Thursday, December 15, 2011

Playing with Rosaries

This is Peter playing with my aunt's Rosary. What are your first thoughts when you see this picture? I admit that my gut reaction was concern about profaning something sacred. I mean, he has his foot on the crucifix. Many people find it offensive that a child would be allowed to play with a Rosary, treating it as a toy instead of handling it respectfully. Thinking about it further, though, I think it is a good thing.

I think most people would agree that Nativity play sets are meant for play. Made for the smallest children, figures of the Holy Family and some barnyard animals are often much "abused" by our little ones. Peter even plucked Joseph's beard this year! But we accept that these are toys, even while they represent the Incarnation of our Savior.

If Nativity play sets can be used for play, then regular Nativity scenes could serve that purpose, too. Some scenes may be kept from children because they are fragile, but not because it would be inappropriate for a child to explore and play. After all, it's the same scene, just presented in a more refined medium. Instead of cloth dolls, perhaps now the Holy Family are porcelain statues.

If porcelain statues can be used for play when part of a Nativity scene, then why not outside of it? I had a porcelain statue of Mary when I was little who figured regularly in my imaginative play. She was usually the mother of God, but I'm sure she would be amused to know all the escapades she had in that role!

And so, if a statue can be used as a child's toy without disrespect, I believe a Rosary can, too. Peter loves the Rosaries we have in our home. He is drawn to the colors and the noise the beads make, clicking against each other. He likes the cold weight of my Connemara marble Rosary. As he carries them around, I remind him, "That's a Rosary. We use it to pray with Mary to thank God for Jesus!" When Peter handles the Rosary as a toy, he is not being disrespectful. He is learning that time spent with the Rosary is comforting and full of wonder.

Aren't these lessons we all could learn?


  1. My children have all played with rosaries, nativities, and other religious items. At one point my son had his own mass kit, complete with little vestments.

  2. We're thinking of making a little Mass kit for Peter when he gets older, too. Our friend Fr. Brian says lots of seminarians have memories of playing Mass, so who knows! :-)