When Imagination Becomes Contemplation

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"When imagination becomes contemplation" by Gracie Jagla (CatholicMom.com)

Copyright 2020 Holy Cross Family Ministries. All rights reserved.

If there’s ever been a Catholic word that strikes intimidation in our hearts, it’s contemplation. Though a variety of definitions exist, it’s generally thought of as a deep and intuitive form of prayer, marked by intense focus and bordering on mystical. For many, it seems unattainable and unrealistic. It seems like a task for the St. Thérèses and Padre Pios of the world. But not people like us. And certainly not children.

For parents, contemplation seems one of the most complex concepts to teach a child, though it doesn’t have to be. The secret is:

Little children are, in fact, some of the greatest contemplators among us!

All it takes is one thing — imagination. Imagination is the natural gateway to contemplation for kids (and parents) alike! Here’s how.

Contemplation, simply put, is picturing ourselves in God’s presence and letting Him love us. The tricky part is just how to picture something invisible … like God. That’s where imagination comes in: who better than a child to picture the invisible? Look no further than the concept of imaginary friends for your answer to that!

Once you accept that imagination is a window into the spiritual world for children, you need only to put it into practice. The best place to start? With the Rosary!

Each mystery of the Rosary provides a wonderland of opportunity for delving into a world of new scenery, time periods, people, and experiences.

After all, isn’t that the point of the Rosary? Not just to say the mysteries, but to enter into them so as to better unify ourselves with the life of Christ?

By introducing our children to the Rosary, we give them a simple yet tremendously profound way to experience the faith. It doesn’t take much. For every mystery, try using the simple formula:

  1. Picture this. Imagine the mystery in your head. What does the scenery look like? How do you imagine Jesus looking? What other people might be present here?
  2. Where are you? Now, imagine yourself within the mystery. What are you doing in the scene you’re picturing? Don’t just be a witness — be an active participant! Are you singing baby Jesus a lullaby in the manger while Mary rests in the Nativity? Are you running to the river to help fill jugs with water in the Wedding at Cana? Let your children’s minds run wild — you’ll be surprised what they come up with!
  3. How are you loving Jesus/Mary? Try to come up with one way you can show your love in this mystery.

The beauty about embracing contemplation in the Rosary is that the Holy Spirit takes on most of the work for us. Although parents may need to introduce/explain the mysteries to their children, the Holy Spirit will work through their imaginations and a floodgate of graces will pour out. Ask your children at the end of every mystery what they were picturing. Allow them to dazzle you with their simplicity and innocence.

With Lent now upon us, now is as good a time as ever to give this a try. Need help with some prompts? Try the formula above, or feel free to use the prompts for the Sorrowful Mysteries, provided below.

First Sorrowful Mystery: Agony in the Garden

  • Jesus is here in a large garden. What does the garden look like? Where is Jesus in it?
  • Jesus is praying, but He is fearful and sad. What can you do to take care of Jesus?
  • Picture yourself holding Jesus’ hand. What are you telling Him to make Him feel better?

Second Sorrowful Mystery: Scourging at the Pillar

  • The soldiers are hurting Jesus. How can you make Him feel your love now?
  • Who else might be present here with Jesus? Where are you standing?

Third Sorrowful Mystery: Crowning with Thorns

  • Jesus is very quiet. You get to talk to Him for a minute — what would you tell Him?
  • Jesus is in pain and you are close enough to cheer Him up. How can you show Him you love Him?

Fourth Sorrowful Mystery: Carrying of the Cross

  • Now, there’s a big crowd around Jesus. What does it look like? Who else do you see there?
  • Soldiers are yelling unkind words at Jesus. What is something sweet you can say to Him instead?
  • The crowd is so big that it’s hard for you to see Jesus. How can you get closer to Him?

Fifth Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion

  • Mary is beside Jesus on the cross and she is crying. How can you take care of Mary?
  • Now, it is quieter and Jesus can hear you better. Tell Jesus one thing you love most about Him.

Have you ever seen your children’s imaginations bring them beautiful insights on the faith? Let me know about it in the comments!


Copyright 2020 Gracie Jagla

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About Author

A newlywed Catholic wife, expectant mother and children’s author, Gracie Jagla brings the fun to the faith! Infusing a little imagination, with a sprinkle of grace, into Catholic tradition, she hopes to help others to Jesus and make God smile in the process. Her first children’s book is God the Father and the Best Day Ever. Follow her Instagram at @andasprinkleofgrace.

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