Monday, March 5, 2012

Monday Musings: Correcting Prayers

We pray with our kids.  Always have.  We've had a nightly family bedtime prayer routine since the Scientist was actually going to bed, so about 4 months old.  It hasn't always been what it is today (i. e. a listing of all the people and things we need to pray for followed by the Rosary) but it's always been there.  When he was a baby, it started as a simply "Hail Mary" before we laid him in his crib.  As he has grown and as we've had more children, it has become a little longer and more encompassing of standard Catholic prayers and private family ones.  For a while it was the big three (an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and a Glory Be) followed by an Angel of God and, of course because this is me, a prayer for spiritual adoption by Bishop Sheen, and then a nightly remembrance of every need and want, and everything for which we were thankful.  Suffice it to say, our children have grown up being virtually immersed in prayers (and this isn't even touching on public prayers, such as attending Mass).

Perhaps if we used this, they'd know that
there's no such thing as "stewman".
That being said, they don't exactly say their prayers all that well.  I mean, they do and they don't.   They pray, but the words they use to say the big three aren't exactly always quite intelligible by anyone except for me (not even the husband understands them all the time).  For instance, one night, after the Rosary, the Scientist asked me if I could tell him what "strewman" meant.  I looked at him, quizzically, for a few moments.  I asked him, "Strewman? What do you mean 'strewman'?"  He responded with a repetition of, "You know, 'strewman'?"  Then it dawned on me.  "Strewman" was actually what he in his six year old mind had made of the words of the Hail Mary, "amongst women" (yes, I say the archaic "amongst", and that's what he was hearing that caused the confusion).  I told him what it meant, and he contemplated my answer for a moment.  "Amongst women.  St'women.  A mongst women.  Amongst women.  Ok Mom.  Thanks."  If he doesn't know that we're talking about Mary specifically out of all other women then is he really "getting" the prayer?  I'd like to think so, but I can't be sure now.  Should I have corrected him long before this?  I knew that he wasn't pronouncing everything quite right, but I chose to see it as just a kid being a kid, and one who doesn't always speak clearly at that.  I'm just not sure.

With these thoughts circling in my mind, I began paying extra close attention to the way the prayers sounding coming from both him and the Ninja Monkey during our nightly Rosary.  While this is made up of prayers they've said or at least heard every day of their lives and that I specifically taught both of them over the last two years or so, I noticed they were not only not saying them clearly, but they weren't even saying all of the words.  Specifically, neither of them say the words "the fruit of" in the Hail Mary.  According to them both, the prayer is, "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.  Blessed art thou amongstewmen, and blessed is they womb, Jesus."  Every time they say it, I have this great urge to interrupt them and correct them.  I haven't yet, but I have tried to correct them afterwards, and to over emphasize them when I say the prayer myself.  While it doesn't seem to be having too much of an effect on them, I don't think I'm ready to break in to their prayers with corrections just yet.

You see, this is where the dilemma comes in.  I truly believe that they mean every word they say in those prayers, and that, to the best of their young hearts' abilities, they believe them to be true.  I also know that they love the Blessed Mother greatly, and that they know that praying the Rosary is a way we can show her how much we love her Son, and vice versa.  I'm not sure that perfectly reciting the words is what matter the most at this age.  I know it matters, but is it of the utmost importance?  Perhaps all that really counts right now is the meaning, the intention, the love pouring out of their young hearts, and not the jumbled mess of words pouring out of their young lips.

So when does the balance shift from placing the importance on the fervor to placing it more equally on both that and the pronunciation?  I don't know the answer to that one just yet, but then again, my oldest is only six.  He's getting ready to make his first Penance and First Holy Communion.  Both of those are events where the words matter and matter greatly.  He can't very well make a confession is he doesn't know the proper form and it would terrible if he didn't respond with the proper "Amen" after receiving the Precious Body and Blood.  I think about now is the right time to start really emphasizing the words themselves, and the importance of saying them as clearly and correctly as one can.  But I still believe that God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, who created these children, knows what they mean and knows that the heart is willing, even though the words are failing, and He accepts prayers full of "Stewmens" and lacking "fruits" as much as the ones that are full of them.

So now I want to know: Do you interrupt your children while they pray to correct their mistakes or do you leave it up to good modeling on your own part and hope they figure it out on their own?


  1. Loved your story of the "strewman"!

    I wait til they are older to correct, like I'd say when they are 7 and preparing to receive First Holy Communion...

    I love hearing my 5 year old say her prayers, it reminds me so much of their innocence.

    1. See, he's over 6 and a half and is preparing for his First Holy Communion right now, hence my musings. I love listening to little kid prayers in general. :)