Today (07 October) we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
Much has been written about the power of the rosary and why we should pray it. There are many published books and articles about the plenteous graces we receive by praying the rosary, and the numerous lives and world events that have dramatically changed because of it.
Today, however, I would like to focus on the practical aspects of praying the rosary in our modern world, and how we can get better at it or, indeed, start to pray it at all.
There was a time when, I am ashamed to say, I thought that praying the rosary was something that elderly women with a lot of time tended to do. Like gardening and weeding. It was good that they did it, but how could I simply find the time to be devoted to such a long prayer when going to school or work took up so much time already? It is also difficult to find the time to pray and concentrate after a long day when one is so tired. So my relationship with the rosary was sporadic at best, but intensely prolific when I was in desperate need of answered prayer!
As I grew older I came to realise that the rosary is not just a ‘long repetitive prayer’ which would, in fact, sometimes put me to sleep because it was so meditative (I take consolation in the fact that St. Thérèse of Lisieux also struggled with this!), but it is a commitment to lifelong formation in the image and life of the Lord and the Virgin Mary.
I like metaphors, analogies, and using cues and images to help me understand things better. Surprisingly then for me that I only recently realised that the word ‘rosary’ in Latin means “crown of roses” or “garland of roses”. Through the rosary’s prayers and meditations on the life of Jesus, Our Lady wants us to offer up this bouquet of roses to her and she, in turn, will draw us closer to Him. We pray the rosary to honour Him by honouring His Mother.
So it makes sense that the more we contemplate the life of Christ and honour His Mother through the rosary, we become more like them and our lives begin to change.
Now I pray one mystery of the rosary every day and sometimes more, time permitting. While I still struggle with it – particularly keeping focused, alert, and separating myself from the din of the world around me – I have found that it is the little practical things which help me greatly. For example, here are my tips for improving your rosary-praying life, or beginning it if you have never prayed the rosary or want to return to it:
- Read – about what the rosary is (if you do not already know or you can revisit this) and why it is a crucial weapon in your armoury against evil.
- Find rosary champions – nothing can motivate us more than finding like-minded kindred spirits in prayer. Learn more about the people and saints (past and present) who propagated the rosary throughout their lives. Find books written by them and learn why the rosary was important to them and what they did. Such people include Fr Donald Calloway MIC, St. Dominic, St. Louis de Montfort, Blessed Alan de la Roche, St. Anthony Mary Claret, the Servant of God, Fr Joseph Kentenich (who apparently referred to the rosary as a spiritual machine gun and a grace-filled atomic bomb – very apt for our times), etc.
- Commit – to finding the best time in your day to pray at least one mystery of the rosary (five decades) every day. For me, praying the rosary the first thing in the morning upon rising works best and only takes thirty minutes, or you may pray it decade by decade in quiet moments throughout the day.
- Community – pray the rosary with others. Does your church community offer times for people to come together to pray the rosary? Could you start a small prayer group with your family and friends? Communal prayer, and especially family prayer, can move mountains. Our Lord said that where two or more are gathered in His name, there He will be… (Matthew 18:20)
- Place – find a quiet spot to pray the rosary. Set up a corner of a room where you can create a small sanctuary with candles, flowers, a statue or image of the Virgin Mary and Jesus, a crucifix, and other holy objects. Alternatively you may build a simple shrine or grotto in your garden with such religious items. This is your sacred rosary space to help you pray.
- Music – I usually like to pray the rosary in the early morning silence, however there are times when I need help with connecting to a more prayerful, contemplative atmosphere. At those times I find it helps to play gentle, instrumental religious music or quiet choral or chant music in the background. Music can take you to another place altogether to connect with Mary in the moment.
- Movement – it is recommended to pray the rosary in a pious and respectful position, such as kneeling. You can also commit to kneeling as a sacrifice and to stay more alert. However kneeling for long periods may be challenging for some due to age or infirmity. When praying the rosary I find that a combination of kneeling during some prayers and moving during others, for example, walking in a meditative way during the Hail Mary, is very helpful. When praying outdoors I enjoy walking slowly around the garden and stopping by a statue of the Virgin Mary. See what works best for you.
- Verbal / Mental – should we pray the rosary quietly or out loud? Some find that mental prayer, without uttering the words, is more beneficial. Others say it aloud. I have tried both and tend to mix it up – sometimes praying half quietly and half verbally. At times I have made up my own chant-like singing during the Hail Mary. Obviously where you are praying would also have to be taken into account, for example, if with others or in a church. Whatever is most appropriate, but always respectful.
- Tactile – the rosary is a very tangible prayer – you use your fingers to interact with the beads and chains to keep track as you pray. I would recommend that you go further – keep it with you at all times when you are not praying – in your bag, pocket, or somewhere on you. It is a reminder of your commitment and connection to Our Lady and the Lord, and a powerful protection for your life. I used to think that people who wore their rosary around their neck were somehow being a bit disrespectful as it is not a piece of jewellery, however in his book The Secret of the Rosary for Renewal and Salvation, St. Louis de Montfort recounts several positive stories about those who wore their rosary around their neck and what happened to them.
- Struggle – yes, you read right. You will struggle with the rosary for certain. Giving yourself permission to take it slowly and realise that you will sometimes flunk at praying it well, will help you to keep going. Talk to Our Lady when you pray the rosary. Be honest! Tell her when you are tired or bored and ask her to give you the strength to keep at it. There will be times when you will be so distracted, and satan will throw everything at you to stop, that you will believe praying the rosary is futile. But don’t stop. Take a break if you must, but come back to it. Ask the Holy Spirit and the saints to help you. My other article, Insert Jesus Here, may also help.
Finally, there are many things out there which may or may not be true in the world, but an image of the Rosary appeared in a photo taken during a baptism in October 2009 in the province of Cordoba in Argentina, as the priest was pouring the baptismal water over the baby’s head. The photographer, Maria Silvana Usando, used a traditional film camera. Some say that the baptismal waters clearly form the shape of the rosary with the cross. What do you think? What do you see?
I believe that God is telling us, in so many ways, to trust in Him and His glory. He just loves your soul. You are His baby. The rosary is the chain of power which links us to Him and His Mother. Why not turn to them and start praying it today?
Today, is also the anniversary of the Solemn Beatification of Fr Annibale which occurred on this day in Rome, Italy, in 1990. St Annibale had a special love for Mother Mary:
She began exercising the office of Mother of the Church by comforting the first faithful through exhortations, advice, examples of holy life, and motherly cares. In her frequent prayers, she asked God to convert sinners, to confirm the good people, and to help the tottering. The conversion of a thousand people through Peter’s preaching was the result of Mary’s prayer. The loving Saviour left Mary on the earth after His ascension into heaven to support the nascent church through her motherly care.
(FS p323-324; Source: Love for Mary Most Holy)
Image courtesy of turnbacktogod.com