You know the old thing about a fish can’t see the water it’s swimming in? I was reminded of that when I realised that I had been writing this column for more than a year, and have not yet mentioned devotion to our Blessed Mother Mary.

One of the surest ways to keep your kids Catholic is to foster a devotion to our Heavenly Mother. Both boys and girls, possibly for different reasons, respond very well to this.

Some of the ways in which we’ve encouraged this have been celebrating May as the month of Mary, including crowning her statue; giving the kids good books to read about Our Lady; making sure we say the Angelus and the Rosary every day; discussing her role in the Gospels and in the Mysteries of the Rosary; going on Marian retreats and pilgrimages and so on.

Of all these, the Rosary is probably the most powerful and important: and the stories around it, especially of Lourdes and Fatima, support that – and really appeal to kids, as children are at the heart of them.

Something you may find valuable to keep the Rosary alive (or to keep the kids’ minds alive during the Rosary, to be more accurate!) is a practice I read about somewhere – possibly in St Louis de Montfort’s writings on the Rosary. It is the practice of inserting a clause, after the Holy Name of Jesus, in each Hail Mary, that relates to the decade upon which we are meditating.

Thus, during the first decade, the Annunciation, one might pray:

‘and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus: whose coming was announced by Gabriel.’ That helps everyone to remember which mystery we are praying, and also prevents the Hail Marys from being said parrot-fashion, as the pattern is interrupted each time.

I like to try to find a different thing to say for each Hail Mary: that adds up to ten mini-meditations on the mystery for each decade (so for the second Hail Mary of the first decade, one might pray ‘and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus: whom you accepted for us all by your gracious assent,’ and so on).

This will keep the kids (and the parents) attentive: whoever is leading the decade has to think up the additions in live time and the others are always struck by them. It may also lead to interesting questions or discussions afterwards, if someone says something surprising.

The other thing the kids love is singing the Marian antiphon of the season at the end of evening prayers. Salve Regina for most of the year, but with the Alma Redmptoris, Ave Regina Caelorum and Regina Caeli at their proper times.

It also helps that so many Marian prayers and hymns are so beautiful: a personal favourite is the Memorare:

Remember, O most loving Virgin Mary, that it is a thing unheard of that anyone ever had recourse to thy protection, implored thy help or sought thine intercession and was left forsaken. Filled therefore with confidence in thy goodness, to thee I fly, O Mother, Virgin of virgins; to thee I come, before thee I stand, a sorrowful sinner. Despise not my words, Mother of the Word Incarnate, but graciously hear and grant my prayer.

Another wonderful prayer is the oldest extant prayer to Our Lady, found on a papyrus dating from the 3rd century, the Sub Tuum Praesidium:

We fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin. Amen.

So from the kids’ perspective all these things form a strong bedrock for their Faith. But there is the other dimension too: Our Lady will not leave such prayers unanswered, and her maternal protection is surely the most powerful aspect of this devotion.

So that’s this week’s challenge: how do you foster a real devotion to Our Lady in your kids?

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4 Responses to Keeping Your Kids Catholic: Children of Mary

  1. Scout says:

    How much pressure is it right for parents to put on their children to ascribe to a particular religion?

  2. Ben Trovato says:

    Hi Scout: you're pretty ubiquitous these days! I love the difference in tone between your seemingly innocent and innocuous comments on Catholic blogs and your anti-Catholic rhetoric on your own blog. I know you say that you are not anti-Catholic and indeed, number Catholics among your friends (now where have I heard that before?) but I invite interested Catholics to look at your blog and form their own opinion.

    Your question, of course, is couched in very loaded terms: 'pressure' etc. Of course parents have an obligation to bring up their children according to the truth. For Catholics, who believe that the Church was founded by Truth Himself, ('I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life' – remember?) there is clearly an obligation to raise their kids as Catholics.

    The pressure, it seems to me, is all in the other direction, from a secular society that seeks to impose its values on us all.

  3. Scout says:

    Yeah, I spose I get around :). Seriously, though, I am not anti-Catholic. The reason for my blog is that I've seen a lot of bad things going on within Catholicism, and I want to increase awareness about that because at the moment there seems to be a lot of denial going on. I hope the more sensible Catholics will come to my blog, see the reports and say "What is going on there doesn't represent the Catholicism I believe in".

    You are correct in saying that the broader society (or what you call "secular society") tends to have a major influence on children…but it worries me when children have too much religion put on them. I hear that the Catholic Church is getting kids confirmed at younger and younger ages now, which feels a bit wrong. It can also become an issue when religion is given to them not only at home and at church, but at school as well.

    Personally, I think telling kids about damnation, Hell, demons and stuff is especially manipulative, evil to be honest with you.

  4. Ben Trovato says:

    Scout, if hell, demons an damnation are real, then it is evil not to tell kids about them. Of course, that should always be done in the context of the salvation won for us by Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the eternal beatitude that our Father promises us – if we will only accept it…