“The Holy Rosary, by age-old tradition, has shown itself particularly effective as a prayer which brings the family together,” Pope St. John Paul II wrote in his 2002 apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae (The Most Holy Rosary). As he highlighted, “It is also beautiful and fruitful to entrust to this prayer the growth and development of children.”
Family after family has proven the truth of the saint’s words. Several of these families shared their experiences and insights with the Register about teaching the Rosary to children — and in some instances learning it first themselves.
In Logan, Ohio, James and Nicole Hahn have always had a devotion to the Rosary. Today that includes their eight children, ages 3-18, who have all learned the Rosary at a young age.
“It’s a natural part of life here,” James said.
The Hahns begin when the children are 2 or 3 years old. As James put it, “They heard it from the time they were on the lap.”
James and Nicole begin their prayer time by having the children share three things they are thankful for. “We often let them lead a decade if they felt they could,” James added, “and we encouraged them if they could. That’s how it all starts.”
The Hahns now also make rosaries and share the beauty of praying the Rosary with their Real Life Rosary apostolate (online at RealLifeRosary.com).
In the evening, James said, the Rosary “brings us back together.”
In Houston, Mike and Jackie Sullivan and their son Tony also pray the Rosary together every night, a practice that began when the Sullivans’ first two of three children were in second and fourth grade.
As the older ones were learning their prayers, “I would help with the responses,” Jackie said. “At the end or beginning of the Rosary, we’d have something or someone they wanted to pray for. It was also a way for us to hear what was going on in their lives.”
“We also encouraged the kids to keep a rosary in their pocket or book bag,” she said.
Now an adult, son Tony shared how, as the youngest learning the Rosary, he benefited from taking turns to lead the Hail Mary or response.
Mike Sullivan said the family often offers their family Rosary for others, aided by looking at the “View From Heaven” map from ChildrensRosary.org.
In Easton, Massachusetts, in the earliest years of their marriage, Michael and Margaret Dwyer were raising three of their four children, were caring for her mother and father in hospice, and lost five family members in one year. Both husband and wife prayed the Rosary in the car when commuting to work and at night together after the children were in bed.
Margaret discovered a creative way to teach the Rosary that became a family custom that carries on even now, with the oldest, 21, in college and the youngest, 12. As she explained, “Every Good Friday we make a large papier-mâché rosary out of big loops of paper and pray the Sorrowful Mysteries. It’s a nice tactile way to do the Rosary.”
And the family “fix” for having a hard time going to sleep is to pray the Rosary.
The example of the parents is key, the Dwyers have found. As Margaret said, “Our children know how much their mom and dad are devoted to the Rosary and what it means for them. It’s important for parents to witness their faith to their children.”
In Waterbury, Connecticut, Alexandra Gasse recalled such witness, telling the Register: “My parents would say the Rosary with us. I learned the Hail Mary hearing them and picked it right up. Subsequent to that, we prayed the Rosary every night.”
That custom continues now that she is the mother of seven children, ranging in age from 10 to 29. When her father came to live with them, he spearheaded the effort of praying the Rosary with her and her then four children.
“He kept going even when my 3-year-old was rambunctious,” Gasse said, adding that the family is committed to praying for particular intentions as they practice this time-honored Marian devotion.
“His example made a big impression on the boys. The children soaked it up. Grandparents are one of the most beautiful resources.”
In Columbus, Ohio, John and Emily Jaminet are devoted to the Rosary as they raise their seven children, ages 3 to 19.
Emily, who is executive director of The Sacred Heart Enthronement Network (Enthronements.com), shared several tips she’s found extremely helpful from her personal family experience teaching children the Rosary.
First, with young children, she says, “Don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t go the way you want it to go” and there’s some “running around.” Allow a child to be a 2-year-old.
Emily has also recognized that the family’s experience of prayer and the children learning to pray together is key. “I look at it as the long game in prayer, building a Rosary upon a Rosary upon a Rosary,” she said, recalling “the longevity that was passed on to me by the witness of my grandparents and later by my parents.”
Next, before each decade, she recommends asking the children “what color rose they want to give the Blessed Mother” for each decade so they can “visualize putting it in a vase at the Blessed Mother’s feet or imagine building a crown of roses with that color in it.” Having them visualize these Hail Marys stringing toward a goal helped them see “their prayer could be [like] a beautiful rose,” a gift to Mary.
Next, Emily accentuated, “You are the example of the Rosary prayer as a parent. We pray the Rosary in the car and pray a decade of the Rosary on the way to sporting events,” she said.
“It’s part of our lives. It’s a lifestyle.”
The Jaminets also have rosaries visibly present for their children. “Physically having rosaries in the house means the children see: This is part of our family … it’s part of the fabric of our home,” Emily said.
Overall, taking the time to create a prayerful household is the aim.
“You see something positive,” said Gasse, who is head of the Children’s Rosary at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Waterbury. She sees “so much grace and calm in the home. The peace that enters the household is remarkable. My 17-year-old, Christopher, said to me, ‘We really live in peace, don’t we?’ It’s so simple but so true. There’s calm in the house.”
Gasse shared another blessed result. “The most beautiful thing to me,” she said, “is to see my own children go to the Rosary in a crisis — their grandmother dying; worrying about a friend; praying the Rosary for me when I’m traveling and I didn’t ask them to. They turn to the Rosary and Our Lady for help.”
Joseph Pronechen is a
Register staff writer.