As she clutched a brand-new rosary with deep violet beads, 4-year-old Lydia Fusz politely raised her hand and asked her teacher, “Where can I keep my rosary?”
Father Rich Bockskopf, who was visiting preschoolers Oct. 7 at the Little School at Ascension in Chesterfield, acknowledged that this was a very good question, indeed.
“Maybe you have a special place where you like to pray,” said the senior associate pastor at Ascension Parish. “Some people in their houses have a special place where they like to pray. Some people keep it next to their bed, and when they wake up in the morning might pray a Rosary. Some people keep it in their pocket, and when they come to church before Mass they pray the Rosary.”
But then 4-year-old Davis Darnell turned the tables on Father Bockskopf, asking: “Where do you keep your rosary?”
“In my room, I have a place that’s my prayer corner and I keep it there,” he explained.
The preschoolers’ curiosity isn’t surprising to teachers at the Little School. Among other faith lessons, children spend time during October, the month of the Rosary, learning about this special Scripture-based, Marian prayer devotion.
Each year, preschoolers in the 4- and 5-year-old classrooms receive a rosary, donated by Knights of Columbus Council 11139 at Ascension. The tradition of learning about the Rosary was started nearly 25 years ago by the late Msgr. Joseph Pins, former Ascension pastor who was instrumental in starting The Little School, said director Erica Argue.
“He would bring a rose and a statue of Mary over to school, and he would say we have two mothers: a mother here on earth who we live with and mother in heaven,” Argue said. “And Mary is not just Jesus’ mother, but our mother, too. He was teaching them to say, ‘I love you, Mary.’”
Other Rosary-related lessons include using bingo daubers to color rosary beads on paper, and making rosaries from dried macaroni and string. Classes also make a large rosary with rope and cut up pool noodles. At the same time they’re learning about the devotion, they’re also working on areas such as fine and gross motor skills, and social-emotional development.
“Every day that the children are here, we take them to visit Jesus and the Blessed Mother in the Little Church,” Argue said. “We teach them the Hail Mary, and we talk to them about how she takes care of Jesus. She teaches respect, she teaches kindness, she teaches caring — and we try to instill that in the children so that every day they look out for each other and take care of each other here at school.”
During his visit with students, Father Bockskopf explained that the rosary is an instrument that is used to pray. He showed them how the beads are made up into decades, and each bead is assigned a different prayer, including the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be. He also explained the mysteries of the Rosary and said they’d learn more about that when they get older.
“The whole idea of praying with beads goes back a long time ago, even before the time of Jesus,” he said. “People use beads to pray to God. The important thing is that we understand the Rosary is a prayer form. For you now, it’s about saying the prayers. And that’s a good thing.”
After he blessed the children’s new rosaries and distributed them, he led the group in praying the Our Father and a Hail Mary. But before he left, he had one more thing to add:
“You know what else we also have to pray for today? That the Cardinals win,” he said, referencing the baseball team’s playoff game that afternoon. “Pray that they get some hits and score some runs.”
>> History of the Rosary
Legend has it that the
Rosary as a form of prayer was given to St. Dominic in the 13th century
by the Blessed Mother, who entrusted it to him as an aid in the conflict
with the Albigensians. The Dominican pope, St. Pius V, did much to
further the spread of the Rosary and it thereafter became a popular
devotion. As pope, St. Pius V officially established the devotion to the
Rosary in 1569, via the papal bull, “Consueverunt Romani Pontifices.”
1571, St. Pius V called for all of Europe to pray the Rosary for
victory at the Battle of Lepanto. The Christian victory at Lepanto was
at first celebrated as the feast of “Our Lady of Victory” on Oct. 7, and
was later renamed the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary
Pope Benedict XVI described the image of Our Lady of the Rosary during an audience at the Angelus in 2007:
traditional image of Our Lady of the Rosary portrays Mary who with one
arm supports the Child Jesus and with the other is offering the rosary
beads to St Dominic. This important iconography shows that the Rosary is
a means given by the Virgin to contemplate Jesus and, in meditating on
His life, to love Him and follow Him ever more faithfully. It is this
message that Our Lady has also bequeathed to us in her various
>> How to pray the Rosary
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has an online resource for praying the Rosary. See bit.ly/1hNNOc4.