“The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer. In the sobriety of its elements, it has all the depth of the Gospel message in its entirety.” Pope John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae
The Church dedicates October to the Holy Rosary. The Rosary is the most popular prayer devotion in the Church. We hold prayer beads while we meditate on the virtues of the life, death, passion, and glory of Jesus and his mother. Each bead represents one prayer. Family Prayer has a wonderful, free on-line guide for praying the Rosary as a family.
Some people think the Rosary is for “baby Catholics” because they think it’s a rote, repetitive, mindless prayer. However, the Rosary properly understood and practiced allows us to use both body and soul in meditation and prayer:
The authentic Rosary is a happy combination of vocal and mental prayer, each of which is essential to the devotion. It is incorrect to say that meditation is “the very essence of the Rosary devotion,” for vocal recitation of the prayers is also of the essence. Meditation is, of course, the nobler element, the “soul,” while vocal prayer is the “body” of the devotion. The Rosary, Pope Leo XIII declared, “is composed of two parts, distinct but inseparable — the meditation on the mysteries and the recitation of the prayers. It is thus a kind of prayer that requires not only some raising of the soul to God, but also a particular and explicit attention” (Incunda semper). Hence, as Pope Pius XI stated, they err “who consider this devotion merely a boresome formula repeated with monotonous and singsong intonation” (Ingravescentibus malis). Catholicculture.org
Understood this way, the Rosary offers the faithful a perfect combination of mental and verbal prayer if they practice it with intentionality. I admit I do sometimes get into a rut when praying the Rosary; I don’t really think about what I’m saying and my mind wanders. But this is evidence of my own weakness and not that of the devotion.
In his encyclical, Superiore Anno, Pope Leo XIII decreed that
from the 1st of October to the 2nd of November following in all the parish churches, in all public churches dedicated to the Mother of God, or in such as are appointed by the Ordinary, five decades at least of the Rosary be recited, together with the Litany. If in the morning, the Holy Sacrifice [of the Mass] will take place during these prayers; if in the evening, the Blessed Sacrament will be exposed for the adoration of the faithful; after which those present will receive the customary Benediction.
Local parishes hopefully offer opportunities for praying the Rosary and the Litany in October. In our homes, the “domestic church,” we can dedicate this month to increasing our appreciation for this devotion, too. When I pray the Rosary with my children, especially because my two youngest have a short attention span, we only pray one decade. I try to focus on helping them understand the spirit and purpose of the devotion instead of forcing them to “do the whole thing right.” I think having images of the mystery you are praying for the smaller kids to focus on (heck, for the big kids and us, too!) is a great tool for helping them appreciate the events we are remembering while praying. I LOVE (must have, must have) these Mysteries of the Rosary cards from EWTN.
They are pricey, so they haven’t made it into my home yet, but I dream about them every time I focus on the Rosary in our home. Some of the books I recommend below are great for this purpose, too, but I love the idea of having a larger scale image that everyone can see better — great for big families.
Here are some more select resources to get us started on a home Rosary devotion.
Books to inspire and pray with:
I Pray the Rosary by Margaret Rose Scarfi. For littlies.
A Child’s Guide to the Rosary by Elizabeth Fiocelle. For middlies.
Amazing Love: Rosary Meditations for Teens by Mari Seaburg. For biggies.
The Essential Rosary by Caryll Houselander. For biggies. This is the Rosary companion I purchased in a tiny book store in Oxford when I first returned to the Church and it’s still my favorite guide!
Holy Cross Family Ministries Rosary Folder Sets. Enough to keep you busy studying the Rosary for a whole year!
Rosary Prayer Sheets. Laminated prayer sheets for kids to color in as you pray the Rosary.
Animated Rosary for Children. We’ve had this DVD for years & it’s been well-loved. The production isn’t the best, but kids don’t seem to mind!
Catholic Culture Month of the Holy Rosary Summary and Links. This page has a great essay on why we have a whole month devoted to the Holy Rosary, plus links to papal documents and other websites. Super helpful.
Rosary.com A whole website and blog about the Rosary!