In the 1950s, the “Rosary priest,” Fr. Patrick Peyton, championed the unity between the rosary and family life with his famous saying “the family that prays together stays together.” That was a long time ago, and it’s hard to imagine a major campaign of family rosary praying gaining the kind of traction that Fr. Peyton did so many decades ago. But there’s still a lot of truth to his words, and the rosary still matters a great deal to families.
St. John Paul II wrote a letter in the year 2002 on the rosary titled Rosarium Virginis Mariae (RVM).
In the course of the letter, John Paul highlights some of his personal insights on how to pray the rosary, and the entire letter is a gem.
When a family gathers for the Rosary, John Paul II argues, it “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.” (RVM #41)
Many families spend hundreds of hours gathered in front of images that often involve violence, death, and an assortment of other vices. But the rosary brings different images to mind. It puts Christ at the centre of the family, even if only for a short while, and helps us share in the experience of the family at Nazareth.
John Paul II was keenly aware that many people think the rosary isn’t fit for children. But he challenges families to make it fit. Use symbols, use songs, make some sort of adaptation so that children can participate. And furthermore, he wants parents to challenge their children to live up to the task of a daily “pause for prayer.” He well knew that young people love living up to the call to a deeper faith.
In a small way, the rosary is a prayer that helps us to remember that great vocation of the Christian life.
And this is perhaps a favourite line from the document, the words he speaks to those who might doubt the usefulness of the family rosary: “Why not try it?” (RVM #42).