“And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her
feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” (Apocalypse 12:1)
This week’s article has a personal note to it. I received a call during the week from a man whose
wife is in hospital, and we were talking about family life and the inevitable crosses one must
bear. Faithful Catholic parents are greatly troubled if any of their children fall away from the
practice of the Catholic Faith, and this is happening in more and more families in Ireland. This
man asked me if I would write an article on the Family Rosary. It seemed so fitting, and then,
as if to confirm this, I received another call from a woman, and she spoke about promoting the
My own journey with the Family Rosary is an interesting one. My late father, a devout, faithful
and erudite Catholic man, found the Rosary to be tedious and repetitious. The Rosary was not
said in my family of origin, even though my father’s mother was a great devotee of the Family
Rosary and my father grew up with it. My mother, who is 86, prays the Rosary.
I have mentioned before that I fell away from my Catholic faith in my late teenage years and
that, thank God, I returned to the practice of my faith about two years before I got married. My
wife and I realised the importance of praying together and the importance of family prayer. She
wanted to have the Family Rosary and I agreed, but like my father, I found the Rosary to be
monotonous and distracting, especially when there were eight children under the age of 13 with
the usual harmless messing and play acting that children get up to. So eventually I settled for
saying just one decade of the Rosary each evening as a family. I wasn’t going to pray any more
of it. My wife would complete the Rosary on her own.
The Dominican Influence:
Then in early 2004, I attended Holy Mass at the Dominican Priory in Sligo during my
lunchbreak from work. Fr Seán Cunningham was the celebrant and he preached a homily.
During the homily, it was as if he was speaking directly to me, I felt a connection and also a
compunction from his words. He said that “the decade is the death of the Family Rosary. If you
settle for saying just one decade, you will never progress to saying the full Family Rosary”. I
spoke to him about this sometime afterwards and he told me that he was quoting from the great
Irish Rosary priest, Fr Patrick Peyton.
Anyway, that evening in February 2004, when I returned home from work, I told my wife (in
magnanimous tones), that from that day forth we would be praying a full five-decade Family
Rosary every day. She just smiled, for she had been praying for this in her own quiet and patient
way. I am ashamed when I look back to realise that I was an obstacle to the Family Rosary in
my own home, and that I may have prevented many graces from coming our way.
The Graces Begin to Flow:
But Our Lady is not to be outdone. Within two months of that decision we had our house up for sale. A run-down house, in a remote and not very sought-after area of County Leitrim, that had been on the market for over two years before we bought it, was sold without a hitch, within a matter of weeks. We moved into Sligo where I was working at the time. Within another year, we were on the move again, this time to Castlebar in county Mayo, where we began our home-schooling journey. In that year, 2005, I first attended a life changing five-day silent Ignatian retreat in a Benedictine monastery in France, and I also started attending daily Holy Mass. Over time, we were able to bring the whole family to daily Mass. In 2008, we re-located to Knock in Co Mayo and I have eventually ended up working full-time for a Catholic apostolate, The Lumen Fidei Institute.
As I look back on this sometimes roller coaster journey, I know that the beneficial changes that came into our family life, came directly from the decision that was implemented that February in 2004, to pray the Family Rosary every day. We continue to have our struggles and one of our children has abandoned the practice of the faith, but we have that inner peace that comes from the sure knowledge that Our Lady is watching over my wife and I, and that she is watching over our family.
This article is not about me, it is about the Family Rosary and the power it has to change lives for the better. Some saints lived holy lives from an early age. St Therese of Lisieux, St Padre Pio and St Margaret Mary Alacoque come to mind. However, many of the saints, lived desolate lives before they became saints. St Paul violently persecuted the early Catholic Church. St Augustine lived a very immoral life before his conversion, which he wrote about in his ‘Confessions’. St Camillus de Lellis, the patron saint of hospital workers, was a corrupt mercenary soldier and a gambler before his conversion. St Mary Magdalen had seven demons cast out of her by Christ.
The lives of these ‘prodigal’ saints give great comfort to those who struggle with various temptations. They show that conversion is possible, and they give great hope to those who strive after holiness. Whilst I am no great saint, it is my hope that by sharing my own story of the Family Rosary, it may encourage others to begin to pray the Family Rosary. Or it may help those who are struggling to maintain the Family Rosary to persevere. Prayer purifies the soul, and the Family Rosary is particularly favoured by Our Lady and by the Catholic Church. Indeed, the Catholic Church grants a plenary indulgence for the recitation of the Family Rosary provided the usual conditions are fulfilled.
