Teaching Little Ones Devotion to Mary
Mom or Mommy? Dad or Daddy?
“Oh Mommy, I love you so much I can’t even tell you how much!” What mother would not be touched by such words from her little four year old daughter? They are a child’s way of expressing his gratitude. Of course, the greatness of a mother’s sacrifice and her great love remain partially hidden. But a child, even a small child, feels the love in his mother’s heart. He sees—or rather he knows—that Mom is always there…for him. If he falls down while playing, he runs to Mom. If his sleep is interrupted by nightmares, he cries for Mom. If he is thirsty or sick, without even thinking about it, he knows that Mom can help him.
Yes, even in the eyes of a small child, a mother’s heart is indispensable and unlimited. In his own way, he tries to show his love in return. The flowers with no stems picked with so much affection for Mom! “Dad does that for Mom, I’m going to do it too.” When Mom is sick or tired, her child comes to her with a glass of water and a kiss. “Mom does that when I am sick; I’m going to do it too.”
You know well, dear mothers, that your child has another mother, the Mother of God Himself. Your greatest desire is for him to learn to know this excellent Mother who, without being visibly present in your house, pours out her motherly affection on each one of her children. During the inevitable separations that occur here below between mother and child, what a consolation to know that this same Mother will watch over him!
How to put this truth into practice, how to teach our child to know and love our heavenly Mother? Is he capable of understanding even though he is still so young?
Pictures and Bouquets
From the earliest age, little ears listen to what Dad and Mom are saying. A baby quickly recognizes the voice of his parents and it does not take long for him to recognize the faces around him. Do we not speak to him even before he is able to say “Mommy”…“Daddy”? These names are repeated to him thousands of times before the day he pronounces them himself. Why not add the holy Names of “Jesus” and “Mary” to the list of his first words? Take the time to show him pictures of his heavenly family: it will not take him long to recognize them.
At each step in his soul’s awakening, there are opportunities to introduce songs, beautiful stories or little books that speak to him of Mary. And if the statues or pictures of the Blessed Virgin are given a place of honor in the living room, the child’s thoughts will naturally turn to the queen of the family. Every word, every act inspired by Dad and Mom’s love for the Blessed Virgin will be noticed. A baptized child will find them normal and imitate them.
The opportunities to direct the hearts of little ones are countless: Mom puts the bouquet Dad or one of the children offered her in front of the picture of Our Lady; Dad says his thanksgiving in front of the statue of Our Lady after Mass on Sunday; the entire family goes to the processions and ceremonies in honor of Our Lady.
And the Rosary…What is a good age to start? And how? Is it too much to ask of children? Let us consider these questions.
The Rosary for Little Ones
The Rosary is made up of the basic prayers that every Catholic should know by heart. What better way for a child to learn these prayers than by repeating them in the Rosary?
A child is never too young to begin saying his morning and evening prayers and to get into the habit of thinking often of God throughout the day. The family Rosary can only help him to do so.
As soon as we see that a child is capable of learning the Hail Mary, we can let him take a turn reciting the beginning of a decade. Of course, it takes great patience at first, to let him say every word with Dad and Mom. If they are encouraging, the child will learn more quickly and willingly.
The Rosary! What an excellent lesson for our little one to have a book in which he can follow the life of Jesus and Mary with the mysteries of the Rosary! After the prayer is over, what a joy for the little ones to take turns blowing out the candle that was lit before the picture of Our Lady, and the older ones will take the privilege of lighting it before family prayers most seriously!
We have to admit; family Rosary requires a lot of effort at first. The timing needs to be practical; it needs to be at a time when everyone can participate (but not when everyone is tired!). God gives us the grace to be faithful to this practice, and little by little, it becomes a habit. Is 20 minutes a day really too much time to spend with a Mother we truly love?
Our Lady herself asked the three children of Fatima to pray the Rosary, and although they were quite young, they were already in the habit of doing so.
To conclude, let us admire the religious education Madame Vianney gave her children. As a small child, the holy Curé listened to his mother who spoke to him of Heaven and the Blessed Virgin Mary as she tucked him in for the night. As soon as little Jean-Marie was able to—at the age of three—he learned the Hail Mary, the prayer, he would say, that never tires God. Years later, he would say: “The Blessed Virgin is my earliest affection; I loved her before I even knew her… After God, this was my mother’s doing; she was so wise!”