My five-year-old niece snuggles in closer to my daughter and another cousin. As she smiles up at the older girls, I can tell she feels safe and content. She concentrates on the moment. All three girls finger their rosaries.
"Holy Mary, mother of God . . ." they recite. Across the room, my dad sits quietly with my sister and her daughter, another preschooler. He prays with eyes closed. My niece squirms. Next to me on the sofa, my son and a nephew, both nearly teens, recite attentively together. Two younger nephews cozy up to their parents in chairs flanking the crackling fire. One nephew sucks his thumb. My two sisters-in-law, husband, mother, and brother-in-law add harmoniously to the chorus.
"Pray for us sinners . . . " As the peaceful rhythm of the rosary calms the busyness of my day, I silently thank Jesus for this gift of time to pray with my family. Every month the eighteen of us—ranging in age from three to seventy-two—join our Blessed Mother to pray for peace, for one another, and for others in need of prayer. We rotate homes, meeting on the first Wednesday evening of every month.
Our family tradition began shortly after my husband and I visited Medjugorje in 1990. Inspired by Mary's invitation to frequent prayer, especially the rosary, we began saying the rosary daily at home. When we invited my family to join us for monthly prayer, everyone agreed. Now, for nearly a decade our communal prayer has bonded, grounded, guided, and healed all of us.
Hardly saints, my family is like many others. We juggle commitments, struggle with setbacks, and try to count our blessings as we work, raise children, nurture relationships, and journey in faith. Our lives are busy, and sometimes it's tempting to allow the demands of the day to prevent us from getting together. Sometimes a bad mood or illness threatens our openness to prayer. Sometimes, when the weather is lousy, we question whether we should drive across town to the host's home. Sometimes, we're just plain tired and would rather go to bed early.
But we persevere because we know that regular prayer, including prayer with others, is essential to sustain our faith. Through prayer our faith comes alive. As Pope John Paul II said, "Prayer makes God present in the world."
Glancing at my dad, I thank Jesus again. Diagnosed with kidney cancer three years ago, he is peaceful; his stage IV disease has been stable until just recently, despite predictions to the contrary from his doctors. My family feels the power of prayer and continues to pray daily for a miraculous healing—and also for acceptance of whatever God wills.
Seated close to my dad, my sister-in-law prays in gratitude. Her journey through major surgery, chemotherapy, and treatment for breast cancer is over. Now she feels healthy and has great hope for her future.
Nearby, her husband, my younger brother, also looks rested and strong. No longer wrestling with chronic fatigue syndrome, a debilitating illness that kept him from a full life for nearly four years, he leads our prayers with conviction.
"Now and at the hour of our death . . . " Not all of our prayers have been answered. At least not immediately nor in the way we've requested. New challenges and crosses continue to confront us, as they do every family. But we do feel God's peace and guidance. And by joining our prayers with Mary's intercession, we have experienced not only physical healings but spiritual and emotional healings as well. God also provides for the practical needs we bring him, such as career direction, success in school, and safety as we travel.
Perhaps the greatest blessing of our family prayer is the overall harmony we share. All of us recognize what an unusual gift that is. Despite our differences, each family member is committed to praying for peace, growing in grace, and passing our faith along to the next generation.
The gospel tells us that prayer can change anything. It can convert hearts and produce peace. It provides spiritual protection, discernment, comfort, and grace. And so we pray for everything; no intention is too small.
We also pray for those we know who are ill or struggling. We mention significant world events. The older kids often pray for world peace. All of the children pray for friends who have special needs. Their prayers sometimes are the most touching.
Prayer requires a determined effort. If we want to see God work in our lives, we need to spend time with him, surrender our own desires, and make an effort to listen to his answers.
My family continues to face challenges. On occasion, we wonder why they appear so frequently! But when we bring our petitions to Jesus through family prayer, even the youngest members feel his presence. We all develop a greater appreciation for the rosary. When, as parents, we model our faith for the next generation, we grow in grace. When we pray in communion with Mary, we experience peace and witness her mediation. During times of crisis, we take comfort in the support of one another's prayers. Our family prayer brings us closer.
Mary invites families to gather for frequent prayer and to include the rosary.
As we reflect on the mysteries of Christ's life, we're guided by the Holy Spirit to translate them into our own circumstances. Through the rosary, we're reminded how to be disciples.
"World without end. Amen." We finish five decades, offer special intentions and conclude with a Memorare. Now my little niece squeals. It's treat time. Tonight she helps serve gooey chocolate brownies, her favorite.
As the kids chatter and play together, and the adults mingle, I offer a final silent prayer: "Thank you, Jesus, for the divine blessings and hope you offer through the intercessory prayers of your loving Mother." n