If you struggle with the Rosary you can walk with it, like Benedict XVI, or you can try these ideas from Tom Hoopes!
I profoundly believe that God in his providence planned this year, the 100th anniversary of Fatima, to follow the Year of Mercy.
He wanted us to hear about Faustina; now he wants us to hear about Jacinta. He wanted us to focus on the forgiveness of sinners; now he wants us to focus on the conversion of sinners. He loves the chaplet; now he wants Rosaries.
First: The short introduction.
We can start with five very practical tips St. John Paul II’s shared in his Apostolic Letter on the Rosary.
I have noticed over the years that the Rosary’s long intro is dreaded by children — and by some adults, too. So I was liberated when St. John Paul II wrote, “In different parts of the Church, there are many ways to introduce the Rosary. In some places, it is customary to begin with the opening words of Psalm 70: ‘O God, come to my aid; O Lord, make haste to help me ’… In other places, the Rosary begins with the recitation of the Creed” (No. 37).
So, we started trying it the first way the saintly pope said. The shorter introduction is a great relief to young minds (and some adults, too), allowing them to focus on the mysteries. And now when we do occasionally say the Rosary with the Creed, it’s welcomed as a novelty.
Second: Picture the mysteries.
John Paul recommends in his letter (No. 29) that looking at images of the mysteries helps a great deal. He’s right. And while it used to be complicated to assemble the images you need, in the age of smart phones, sacred art is just one click away.
Or, more often than not, I simply use my imagination. I pick five figures from the mystery and imagine one per Hail Mary, then cycle through again. So, for the First Glorious Mystery: sleeping soldiers … risen Jesus … Mary Magdalene surprised … John and Peter racing to the tomb … the angel on the stone.
Or, for any mystery, you can simply imagine: Mary, then Joseph, then Jesus, then the Blessed Sacrament, then a mystery-specific image, for your five. Or you can go through the five wounds twice. Or, if you’re in a chapel, pick five sacred objects and cycle through those: The Mary statue, the Joseph statue, the Sacred Heart picture, the tabernacle, the crucifix.
Third: Read scripture.
Scripture reading, either in a block before each mystery, or in bits and pieces throughout, can do wonders to focus the mind, says John Paul (No. 30). And since it can also overload the mind, he suggests adding a significant silence after the reading (No. 31).
Fourth: Add a word after Jesus.
St. John Paul II credits Pope Paul VI (in No. 33) with promoting the practice of adding a word after “Jesus” in the Hail Mary, but many of us learned it from Secret of the Rosary by St. Louis De Montfort.
It goes like this: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus, risen.” Or: Jesus ascending into heaven, pouring forth his Holy Spirit, assuming you into heaven, crowning you queen of heaven and earth.
We have been leading the daily Benedictine College Rosary each Friday and have won converts to this method. The added words are pretty intuitive, and we find that the shorter they are the better: Jesus in agony, scourged, crowned with thorns, carrying his cross, crucified for our sins; Jesus baptized by John, at the wedding feast at Cana, proclaiming the kingdom, transfigured, instituting the Eucharist. The first two joyful mysteries are hard. When in doubt, just name the mystery: Jesus at the Annunciation, at the Visitation, at the Nativity, at the Presentation, found in the Temple.
John Paul’s right: in a group setting, singing can rivet the attention (No. 34). Try chanting the Glory Be, he says; you might also add a snippet of a Marian hymn.
We love the old Rosary for Little Children DVD we have had since it was on VHS … and we all know its Hail Mary and Our Father tune by heart.
Six: We use figurines.
Apart from St. John Paul II’s tips, we Hoopeses have some family Rosary tricks we have made up or picked up along the way.
For one, we use Fontanini figures. You know those giant Italian nativity sets with figurines from all kinds of biblical stories? I’ve been getting a new one for Father’s Day for years, and now we have quite a set – we keep them in a cabinet in the living room.
So now, every time we pray the Rosary a different child each day gets to “set up the mysteries.” She will put Mary and an Angel (and trees and a river and a rock and on and on) out for the Annunciation. Or he will put Jesus on a mountaintop for the Proclamation of the Kingdom — and put an old guy on either side of him for the Transfiguration … or a bunch of guys with him for the Ascension.
Your Christmas Nativity set works as a starter. Joseph can double as adult Jesus, Wise Men can become rabbis or apostles, and the stable can double as a mountain and the Temple.
Seventh: We draw.
Maybe twice a month, we do what we call Rosary Reflections and we all draw the mysteries while we pray them. The name comes from a particular product, but we actually just use plain old paper. The children draw each mystery of the Rosary. They especially like the sorrowful mysteries, but we try to cycle through the other mysteries. Drawing helps them enter into the stories.
Eighth: We tour the house.
A longtime Hoopes favorite is what we call the House Rosary. We say each mystery of the Rosary in a different room … Either randomly or in appropriate rooms: The First Joyful Mystery in mom’s closet where her maternity clothes are; the second in the kitchen where Mary helped Elizabeth; the third by the baby’s (or baby doll’s) crib; the fourth in the playroom (where every day we should present Jesus in the Temple of our bodies); the fifth in an upstairs room with a window that faces the church (where we can always find Jesus in the tabernacle when we have lost him in our lives).
The kids get creative with these, with the attic for the upper room, a room overlooking treetops for the Ascension, a dresser with baptism pictures on it for the First Luminous, and etc. We process from place to place with a big kid holding a candle (candles, by the way, help make any Rosary “special” in the eyes of children — and adults).
Ninth: The Mixed-up Rosary.
This is one we have done only rarely, but is always a hit.
We write all 20 mysteries of the Rosary on separate pieces of paper, and then pick five at random to pray for the day’s Rosary. Doing the Institution of the Eucharist followed by the Visitation followed by the Coronation followed by the Scourging at the Pillar followed by the Descent of the Holy Spirit would be confusing if it was the norm, but as an occasional practice it helps each mystery stand out.
Tenth: A “rotating leader” Rosary.
In our family, a different person leads each mystery of the Rosary. Leading a decade really captures the attention of the person leading it. So, we thought, why not do more of that good thing?
In a rotating leader Rosary, a different person leads each prayer in each decade. One person does the first half of the Our Father (and we all finish it); the next does the first half of the first Hail Mary; the next does the first half of the second Hail Mary and so on. It keeps everyone alert.
Mostly, though, we just pray the Rosary.
We ring the bell at 7:30, everyone either sits, stands or kneels (no lying down, no writhing on the floor, no scooting from place to place) and we do it. Every day. Just like Pope Francis does. Because Our Lady of Fatima said to.