Fostering Marian devotions, such as a family rosary, gives space for Our Lady to enter the domestic church
By Soren Johnson
MY FATHER-IN-LAW welcomed Mary into his home by leading the family rosary with his wife at 9 p.m. every night of the week.
That’s right: every night. My wife and her 11 siblings don’t recall their dad missing a day. Though the Church and the surrounding culture were anything but stable, he planted a flag. In his family, you could count on the rosary. So much so that his younger children developed their own tradition of feigning sleep near the end of the prayer, for they knew that dad would carry any sleeping bodies off to bed. Those childhood memories now rank among their most treasured.
This nightly tradition of the family rosary, however, took time to develop. The rosary was not part of my father-in-law’s upbringing, and he went back and forth on the practice of praying it. Early in his married life, he would consistently lead it for a time, until life’s incidents — long work hours, a newborn — got in the way. But his daughter Lucy, adopted when she was a teen, was insistent. “Dad,” she’d say whenever things got too busy, “we forgot to pray the rosary.” And you didn’t argue with Lucy. She was unflagging and endearing.
“She wasn’t yet a Catholic, but she was entranced by the rosary. It had to be said!” my father-in-law recalled. Lucy felt something different in the home on evenings when Mary was pushed to the side. So, for her sake, he stepped it up, and Mary became more than an occasional guest. She became a permanent fixture in the home.
“Our family was by no means perfect,” my wife recalled, “but in the area of devotion to the Blessed Mother, my parents definitely came close. Having 12 kids, they intuitively knew they couldn’t give us everything we needed, but they could at least introduce us to the perfect parents: our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph. And this they did, every day, without fail.”
The family’s devotion also had a vocational impact — two of the eight daughters, including Lucy, entered religious life.
When I incredulously asked my father-in-law how he stayed on track all those years, he said, “Work times varied, and so did Little League games, choir, band commitments and our date nights, but the rosary was always said.” He added, “The kids were never forced to join, but it was such a routine that they all eventually did.”
In our own domestic church — or, as we like to call it, our “Trinity House” — my wife and I welcome Our Lady in a similar way. A beautiful statue of her adorns our home altar, and we do our best to pray the rosary with our children each evening. I haven’t attained my father-in-law’s consistency, but I aim for it, and he inspires me. My wife and I love one of Mary’s ancient titles, “Tabernacle of the Word,” and we want our home to be a tabernacle in which our children come to know and love the Word, Jesus Christ.
Each of our kids deserve to grow up in a home where space is provided to develop a unique relationship with our Blessed Mother. And maybe, like Lucy, they’ll also keep us on track on those days when fatigue, busyness or distraction threaten to sideline this relationship.
St. Teresa of Calcutta often spoke of doing “something beautiful for God,” and my in-laws undoubtedly did that through their daily faithfulness to the rosary. Each family’s ways of welcoming Mary may differ — whether they include a consecration to the Blessed Mother, a pilgrimage to a Marian shrine or other Marian devotions. The point is that every family can do “something beautiful for God” by honoring his mother, whom he gave also as our mother (Jn 19:27).
Sometimes, the best moments for us as dads might just be those quiet ones when we lift a sleeping child off the couch and tuck him or her in, safe under Mary’s loving mantle and Joseph’s watchful patronage.
SOREN JOHNSON is a member of Holy Family Council 6831 in Leesburg, Va. He and his wife, Ever, are co-directors of Trinity House Community.