Four years ago, when I had four children aged 10, 7, 5 and 2, I realized we didn’t have a good handle on the mysteries of the Rosary. My husband, having grown up in a Catholic family and having attended Catholic schools, was quite proficient on knowing the mysteries.
I felt our practice of praying the rosary could be improved. When we had one child, we could pray a whole rosary as a family in the evening. The one quiet daughter would happily sit on our laps or hold a rosary near us during prayer time. When we had two and three children, we switched to praying just a decade as a family in the evening. Twenty minutes of quiet before bed seemed so difficult to impose by this mother. Our prayer time would collapse in mother’s disappointment. Most often it was mother’s disappointment in her lack of patience.
Fast forward to four kids. There had to be a way to help them focus for 20 minutes! I began to look for simple images to convey the mysteries. There are lots of resources on the internet. Some very beautiful. Some very traditional American. Some very basic. I purchased this durable book-Mysteries of the Rosary for Children by Cy Speltz.
Images only work great for those that can visualize and sit still! So I began to think developmentally for my 5 year old and 2 year old. What could help them? What things did I already have around the house? What things could I find simply, inexpensively? What could represent the mysteries as a small manipulative?
At a local crafting store, I found four small cardboard boxes (about 3×3 each) which could fit into a larger box (about 8×8).
I collected five small images and 5 small manipulatives for each of four boxes. Putting this work together for the child forced me to think through and be more familiar with the mysteries myself!
I covered each box in what I thought was appropriate themed paper. For the Joyful mysteries, a happy floral paper. For the Luminous, a shining paper. For the Glorious, a gold paper. For the Sorrowful, a sad blue paper. The larger box that houses all our items, I covered in a red paper. Each box has a label. I also added a few handmade rosaries and a couple of simple booklets for children about the rosary.
There isn’t a magic item for the boxes. Any object that creates a memory device for you or your child works. In our Joyful mysteries box, we have a small dove for the mystery of the Annunciation, a spring for the Visitation, a small wooden baby for the Nativity, two small birds for the Presentation in the temple and a scroll for the Finding in the temple. If you were creating this for a younger than 3 year old child, you might wish to increase the size of the items and the boxes to prevent choking hazards.
In our house, these boxes appeal to the 3-7 year old age children. I encourage the children to remove one box at a time. During a child’s own quiet prayer time, I observe them using this box. When we pray as a family, the younger children remove the objects and images. It is a great memory game to return all 20 mystery items to their correct boxes.
Using this rosary box, does not promise peacefully well-behaved children during the family rosary. It does mean that there might be more participation from the younger crowd in your home. And you just might be inspired to pray as a family more often.