As my grandchildren receive the sacrament of confirmation and first holy Communion, we have been letting them pick out a rosary. It concerns us that they didn't know what a rosary was. Whose responsibility is it to teach children how to use/pray the rosary? Should parents do this or does the Catholic schools include it in their teachings? I plan to take them to the next rosary at their church.
- Anonymous in the diocese
As a priest, I always find one of the most powerful parts of the Order of Baptism of Children is the blessing over parents reminding them that they are the first teachers of their children in the ways of faith, and that they “may, by word and example, prove to be the first witnesses of the faith to their child.” I do not believe this blessing is intended to “lay more guilt” on our parents but rather a reminder to be open to God’s ever-present grace in fulfilling their vocation. How wonderful that grandparents are also ready, willing, and able to assist with our young people’s faith formation as well. As the late Father Don Meehling used to say, “Our children should never remember a time when they didn’t come to Mass.”
Coming into the Catholic Church in my 20s, I can say learning to pray the rosary, the meditative prayer of the Gospel, was an important part of my journey.
Even with their limited time constraints, I hope every Catholic school and faith formation program is able to introduce the rosary to our students. The Catholic schools/faith formation programs that I am familiar with in our diocese does this. But, like every other teaching and practice of our faith our schools and faith formation programs attempt to impart on children, the teaching of the prayers, mysteries, and form of the rosary will have minimal impact unless our young people see it lived in their own homes and in the lives of the people they love the most. As Roy Lanham, director of Campus Ministry for our diocese, likes to say, “This is not a question of an either/or but a very Catholic both/and.” Children “learn” what they are taught at school when they experience it being modeled for them at home.
One of the great benefits of the growing Family of Faith model of religious formation in our schools/parishes is children are not simply “dropped off” at Catholic school or religion class, but parents are actively engaged in ongoing formation and working with their children themselves. This provides an opportunity for this new generation of parents, who may not be familiar or comfortable praying the rosary themselves, to learn more about this biblical prayer and to learn how to incorporate the mysteries of our faith in the life of Christ and Our Lady in their own lives.
Searching online for “How to teach children to pray the holy rosary?” will produce a wealth of suggestions and resources to assist parents and grandparents. Taking the time to help our children learn the prayers, to become familiar with the stories of each of the mysteries, to think about similar experiences in their own lives, and perhaps naming someone to pray for on each bead, will help children embrace what can become the practice of a lifetime. I always like to remind students they do not need to have an actual rosary to pray the rosary. Just praying with our 10 fingers is an amazing way as Pope St. John Paul II pointed out “to contemplate with Mary the face of Jesus Christ.”
Father John Titus is pastor Immaculate Conception Parish in Mattoon and St. Columcille Parish in Sullivan.