The family Rosary

Saying the Rosary in the family is a great blessing but it is not always easy to do. This answer to a question on the family Rosary is from my book Question Time 1.

133. The family Rosary

When I was a child we prayed the Rosary every night after dinner in our family. Now that I am married I have occasionally tried to introduce the custom but my teenage children always seem to be out or wanting to study or watch television. I find that my friends have the same problem and we tend to give up trying. Is the family Rosary still encouraged by the Church or is it now regarded as outdated and no longer relevant? Is there any way to keep it alive?

You ask a very important question and I am sure there are many others who ask it. The Rosary is not something outdated. It has been part of the life of the Church for over 1000 years and many are the Popes who have blessed it and encouraged its use. Our Lady herself encouraged the praying of the Rosary at both Lourdes and Fatima, so it will never be outdated.

After all, in the Rosary we meditate on the life of Christ from his infancy, through his public life, to his passion, death and Resurrection. That practice will never go out of fashion, any more than will reading the Scriptures. Moreover, in the Rosary we honour Our Lady, telling her 50 times: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women…” Love for our heavenly Mother will never go out of fashion, any more than will love for our earthly mother.

Any prayers that are encouraged for individuals are especially encouraged for families, since prayer binds the family together. In these times, when there are so many pressures pulling families apart, family prayer takes on ever greater urgency.

Recent Popes have strongly encouraged the family Rosary. In 1974 Pope Paul VI wrote in his Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus: “The Rosary should be considered as one of the best and most efficacious prayers in common that the Christian family is invited to recite. We like to think, and sincerely hope, that when the family gathering becomes a time of prayer the Rosary is a frequent and favoured manner of praying. We are well aware that the changed conditions of life today do not make family gatherings easy, and that even when such a gathering is possible many circumstances make it difficult to turn it into an occasion of prayer. There is no doubt of the difficulty. But it is characteristic of the Christian in his manner of life not to give in to circumstances but to overcome them, not to succumb but to make an effort” (n. 54).

More recently, in 2002 Pope John Paul II encouraged the family Rosary in his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae: “As a prayer for peace, the Rosary is also, and always has been, a prayer of and for the family. At one time this prayer was particularly dear to Christian families, and it certainly brought them closer together. It is important not to lose this precious inheritance. We need to return to the practice of family prayer and prayer for families, continuing to use the Rosary” (n. 41).

He went on to say: “The family that prays together stays together. The Holy Rosary, by age-old tradition, has shown itself particularly effective as a prayer which brings the family together… Many of the problems facing contemporary families, especially in economically developed societies, result from their increasing difficulty in communicating. Families seldom manage to come together, and the rare occasions when they do are often taken up with watching television. To return to the recitation of the family Rosary means filling daily life with very different images, images of the mystery of salvation: the image of the Redeemer, the image of his most Blessed Mother. The family that recites the Rosary together reproduces something of the atmosphere of the household of Nazareth: its members place Jesus at the centre, they share his joys and sorrows, they place their needs and their plans in his hands, they draw from him the hope and the strength to go on” (n. 41).

In summary, it is a matter of not giving up. The family Rosary will be of great benefit, even if only a few are there to pray it together. The children should always be left free, and they may be invited to pray only a decade. On certain occasions – a serious illness, a death, a crisis – they can all be encouraged to pray together. It will do everyone much good. And we should not forget that a plenary indulgence is granted whenever the Rosary is prayed in the family.