Let’s Pray Together: Introducing the Rosary into Your Family with Sister Mary Samuel

The article below is an excerpt taken from Mind and Heart, a weekly podcast series hosted by Sr. John Dominic Rasmussen, OP. The producer of the series was GoLEDigital, a digital community created by the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.

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Sister Mary Samuel, in the tradition of the Dominican charism and the water, has put together a wonderful book on the Rosary called Let’s Pray Together. Before we dive into that, Sister, could you tell a little bit of your own your experience working with children? I think that is what gave shape to what you were able to pull together here.

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Sr. Mary Samuel:

I’ve had 30 years of experience in administration dealing with children and schools and creating learning environments. We have been here for the last 22 years creating chapels in our schools, so we have an environment for prayer. It’s easy for the teachers to take the children down to the chapel to pray. This has been wonderful for all of us, for both the children and parents, who also come for daily mass. 

My favorite age to work with are the four, five, and six year olds. Using the sacramentals with the children to create the environment for prayer was very natural, and the children responded beautifully to it. 

It’s very important to work with children and help parents as they try to create an environment of prayer in their home. We try not to force children to pray; we hope to lead them into prayer. We know Christ has told us to let the little children come to us, and we recognize the importance of giving them that prayer opportunity. The children are really humble which is so refreshing. They’re open. They receive the truth. 

I had the opportunity to substitute teach a first-grade class a few months ago. I thought about what to teach them and decided on the 20 Mysteries of the Rosary. They know the Rosary, but I wanted to introduce, and help the parerens introduce, the mysteries as they pray the Rosary. It’s not praying all five decades of the Rosary. It’s taking one decade at a time. 

Through our education virtue program and with the help of the staff, we have created a beautiful book. It’s Let’s Pray Together. It has the 20 Mysteries of the Rosary and some beautiful art, which the Children love. They can study it. You give them beautiful art and ask them to use their imagination. Asking questions like, “What did you get out of that picture? What did you see here?” It flows out of them. I don’t think we give children the chance to tell us what they’re thinking.

Sr. John Dominic:

That’s what I love so much about the book here. It seems practical, but maybe that isn’t the right word. When substitute teaching first grade children, most people wouldn’t think to take them into the chapel. But because of your experience with children of that age, you knew that children could have a mystical experience in the chapel. 

When you were talking, I was thinking about the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd with Sofia Cavalletti, where she talked about the children and their spiritual experience. I think what is so beautiful about the layout in Let’s Pray Together is that you purposely picked beautiful artwork. Could talk more about it? There are so many books out there on how to pray the rosary, but this one is unique in how it is put together and comes from more than 30 years of experience working with this age level and with families, trying to get them to love the rosary.

Sr. Mary Samuel:

We know parents are the primary educator of the children and [should] create a prayer experience for their children at home. They don’t want to leave it to the schools. We can give them the tools to help them create that environment. Use that prayer corner. Set up the sacramentals that are available, whether it is a crucifix, a Bible, rosaries, or scapulars. All of the beautiful sacramentals lead us closer to our Lord. The children love to handle that. Even at Christmas, when you have a nativity scene, you see little three- and four-year-olds moving all the pieces around, and they put all the animals right next to Jesus so that their breath will warm that child. They say that the animals are friendly and harmless to Jesus. 

In the book, we introduce this [prayer] one mystery at a time instead of approaching the rosary as whole all at once. I think this tool will help parents in the home. Whenever you create that prayer time, you give one mystery. I was with a family last week, and they have a child with autism. He’s very smart, and they were afraid of how he’d react to a sister. He sat right next to me, and we were going to say a decade of the rosary. We went outside on their porch. They’ve said it before, and one of the little four-year-olds must have had 15 rosaries he was laying out on the table, handing them out to each person. They have an established and specified prayer time. I said, “Kevin, would you like to read the scripture that goes with the story? You pick out whichever mystery you want.” He ran through the pictures and found the baptism of Jesus, and he read the scripture verse. After he read it, I said, “What were you thinking about as you were reading it and looking at the picture?” He said, “I was thinking about my baptism when I got baptized.” I think he was a little older so that he could remember that.

Sr. John Dominic:

I was going to say, “Wow, he sure has a good memory.”

Sr. Mary Samuel:

He wasn’t a baby. He was adopted, and they got him baptized. 

Sr. John Dominic:

Can you describe how one of our sisters, who teaches high school math, begins the class?

Sr. Mary Samuel:

She takes a picture, puts it on the overhead, and reads the scripture for the day. That’s their prayer for the morning. If she doesn’t do it in the morning, the children remind her or tell her she forgot. She has the book, and she can turn it to whatever the next mystery they have. It’s the whole life of Christ.

Sr. John Dominic:

One thing I appreciate is that not only do you have the spiral so it could be folded back, but also you can stay on a mystery for a week, even if you just started. Then, you could give your prayer intention and go through the scriptures that are here. You also incorporated the Lectio Divina. Mary’s leading us to her son with the rosary. Finding what virtue is connected to that [mystery] could be spread out over a week. It’s beautiful. It’s practical. 

The more the staff worked on it, the more excited they were. Because they have families, they think, “Where was this when my kids were in school?”When we get excited about something, we’re ready to talk about it. Are there any other times you’ve used it, or do you know any stories the sisters have shared?

