, likewise a vital component of parenting and seeking to help the process of their and our own souls becoming more oriented toward God. All this knowledge in my head, and still, somehow my will chafed and felt uncomfortable with praying the Rosary with my children in our own home — as awkward as I feel exercising.
In both circumstances the reality is the same. It’s necessary. It’s vital for improved health. It’s good modeling. It will help them and me. It will help me help them. My brain gets it: I need to do these things for my long-term benefit, which will be more than I can perceive in the moment. Yet my will seeks to be still, to be slothful, to find some distraction so I won’t be able to say, there wasn’t time. Time is all we have.
These forty days are about rebelling against the world’s demands that we give the world an accounting for the hours, the minutes, the industriousness of our lives. These forty days are about reordering our will to God’s and rendering unto God what is God’s — the first fruits and not the afterthoughts of our lives and time.
So I started with the Rosary in the car. I’ve done it before, just a decade. The kids took to it. Even Paul, my son with Down syndrome, who is mostly non-verbal, took it seriously. Each offered a petition. Each prayed. Some days we got through two decades on the trip to school, others one. The first week of Lent, we prayed just on the way to school. The next week, I felt the Holy Spirit pushing, so now, we’re going to try the return. It’s gradually becoming less awkward, the same way exercise, when I force myself to be disciplined about it, also becomes less difficult over time.
The Blessed Mother keeps after me, nudging. “See, how easy this is?” as we make it to the Third Mystery — and I’m hoping, the Fourth and the Fifth — so that by Easter, it will be taken for granted, and we will simply begin. I’m confident with the Blessed Mother’s help that we’ll get there.
And maybe for Pentecost, she can help me with working out.