“No, it’s a rosary,” I explained.
“But, it looks like a necklace,” he answered. “Can I try it on?”
“No, honey,” I responded. “It’s not for wearing. It’s for praying.”
“Is it for girls?” he asked.
I was a bit taken aback. “Yes, and for boys, too. It’s for everyone.”
“But, it looks like a necklace. I think you’re wrong. I think it’s just for girls.”
Just for girls. How did he come to such an idea? It’s not hard to understand. In our home, he has seen his mother pray the rosary. But, his father? No, not his father. Obviously, the belief that the rosary is just for girls is not a thought particular to my son.
It’s a thought, I think, in many minds. In my immediate world, I see the fruits of such belief. After daily Mass, the vast majority of people who stick around to pray a rosary together are women. At church, we have an active Rosary Altar Society that, of course, consists entirely of women. So, where are the men to lead my son in praying the rosary? Where are the men to teach him that it is not just a prayer for elderly ladies to recite after Mass, not just a prayer for girls, but a prayer for all people?
In my immediate world, I also see hope. An attempt by grown men to change that thinking. For there, on my mother’s dining room table, lies a book entitled Real Men Pray the Rosary. A strong fist decorates the cover, and that fist clenches a rosary.
How do I get my son there? How do I get him to want to grasp a rosary as tightly? My thoughts immediately turn to my husband and his responsibility. If only he would be turned onto the rosary, if only he would start to pray it, if only my son would witness this, then maybe there’d be a chance of my son finding an attraction to it.
But, maybe putting the bulk of responsibility – the bulk of the blame – on my husband isn’t so fair. After all, I pray a daily rosary, but how often do I do so in front of my son? With my son? Typically, I wait until after he’s asleep to pray it, because then I can do so uninterrupted. Typically, I don’t even consider taking out his oversized, colorful wooden rosary – the one that hangs on the wall in his room – because, I tell myself, he’s too young to last even a decade.
And yet, I have patience with him as we work to clean up his toys, when it would be so much easier and faster to do it myself. I have patience with him when he wants to help me bake cookies, even though the cookies risk having egg shells or a bit too much salt in them. I have patience with him when he insists he can vacuum the living room, and so, even though I really just want to get the cleaning done, I hand over the vacuum and find myself amused rather than annoyed as he covers the same tiny corner in the time I could have done the entire room. So why do I lack such patience when it comes to praying the rosary with him? Why do I shy away from inviting him to join me?
The fault, then, is in many ways mine, and I decided recently that if I’m part of the reason my son thinks the rosary isn’t for him, then I needed to do something about that.
My son’s an active one. He loves to hike, so I decided to use his love of the outdoors to prove that he could enjoy the rosary, too. Days ago, we set out on a hike, just the two of us, and my son carried with him a rugged bucket. I explained to him ahead of time that we were going to go on a rosary hike. I brought along my wooden Medjugorje rosary to offer him an example of what we would make at the end of our hike. Along the way, my son had a blast collecting rocks, pine cones and acorns. As we came to the end of our hike, we found a cement slab on which we used our treasures to create our own rugged rosary. We laid out my wooden one and set to task, my son deciding which objects would be the Our Father beads, and which the Hail Mary beads. As we put our rosary together, I explained to him the various mysteries and we said an Our Father and Hail Mary for each one. In the end, only one thing was missing: the cross! My son noticed flowers nearby, which we picked and formed into a lovely pink cross. But, the best part? As we went to leave our rosary behind, my son begged, “No, someone will mess it up!” So, we packed up our rosary “beads” and brought them home, where my son and I glued them into another rosary on poster board, which now hangs in his room.
We parents, as I learned, can’t rely on our children to come to us desiring the rosary. We need to make it tangible and alive to them, to use our knowledge of what they enjoy to make the rosary appealing to them. In doing so, we can change their perceptions of the rosary. At the end of our hike, my son no longer saw the rosary as “just for girls” but a prayer for him, too.
As for my husband? Well, I’ll keep working on that. But he’s a book sort. Perhaps I’ll leave a copy of Real Men Pray the Rosary on our dining room table, with that wooden rosary not too far away. And then, perhaps, I’ll invite him along on a hike.