Sr. Mary Samuel:

Grandparents, too, have the opportunity to pray with their children. Once, I was in Minnesota, and one of the grandparents invited their son and his two daughters over. One of the daughters, named Anna, was four. I had a rosary book, and I said, “I have this for you. You can have it.” She loved the pictures. We talked about praying with it or listening to the scripture and then reading the story. 

Two weeks later, the grandmother wrote back and said, “Sister, my son has never said the rosary. Anna now makes him say it every night.” They’re praying for this decade or for this intention, and they’re working on this virtue so that they can later ask, “Did you work on this particular virtue? Did you finish your chores on time? Did you do your homework? Did you get that finished?” Now you’ve incorporated the virtues. Her favorite part of the Lectio Divina is the question, “What is Jesus saying to you?” She loves to tell them that.

Sr. John Dominic:

I think that’s the wonderful thing about this method. Oftentimes, when people begin their rosary, they wonder how they will be able to get through all five decades. Here, we are reassuring them that it is okay to focus on one decade because we want them to focus on the life of Christ. That relationship is most important, so we hope they approach it with questions like, “How can I be a disciple of Christ?” and “How can I begin to understand the mysteries?” instead of rushing to get it completed. That way, it becomes a prayerful experience.

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Sr. Mary Samuel:

When we pray the rosary, hopefully, we’re praying it with an intention. Who should we pray this decade for? Now you’ve given them an opportunity to identify who or what they’re praying for. We’re interceding to Our Lady. She’s asked us to pray the rosary. We can introduce it to families and make it more enjoyable for everyone so that it’s not a drudgery. With this tool, you can help the children and they can understand that they can just approach on mystery one day at a time. 

Sr. John Dominic:

That reminds me of when Our Lady appeared to the Fatima children and that introduced the different apparitions. She brings them in gently. They don’t start out by doing all 15 mysteries. They begin with a simple prayer, allowing the relationship to be drawn to the mysteries of Christ. This is Dominican. The rosary is part of our habit. Some say it’s the sword on the side.

Sr. Mary Samuel:

There’s a great story from when the sisters were going to Eastern Michigan to get their undergraduate work. These beautiful sisters in their beautiful habits are young and joyful. They’re spread out on the campus. They have to do their student teaching in the public schools, and we can have up to six sisters in some public schools. They have to tolerate us. 

A little one once asked, ”Why do you wear your necklace on your belt?” I responded, ”Well, these are my prayer beads. I talk to Jesus and Mary with my beads.” Then she asked, ”Well, can I talk to them?” She picked up the beads and said, ”Hello Jesus, hello Mary, how’s my grandma?” Without even trying, I could introduce it.

Sr. John Dominic:

They’re attracted to what it is?

Sr. Mary Samuel:

Yes. We’re proud to wear the habit, to wear the rosary on our side, and to be Dominican. As the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, our focus is always to bring them back to Jesus and to the Eucharist. Mary introduces us to Jesus and helps us to imitate Christ. 

Jesus imitated His mother when she said, “Yes,” and He said, “Yes” to the Father. When Mary went to the temple and said, “No, You’re coming home,” He said, “This is my Father’s business, I must be teaching.” She replied, “No, You’re coming home,” and He was obedient. At the wedding feast at Cana, Mary said, “Do whatever He tells you.” Obedience with family prayer will bring many blessings to the family.

Sr. John Dominic:

The word obey means to hear. We live out our obedience in Christ if we hear God’s will. I think we know that by prayer. We know that by relationship, and that’s what I love so much about what you’ve put together here, Sister. Thank you. You’ve been very passionate about it, and it’s truly a great gift. 

As other sisters that are teaching come on the show and talk about their experiences, hopefully our listeners will be inspired to get this. You can go to our website, SistersofMary.org, or golepress.com, or it’s on Amazon. As we have conversations around this, our listeners can understand how it can be used practically in the family or one’s own personal life.

Sr. Mary Samuel:

I also have the children’s testimonies and meditations, and they are beautiful. You can hear clips of the children on our website. One child said, “I was meditating on the birth of Jesus, and I thought about the straw and how itchy it is. It’s like our sins.” I’m thinking, “Oh my Lord, the Word speaks through these children and the Holy Spirit.” As Christ tells us, “Do not put a stumbling block on my little children.” They will lead us.

Sr. John Dominic:

I think that’s what’s so important. Even as adults we can think they might not be able to do this. But they want to do it, and they can inspire us and lead us by their example. So many times we hear of people that moved away from the faith, and they come back when their children want the sacraments.

Sr. Mary Samuel:

We know that parents need help. I think this is a tool to get you started in your home, to listen to the scriptures, to pray the scriptures, and to not have to take out the Bible. The scriptures are in each of the mysteries. You can introduce this scripture that goes with that mystery. 

This book talks about the importance of the scriptures in knowing the mysteries when saying the rosary. It’s not just saying, “Hail Marys.” It’s so that we can learn about Christ again and about our Lady so she lead us closer to her Son. It’s a wonderful experience for parents. If they’ve not done it, they should try it.

Sr. John Dominic:

Thank you, Sister. We’re going to have lots of conversations about this in future episodes.

About:

Sr. John Dominic Rasmussen is a Foundress and General Editor of Lumen Ecclesiae Press for the Dominican Sister of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. Her podcast Mind and Heart can be downloaded every Monday at 3:00 p.m. EST from iTunes. A visual presentation of the podcast can also be seen on YouTube at GoLEDigital.

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