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September 13, 2007
Greetings and welcome to Faith Formation Update, a free monthly e-newsletter for catechetical leaders with a focus on parish catechesis beyond textbooks and classrooms. I'm Jeanne Hunt. In each issue I offer a brief starter and my "Every Family" column. My co-worker and fellow religious educator Joan McKamey offers media resources and ideas in her "Seen and Heard" column. Our co-worker Chuck Blankenship suggests other faith formation resources for adults from St. Anthony Messenger Press in his column, "Sowing Sampler." Finally, we encourage YOU to share views and program ideas about this month's topic on our online bulletin board, "Faith Formation Forum." God bless us in this good work.
—Jeanne Hunt

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The Pleasure of Her Company
I remember the opening scene of Gone with the Wind: Katie Scarlet is on her knees praying the rosary with the rest of the O’Hara family. It was a part of being Catholic to pray the family rosary. The custom is a part of our memories of Catholic family life. Rosaries and our devotion to Mary are a hallmark of our tradition. Yet, those First Communion rosaries have a tendency to get lost in the bottom of desk and nightstand drawers. It is the challenge of faith formation to bring this connection with the gospel and Mary to life. Every catechist dusts off the folder on the Church’s teaching on Mary the Mother of Jesus this time of year.    
The question remains: How do we animate this tradition in a meaningful way for the families of this day? It is my belief that we simply do what we teach. A wonderful saying goes, “Do what you teach or you are teaching something else.” This applies to what we teach about Mary. In order to encourage others to desire the pleasure of her company, we must first rekindle our own desire to spend time with her. We teach that we pray with Mary to her son, Jesus. Catholics do not adore Mary. Rather, we join with the Mother of Jesus in adoring her Son. In that posture we learn to keep company with her Immaculate Heart and the union produces much grace.  
So, before we go forth with our doctrine and dogma, it would help us to go through that drawer and resurrect our rosaries and visit our Mother in person. Let us spend a little time remembering moments in our life when a Marian prayer, the touch of rosary beads or a beautiful ritual gave encouragement and hope. We need to share these experiences with others. Sharing these Marian moments is the best encouragement, for those who listen will need to extend their hands to our heavenly mother and walk the path of prayer with her.
Mary and Family Life
The rosary is making a comeback. Recently as I was walking the exercise path at my local park, I noticed three other walkers with rosary beads in their hands. Walking and praying their way along the path, these younger joggers had made a connection between the circle of the rosary and the circle of the path around the lake. The gentle repetition of the prayers complemented their walking rhythm. Later, I spoke to one of the women. I asked her why she prayed the rosary as she walked. She said that this sacred exercise experience created perfect companions. As she got lost in the monotony of the walk, the sweet lyrics of the prayers and beauty of the gospel meditation filled the air. A boring jog became a holy moment. She said that this blend of prayer and exercise was the ultimate “holy multitasking.”
 For years, Catholics have used the rosary as the perfect sleep aid. Being awake in the middle of the night with no hope of returning to sleep can be remedied by a good time of prayer with the Mother of God. It seems as if the anxiety and stress that leads to a sleepless night melt away in the process of focusing on this ancient gospel prayer. Patricia M. Robertson takes this a step further in her book, The Rosary: Worry Beads for Anxious Parents. Robertson shows how the beads offer consolation and encouragement as we deal with the many trials and tribulations of parenting. This book is a great resource for any parent who is struggling to let go of an independent child and trust God with his or her well-being. Father Gary Caster adds more insight into the gift of Mary and her words in Scripture. His book, Mary, In Her Own Words: The Mother of God in Scripture, is the perfect addition to a family prayer corner. Father Caster takes us into Mary’s world as he develops the meaning behind four beautiful names for a Mary that are rooted in our scriptural tradition.
Regardless of the way we bring Mary into our family life, the important thing is that we begin to do it. This October give someone in your family a rosary and ask him or her to join you at the local park, the parish church or the quiet of your own backyard for a little quality time with their mother.
Electronic Media on the Rosary
A longtime pastor of my parish, Louis Schumacher, died several years ago. His tombstone reads, “To Jesus through Mary.” The last thing he is known to have done was to pray the rosary before falling asleep. He died sometime during the night.
In his apostolic letter On the Most Holy Rosary (Rosarium Virgini Mariae) Pope John Paul II wrote, “The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer” (1) and “To recite the Rosary is nothing other than to contemplate with Mary the face of Christ” (3). Father Schumacher understood that and used the rosary as a way to unite his life with the life of Christ.
October is celebrated as the month of the Holy Rosary. In addition, this year marks the 90th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima. Sister Lucy, the final survivor of the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima, said the following in an interview in 1957:
“[T]here is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families, of the families of the world or of the religious communities, or even of the life of peoples and nations, that cannot be solved by the Rosary.”
The rosary is not a magical talisman; it is through our lifting of our heart’s joys, sorrow, glories and moments of enlightenment to God that we are given the grace and wisdom to manage the difficulties of life.
I’ve selected a clip from the DVD Mary: An Introduction to share with you. The clip is from the program “We Pray With Mary: The Cloak of Many Colors” (Windows Media | RealMedia) and gives a brief and simple introduction to the rosary.
It’s important to pass on to our children and new members of our faith communities the meaning and message of the rosary. As Pope John Paul II said on October 29, 1978, scarcely two weeks after his election as pope, “[o]ur heart can embrace in the decades of the Rosary all the events that make up the lives of individuals, families, nations, the Church, and all mankind. Our personal concerns and those of our neighbor, especially those who are closest to us, who are dearest to us. Thus the simple prayer of the Rosary marks the rhythm of human life” (RVM, 2).
I hope that you will find time within the rhythm of your own life to pray the rosary and to share its richness with others.
Go ahead…print as many copies as you need!
It has happened to me more than I want to admit. I’ve found a resource for my small Christian communities, but I just don’t know how many groups want to use it.  Do I buy a copy for each group leader? Let’s see, I have 40 different groups in the parish.  Do I buy 40 subscriptions at $24 per subscription? What if only 10 leaders want to use the publication? Have I just wasted over $700 by purchasing too many subscriptions? Or do I buy just one subscription, make illegal copies of my single subscription, and hope that my conscience doesn’t get the better of me? What can I do?
Well, here’s a new approach. St. Anthony Messenger Press is now making available their weekly lectionary-based resource, Bringing Home the Word, as an annual reprint license. For one low annual fee, you will have access to the full contents of each week’s issue of Bringing Home the Word: a full reflection on each week’s lectionary readings; reflection questions for further consideration and “breaking open” the Word; suggestions for active response to the Word; a family feature column; a prayer based on the theme of the readings; and listings of the weekday readings for the coming week. Make copies of Bringing Home the Word for all your catechists. Send a copy home with your school or parish newsletter. Give copies to your small Christian community leaders or to other groups that gather around the parish. Use the reflections and questions for your RCIA groups as they break open the Word. Print as many copies as you need. All for one low annual fee.
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