Gary Kelly’s book, The One Thing, emphasizes that there is one primary thing in our lives that, if we focus on it, we can transform the success and fulfillment of our lives. He applies it through a secular lens, but ultimately the principle he applies is quite true — what is the one thing that we will look back on that shaped our family most? Will it be a deliberate choice or just the happenstance that etched its way into our life?
What is the “one thing” that characterizes your family culture? Is it going to Sunday Mass? Is it reading daily scripture? Is it meal-time prayer? Is it praise and worship together? Is it insisting on Catholic education? Is it volunteering for your parish?
We all have crazy temperaments, flawed personality quirks, defective, broken, and wounded realities. Many of us are hurting, working, tired, busy, overwhelmed, malnourished, under-exercised, anxious or powerless in the face of trials. Our faith is not bulletproof and we are all just a small attachment to sin away from drifting. So what we need is a sure daily path that keeps us on the road to love of the Eucharist and keeps us oriented to that summit of Divine Selfless Love. After all, don’t we want for our families to not just be alive, but to be as FULLY alive as possible?
My goal is for our family to be radiant in our faith, dynamic in our walk with the Lord, and a beacon of hope to the world. So “the one thing” we cling to most is our family prayer of the Holy Rosary. Through it we are consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus though the Most Holy Blessed Virgin Mary, in union with St. Joseph. Our Marian consecration took place formally at our wedding, as individuals through the forms of Sts. Louis de Montfort and Maximilian Kolbe, and continues to be reaffirmed daily in our family Rosary. This is solid — unshakable — covenant fortified. It is the ratification of baptismal grace, the consummation of our sacramental seal, the cherry on top of our Christian daily life that the Church has highlighted without minimalism or detraction as the most sure way for us to fortify our families in the truth. It is the secret sauce that makes life have the flavor of hope and it is the seasoning of holy and worthy dreams.
This is our “one thing”! We defend our family culture daily by reinforcing our consecration through the prayer of the Holy Rosary.
This archaic prayer, that seems to have seen its glory days, is our anchor. However, we are not content to rattle it off. We strive to make it alive, meaningful, dynamic and life-giving. It is about the health of our family! Our psychological health is nourished by the rhythmic and peaceful rhythm. Our mental health is enriched by the meditation and memorization of scripture. Our physical health is engaged as we often hold prayerful posture, stretch, kneel, balance, hike, walk, strengthen, or dance as we pray. Our community life is fostered as we harmonize our voices and quell our tempers through the gentle calm that the rosary reinforces. Our spiritual life is impacted as we seek to make our hearts like unto Mary and Jesus. Our life of virtue is fortified as we search to associate Hail Mary’s with the virtues of Mary that we are most in need of imitating. Our Christian charity is built up as we ask for the theological outpouring of this supreme gift and our self is emptied as we pray for others in greater need than ourselves. Our home is cleansed of ugliness and contempt as we bring to the family rosary all the day’s defeats and ask for the victory of Christ to reign in each of us. All that we do and have, say and think, gets emptied at the feet of Mary and she, like the best of mothers, brings us closer to Jesus for him to lavish his healing upon us. There is nothing quite like it! The Eucharist is richer each week because we pray the Rosary.
To be clear — it doesn’t always sound, seem, or appear to be as blissful as I just described. After all, we are only human. But it is the humanness of this prayer that I love so much. This is why we even scent our rosaries with essential oils to help us remember that the senses are like windows through which we peer in anticipation of the guest arriving.
“Seek me through your five senses, just as a host awaiting the arrival of a very dear friend looks for the doors and windows to see if the expected guest is coming. The faithful soul ought to watch for me unceasingly through the senses that are the windows of the Spirit” (Jesus to St. Mechtilde of Helfta).
I don’t know about you, but when we are preparing our home to receive guests, it is often a crisis like environment with us bustling to and fro, racing to clean, tidy, hide and prepare. Even as we are looking out the window to see if our guests have arrived, we often bump into each other, raise our voices and are even unkind to one another in an attempt to get our best foot forward. My encouragement to you is to persevere if the Rosary feels like a chaotic fumbling attempt at prayer. Fight for the still, small silence that usually surfaces toward the end. Perhaps right before the Salve Regina is said or sung, linger there for just a moment. Encourage your family to journey deep into their hearts to hear a word, or catch a glance or receive a small confirmation of God’s radical love. This is life changing.
Here are ten tips for praying the family Rosary:
- Break it up if it is too hard to pray it all at once. We typically do three in the morning and two in the evening.
- Go for a family Rosary drive. There is no more mellow place to pray the Rosary than in the car with kids strapped in their seats.
- Explore different languages and styles of praying the Rosary. We just released a recording in which we chant the rosary in a Byzantine inspired chanted Rosary.
- Incorporate scriptural meditations. This is our favorite version.
- If you need visual aids, consider setting up a slide show on your TV or computer with images of the Rosary.
- Be sure everyone is fingering rosary beads. We have finger rosaries in the car, we like to wear the rosary as a bracelet, and my husband always has one in his pocket. We like to mix it up and break out our special rosaries for feast days and we even designed special ones that we can scent with essential oils to make certain rosaries even more special. Don’t just settle for the tangled mess of plastic rosaries in the junk drawer. Hang your rosaries in a place of honor and be sure to use them. They are the ultimate fidget gadget that helps us focus our nervous human energy.
- When we are agitated or tired, we find it important to move our bodies in order to ward off sleepiness. Stretch gently and quietly. Or get on your knees around a prayer corner.
- Incorporate everyone. Rotate the responsibilities of leading, reading, and pleading (naming the intentions of the Rosary).
- Don’t let other goods become the enemy of this truly best family practice. Make it a priority that other family events don’t trump.
- Invite other families to pray with you. Your kids will respect and defend the goodness of your family Rosary when they know that others are eager to learn and participate with you.
Super important note: My husband is the champion of the Rosary in our family. He is the one that makes it happen. He is the bedrock of this effort. He is militaristic in his insistence of our family Rosary. He defends this daily practice with diligence and even a fiery insistence that often makes us roll our eyes. But I am so grateful for his leadership and his manhood in this pursuit. I get to soften the manner in which the Rosary is often conducted with creative ideas, a gentle soft voice, or the invitation to have the littlest ones lead or tell the story (which is quick to melt all our hearts into a filial love of the Rosary). If for whatever reason, your man isn’t there yet, invite him to meditate on these remarkable quotes and discern together — what is the mountain your family is going to die on? It will be something, some attachment, some hobby, some sport, some fascination, some practice, some devotion, some nothingness. Why not choose to embrace the Holy Rosary as your mountain. It is a tough one to climb, but the promised reward at the top is better than just about any other mountain I know. Men: be champions of the Rosary. Your family will thank you eternally!
Copyright 2018 Chantal Howard