Praying to the Blessed Virgin is the first and most fundamental way that families can become holy.
-Servant of God John A. Hardon, SJ
Yes, there are the evenings where everyone is sick, tired, or grumpy (or, more often, all three), and we embark on our family rosary under blankets that need to be washed, surrounded by peppermint wrappers, tissues, socks and a general mess; when one sibling is asleep and everyone else seems to be praying at a different speed . . . and then someone gets up quickly to make ice water due to fatal thirst. Cue the grinding of the ice machine as we pause The Ascension.
Yes . . . these are the evenings where I reflect on how it would definitely be easier to meditate on the Rosary by myself, in a quiet room, surrounded by candles and holy cards. In this current state of affairs, my mind is wandering from Mordor to the grocery store, and my leg is falling asleep from where my younger sister is falling asleep on top of it.
On these kinds of evenings, it’s all too tempting for me to think that my rosary might be more worthwhile if I prayed it alone, or with one family member, in a spirit of recollection; which, let’s be honest, the full family atmosphere rarely allows for.
But . . . would I be right?
There is no surer means of calling down God’s blessings upon the family . . . than the daily recitation of the Rosary.
-Pope Pius XII
On these kinds of evenings, my”mostly alone rosary” would be an easier rosary for me to pray and “sink into”; but does easier necessarily mean more pleasing to God? Do my personal feelings of something being “better prayed,” and does my sense of “satisfaction” afterwards, equate to true worth in God’s sight? Especially when contrasted with the sometimes slightly more challenging act of my family gathering together to pray the Rosary?
Last night was a similar kind of evening, and it spurred me to reflect on the differences between my private prayer and our family prayer, and the respective ease and value of each.
I love private prayer, and daily private prayer is essential for spiritual growth. In private prayer, I can be still and quiet; I can take my time; I can limit distractions; I can ponder God.
And yet family prayer, while maybe not always completely free from distractions, has profound worth of its own. I reminded myself that, before we set out to pray our nightly family rosary over a year ago, I was a complete failure at Rosary consistency. Complete. I would promise myself over and over again that there wouldn’t come a day in which I didn’t at least pray five decades. Sooner than later (surprise!) would come the failure. Every time.
So although our nightly family rosaries aren’t always the smoothest things from a contemplation perspective . . . I owe the initiative of my parents and siblings for my current devotion to the Rosary.
There’s something to be said for that.
Where two or more are gathered in My Name, there am I in the midst of them.
In my private rosary, does my lack of temptation to be irritated at the User of the Ice Maker have more merit than the temptations I manage to overcome during the family rosary?
Are my peaceful, undisturbed moments more pleasing to God than the challenging moments when I have to choose to be charitable and patient?
Are my solitary prayers (while sometimes easier) necessarily better than the prayers I offer with my family?
It’s good food for thought. In the Catholic home, we need both our private prayers and our family prayers. Our interior holiness aids the holiness of our family . . . and, in a certain sense, vice versa. The prayers we offer together as a family (regardless of exterior perfection . . . or lack of it) strengthen us individually to keep striving in this great battle we’ve been plunged into.
I, for one, have learned that I can’t mistake prayer surrounded by distractions, in an absolute sense, for better prayer (though we should try to minimize distractions if we can!). In the context of the family rosary, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the challenging prayers prayed in a messy living room, but prayed with faithfulness, please God more than any rosary I could pray on my own.