Praying the rosary is a family practice that helps align your family’s story with the story of Jesus Christ. You, too, have joyful mysteries, times of special joy and delight when you celebrate your love for one another on birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. Every family has times of suffering through illness, loss of job, disharmony and conflict. These are your sorrowful mysteries.

When a family member reaches a goal, gives of his/her gifts to another, plays an instrument beautifully, solves a tough math problem, or runs like the wind, your family celebrates the glorious mysteries! And your family is “luminous” when you are a light to the world in taking a meal to your sick neighbor, cleaning up the litter in the neighborhood, or reaching out to the poor through donations to your parish’s food pantry.

Our rosary beads are portable and so we can pray in the car, on a walk or while doing the supper dishes together. Family members can take turns leading the prayers. October is the month of the rosary in our liturgical calendar, so your question is timely. Oct. 7 is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, which would be a nice launch date for beginning this prayer practice with your family. Prepare now by making sure every family member, even the littlest, has his or her own rosary, and understands its proper use. (It is not a necklace!)

Purchase a small booklet that tells the order of the prayers and the mysteries, and decide together about your family’s practice. Will we pray the rosary one decade a day on the ride to school, every evening after dishes, or on a Sunday afternoon hike? It may take a bit to get started in your practice, but if you persevere in your prayer, your family will draw closer together and reap many spiritual rewards.

Though we rightly teach our children to pray the rosary, in its fullness it’s really a parent’s prayer. Until we have sat, fingering our beads, by the bedside of our feverish child, or waited in a hospital waiting room, quelling our panic with whispered Hail Marys, or have lain awake at night with our rosary under our pillow, waiting for the prodigal son or daughter to turn his or her key in the lock, we don’t really know what this prayer is all about. I know a woman who lost her 22-year-old son. Paralyzed by her grief and anger, she couldn’t pray; she just suffered. Gradually, the Hail Mary rose from her heart. It was the only prayer she could say for months.

The simple prayer of the rosary marks the rhythm of human life. Mary walks with us and guides us in conforming our lives to the life of her Son. Among humans, no one knows Jesus better than Mary. As parents, we are called to love our children with the unconditional love of God. Mary shows us how to love that way through her love of Jesus, who is God with human features.

(Christ is a consultant in ministry in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The married mother of four young adult children, she gives talks and workshops, leads retreats and is a spiritual director. Christ self-publishes materials for parishes, and is the author of “Journeying with Mark,” “Journeying with Luke,” and “Journeying with Matthew.” Published by Paulist Press, the books are intended to be used by families in the car on the way to Mass.)