Third-grade students from Our Lady of Grace Academy in Racine learned how to pray one of the oldest and most popular forms of prayer in the Church, the Holy Rosary. Given to the Church by St. Dominic in 1214, St. Dominic received the prayer from the Blessed Virgin Mary to convert the Albigensians and other sinners.

With a quick reminder to students that the rosary she placed on their desks is not a necklace, Jennifer Gianou briefly provided a history of the rosary and explained how to pray it. While children at first thought it daunting to pray so many prayers, she broke down the mechanics for praying and the reasons for praying.

“I still have my rosary that I received from my First Holy Communion. It is very common to receive on for your First Communion,” she said, holding it up for the class to see. “What are some reasons we pray the rosary?”

Gianou received various responses, such as to keep each other safe, for others, for yourself, to find your way and to feel better about yourself.

“Yes, and if you are in Church in the spring and see the rosary groups praying, you may notice they pray for a certain theme. But most importantly, we pray the rosary in honor of Mary, who is Jesus’ mother — we do this out of respect and honor for her. Praying the rosary also helps draw us closer to Jesus,” she said. “We especially associate praying the rosary during two months of the year. It doesn’t mean we don’t pray the rosary in other months, but we recognize Mary more during those months.”

“May and October,” shouted Bennett Poplawski, while fingering the beads on his rosary.

“Yes, the Church honors Mary, especially during these months,” she said.

Holding her rosary by the top, Gianou instructed students to begin at the bottom with the crucifix. She first discussed the beads and what compiled a decade.

“There are 10 parts to each section. We have a theme for each day we pray the rosary. These are called mysteries. Some are happy, and some are sad, and they go through the events of Jesus and Mary’s life. It kind of tells a story like when we pray the Stations of the Cross,” she said. “We first make the Sign of the Cross and recite the Apostle’s Creed.”

She explained that the Apostles’ Creed is a good outline stating what Catholics believe. Gianou helped students with the order of prayers and on what beads to say them as she led them in praying the Our Father, followed by the Hail Mary.

“However, for the Glory Be and the Fatima prayer, we pray between the last bead in the decade and before the larger Our Father bead,” she said. “The Hail Mary is the main prayer of the rosary as we repeat it the most. If we look at the words of this prayer, it is to honor Mary and her choice to say yes to Jesus.”

Following the introduction to praying the rosary, Gianou had students color rosary handouts while discussing the meaning of the rosary and why Catholics should be praying it often.