“A Plenary Indulgence is granted, if the Rosary is recited in a Church or Public Oratory or in a Family Group, a religious community or pious association; a partial indulgence is granted in other circumstances. “Now the Rosary is a certain formula of prayer, which is made up of fifteen decades of ‘Hail Marys’ with an ‘Our Father’ before each decade, and in which the recitation of each decade is accompanied by pious meditation on a particular mystery of our Redemption. “The name ‘Rosary,’ however, is commonly used in reference to only a third of the fifteen decades.” The gaining of the plenary indulgence is regulated by the following norms:
The recitation of a third part only of the Rosary suffices; but the five decades must be recited continuously.
The vocal recitation MUST be accompanied by pious meditation on the mysteries.
In public recitation the mysteries must be announced in the manner customary in the place; for
private recitation, however, it suffices if the vocal recitation is accompanied by meditation on the mysteries. ” (from The Enchiridion of Indulgences, Apostolic Penitentiary, No 48)
The usual conditions for gaining a plenary indulgence are: Sacramental Confession (within eight days of the good works performed); receiving Holy Communion worthily; praying for the intentions of the Holy Father; and detachment from venial sin. This last requirement, being detached from venial sin, is probably the most difficult to attain in this fallen world of ours where it is easy to make excuses for one’s ‘smaller’ sins, but it is a necessary requirement for obtaining a plenary indulgence.
Detachment from Sin:
Those who faithfully pray the Rosary each day and who have recourse to Our Lady in all their daily activities, will slowly but surely develop this detachment from venial sin as the realisation grows that all sin is detestable to God the Father.
So, where a family goes to Holy Mass and receives Holy Communion daily, confesses their sins at least fortnightly, prays for the Pope’s intentions during their daily Family Rosary whilst meditating on the mysteries, are detached from venial sins, and have the intention of gaining the indulgence, each family member who has been confirmed can receive a plenary indulgence which can be applied to a Holy Soul in Purgatory, allowing that soul to attain the beatific vision.
This is a beautiful reason for reciting the Family Rosary and those Holy Souls who benefit from the plenary indulgences gained by the family members, will certainly seek to help that family in their earthly struggles.
Fathers, as the spiritual heads of their families, play an important role is leading the Family Rosary. As in so many other areas of life, good example is a key method of encouraging others to follow. The Rosary should not be ‘forced’ on children as such, they should be encouraged to follow their parent’s good example. Where one of the parents is not in favour, the other should continue to pray the Rosary daily asking Our Lady and St Joseph to convince their spouse of how beneficial this practice is.
You Will Still Have Problems:
Don’t expect all your family problems to be resolved as soon as you decide to pray the daily Rosary as a family. In fact, you might find that certain family tensions increase once you start praying the Family Rosary, because the devil hates the Rosary and he will attempt to make life difficult in order to dissuade the family from continuing. Persevere nonetheless. Remember that the end goal is not to attain earthly happiness, but for each member of the family to attain Heaven.
On our Facebook page we recently posted a quote from Fr John Hardon, alongside an image of a family praying the Rosary.
“Ordinary Catholics will not survive this age; only heroic Catholics will survive”.
Praying the daily Family Rosary may not seem to be heroic. But remember, it is easier not to pray the Rosary. You must set aside the time, regardless of what is on the family schedule. There was a time in Ireland when very many Catholic families prayed the Rosary daily, but the practice trailed off as we became more prosperous economically.
The Revival of the Family Rosary:
It would be great to see a revival of the daily Family Rosary in Irish homes and so I would encourage all of our readers who are not doing so already, to give serious consideration as to how to begin this beautiful daily practice, so that it becomes a family tradition. For those already praying the Rosary daily, I would ask you to encourage others to take up the practice, especially in families. Speak freely of the many benefits that come from praying the daily Rosary.
Ireland would be reconverted to Christ the King if enough families enthroned the Sacred Heart of Jesus image in their homes and if enough families were to pray the daily Family Rosary. These prayers will rise like incense to the throne of God the Father and appease the pierced Heart of Jesus. Our Lady will present the intentions of these Rosary praying families directly to God the Father.
Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus.
Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
May God bless you