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The Family is Holy Ground

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PHOTO: Our Lady of the Rosary, Fairfield

By Francine & Byron Pirola

October 7 marks the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. How might this feast be relevant to marriage and family life?

In 1571, a vast Ottoman navy was poised to invade Europe. The Christian forces had already suffered numerous defeats as the Ottomans expanded across the Mediterranean.

Putting his support behind a coalition of naval forces, Pope Pius V called all Christendom to pray the Rosary. When the invading forces were overcome in the Battle of Lepanto, it was attributed to the intercession of Mary.

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The feast of Our Lady of Victories was established in thanksgiving. Later renamed Our Lady of the Rosary, it has become a permanent fixture on the Catholic calendar.

Families join to pray the Rosary at home. Gabriele Turchi issued an impassioned plea to Plenary members for the Church not to forget the beauty of its teaching on marriage and the family. Photo: CNS, Doug Hesse, The Leaven.

Family Battleground

Mary is the go-to saint when facing perilous circumstances and the Rosary is likened to a spiritual weapon. Indeed, images of Mary serenely crushing the head of the serpent under her foot is a common theme in Christian artwork.

While the Battle of Lepanto was a literal war, there are many occasions where we face spiritual peril or opposition. This is especially true in our human relationships.

Sadly, for many of us, our marriages and family life can feel like battlegrounds. Arguments and discord, rebellion and life-long disputes plague our relationships, causing hurt and trauma to all involved.

Such division is never God’s plan. The family is intended to be a place of safety, a refuge from the troubles of the world. Children especially, need and deserve the warmth and security of a stable home life to thrive in their development.

“We both can be rather stoic when it comes to relationship mishaps; it’s sometimes just easier to ‘suck it up’ rather than explore the issue in an open and honest conversation.”

We see this play out in our own life. While our own marriage is loving and stable by any objective measure, it’s not without its strife. Everyday mishaps and instances of carelessness can see one or more of us flaring in anger or withdrawing in wounded silence.

We seek forgiveness, sometimes… but we don’t always do what we know we should: step into the space of heartache and do the internal healing and external reconciling. We both can be rather stoic when it comes to relationship mishaps; it’s sometimes just easier to ‘suck it up’ rather than explore the issue in an open and honest conversation.

While this is better than ‘blowing up’ at each other, this practice is not necessarily a good strategy. It tends to leave a residue of resentment that accumulates over time.

Worse, because we naturally feel somewhat virtuous about stoically bearing the burden of our hurt, it leads us into position of self-righteousness: something never helpful in a relationship. Rather than helping us pursue humility and forgiveness, our stoicism can trap us in resistant self-justification.

Painting of the Battle of Lepanto of 1571, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Battleground to Holy Ground

Although we have never been entirely consistent in our practice of praying the Rosary together, we have come to recognise it is a powerful way to bring peace into our hearts and homes.

When it’s a regular feature of our prayer, things just seem less tense, less demanding between us. Hardened hearts seem to soften, and a sense of reverence for what we are about increases.

More than anything, the Rosary helps create a spiritual breathing space in our home, a kind of holy ground where humility is our natural posture.

“As recovering perfectionists, we have found it helpful to approach the Rosary with a playful casualness. We frequently lose count of the Hail Mary’s or get the mysteries out of order.”

There are many ways to pray the Rosary. Byron uses his morning drive time while Francine integrates it into her Pilates routine. If we pray it together, it most often happens while taking an evening walk.

As recovering perfectionists, we have found it helpful to approach the Rosary with a playful casualness. We frequently lose count of the Hail Mary’s or get the mysteries out of order.

Rather than abandon it or put it off until we can pray it perfectly, we push on. For we are confident that Mamma Mary, like any loving mother, delights in every effort we make to be closer to her and her son, Jesus.

Francine & Byron Pirola are the co-founders of SmartLoving. For inspiration and support with for your marriage visit www.smartloving.org

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