WEST HARTFORD – The Children’s Rosary organization has dedicated this Year of Faith to renewing family prayer.
The group, created by Dr. Blythe Kaufman, mother of three and a member of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, has helped establish Children’s Rosary prayer groups across the country.
"Our children have an enormous capacity for spirituality and a deep relationship with our Lord and his mother," said Dr. Kaufman. "The Children’s Rosary is a means for parents to expose their children to prayer at an early age and develop faith steeped in the tradition of the Catholic Church."
Three Children’s Rosary groups have been established in parishes in the Archdiocese of Hartford. In addition to the original group founded at St. Thomas the Apostle in 2011, children gather to pray the rosary at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Waterbury and at St. Thomas Church in Thomaston. Other groups, as far west as Washington state and as far south as Florida, provide youngsters with an opportunity to pray with children their own age, in a unique way.
Children kneel on pillows brought from home, placed in a semicircle surrounding a podium and a statue of the Virgin Mary. With rosaries in hand, they take turns leading the group in reading or reciting prayers of the traditional rosary. Very young members can also take an active role.
Typically, participants range in age from 4 to 14.
"The children of Fatima and Bernadette of Lourdes were all within this age range," said Dr. Kaufman.
The age range is only a guideline; all ages are welcome, she said. Siblings as young as 2 years old or older children with challenges can, at the end of each rosary decade, place flowers at the foot of the statue.
The use of flowers is optional but can serve to deepen meaning and add beauty. Typically, the Children’s Rosary group at St. Thomas the Apostle uses white or pink roses in honor of Our Lady, said Dr. Kaufman.
Parents or other adults are bystanders and serve as guardian angels, she said; they do not lead or direct the prayers. It’s about teaching children, who are the future of the Church, to pray together and to lead, she added.
Dr. Kaufman said she believes that powerful blessings, protection and sanctification result from praying the rosary, especially for children.
She created a small pocket-sized booklet called Children’s Rosary designed to assist young children in praying the rosary. It also provides adults with instructions on how they can create a Children’s Rosary group in their own parish.
In the booklet, Dr. Kaufman references homilies by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Blessed John Paul II as well as descriptions from Scripture and from the Catechism of the Catholic Church that substantiate the connection between children, the rosary and Mary with blessings from God.
The book’s preface was written by Archbishop Henry J. Mansell. In it, he says, "[This] booklet provides a wonderful guide to a richer and deeper understanding of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is clear that this booklet doesn’t offer a new Rosary, but rather serves to assist the children who pray the Rosary to do so in a special way, bringing them to the safety and holiness of life under the intercessions and protection of the Blessed Mother."
Prayer groups for adults exist in many parishes but there is a scarcity of prayer groups for children, said Dr. Kaufman, an endodontist who teaches at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. She believes that God is especially responsive to the prayers of children.
"We know how strong and dear the prayers of children are and how heaven delights in them," said Dr. Kaufman, who was inspired to establish the group following a request for help.
The call for help came from Father Arthur Murphy, pastor emeritus of St. Thomas the Apostle, who was its pastor at the time. He appealed to the congregation when he saw the parish suffering from a financial crisis and was worried about its future existence, she said.
Shortly after Father Murphy’s request, children from the church gathered to pray for the parish. It was April 10, 2011, the Sunday before Palm Sunday, when children kneeled before the statue of Mary and prayed the rosary as a group.
"There was nothing special about that weekend except for the small group of children who prayed," said Dr. Kaufman.
The record collection total that weekend, surpassed only by Easter and Christmas that year, reinforced Dr. Kaufman’s belief in the power of the prayers of children.
"Through prayer of the rosary, Our Lady will guide young people and, at the same time, sanctify families and parishes," said Dr. Kaufman, who hopes that the Children’s Rosary, which humbly began in one parish, will, by the grace of God, continue to grow and spread across the globe.