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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Praying the Rosary

October 7 is the feast of the Holy Rosary… so I was thinking…

As a little girl, I prayed the rosary kneeling beside my parent’s bed. It was usually May or October at 7:45 pm, and the rosary was being broadcast on the radio. We four kids, who moments earlier had been merrily playing outside with our friends, were called in to pray the rosary by our mother (Dad was often still at work). We recited the prayers along with the chorus of voices on the radio. This was our “Marian devotion,” our mother explained. At 8:00, when we finished, we could go back outside and play again, but by then, most of our friends had gone home. They got tired of waiting for their “Cat’lic friends” to finishing their weird prayer ritual.

Over the years I have prayed countless rosaries in countless places. I’ve prayed the rosary in the Catholic schools I attended from 6th to 12th grade. I’ve prayed it in bed before falling asleep, in convent chapels, high school gyms, and outdoor shrines. I’ve prayed the rosary while kneeling in a church, strolling in a park, or sitting on a bench overlooking the ocean. I’ve prayed it while driving down a highway, flying at 30,000 feet, or sitting in a crowded waiting room. I’ve prayed one decade of the rosary with my lively third grade catechism class and an entire rosary with my elderly mother.

I’ve prayed the rosary when I was young, healthy, and full of life. And I’ve prayed it–or at least I tried to pray it–when I was very sick and lying in a hospital bed. I’ve prayed the rosary when I was full of faith and hope and when I was swimming in doubt and despair.

The rosary is an ancient prayer form. Tradition says it was given to St. Dominic in 1214 during an apparition of Mary. It has been called “the poor person’s Psalter.” That’s because, in the Middle Ages, books were scarce and the poor were largely illiterate. So they couldn’t recite the Psalms like some monks and nuns did. But they knew by heart the prayers that composed the rosary. In addition, monks and nuns had hours each day to pray. Poor lay people were too busy eking out a living–but they could afford 15 minutes for the rosary.

(Photos from Pixabay)

For centuries the rosary consisted of 15 decades or mysteries based on the lives of Mary and Jesus, the so-called Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious mysteries. In 2002 Pope John Paul II added five more mysteries, the Luminous mysteries.

There are various ways to pray the rosary. Many people focus on each mystery they are praying. Some use booklets with short meditations for each rosary bead. I once used such booklets. But now, during my vintage years, I prefer to luxuriate in the almost “mindless repetition” of the ancient, sacred words…”Hail Mary… blessed art thou… now and at the hour of our death. Our Father… thy kingdom come… daily bread… as we forgive… deliver us. Glory be… ever shall be…Amen.”

Do you have any experience with the rosary? Do you pray the rosary? If so, when, where, and how do you pray it?

Do you have a particular “Marian Devotion” you’d like to tell us about?

PS: Upcoming speaking engagements. (Check websites for more information)

Oct. 18-20, 2019: Franciscan Spiritual Center, Aston, PA

Nov. 1-3, 2019: 15th Annual Collaboration for Ministry Initiative Conference, sponsored by the Sisters of Charity Foundation, for all Sisters Serving in South Carolina; held at the Marriott Grande Dunes Hotel in Myrtle Beach. I will give three conferences on Wonder, Courage, and Hope.

Nov. 15-17, 2019: Villa Maria Education and Spiritual Center, Villa Maria, PA; Weekend retreat: “Hanging onto Hope in Our Imperfect World.”

PS #2: A big thank you for all who came to the morning of reflection at St. John of the Cross Parish in Euclid, OH last Saturday. I enjoyed being with you–and returning to my home parish! And special thanks to Stan for taking care of the details for the morning.

Today’s video is one of my favorite versions of Mary’s Magnificat, her words of praise to God when she visited her cousin Elizabeth. Composed by John Michael Talbot, this version is sung by the Daughters of St. Paul. The video has no printed lyrics, but you can find the Magnificat in Luke 1:46-55.

Would you like to respond to this reflection or song? If so, please do so below.

34 Responses

  1. One of my favorite times is before Mass. The light is on the crucifix and I enjoy the silence to pray the rosary. Also, sitting on my back deck while looking at the trees, listening to the birds and quietly praying the rosary.

    Thank you Sister for your words of wisdom.

  2. Good Morning!
    I enjoy praying the rosary on my morning walks.
    I found a delightful version on iTunes by
    Robert Kochis. It also includes beautiful traditional
    Mary hymns.
    I enjoy your column each week!
    Thank you!

  3. I pray the Rosary when I am driving long distances in the car. It keeps my mind focused on the road.

    God bless you Sr. Melannie.


  4. I am a convert to the Catholic faith so I was not brought up with the rosary. I rarely say it on my own, but in the parish we have it in the months of May and October. I find joining with others difficult because it is said so fast that it is hard to keep up with them even though I do know the words by heart. To say words and to think about the Mysteries is very difficult. I prefer to read Scripture and think about God’s Word during prayer time. My Marian devotion is the prayer we use in the UK amongst our Associates of the Daughters of the Holy Spirit. I will share it with you.

    Mary Immaculate, with your swift and simple response to the Angel of the Annunciation, you opened yourself wholly to the life-giving action of the Spirit and became the Mother of our Saviour. You followed where the Spirit led, even to the foot of the Cross; and you were at the heart of the mission of the Church on the day of Pentecost. Intercede for us, that we may walk with attentiveness to that same Spirit; that we may follow wherever he leads us; and that, in simplicity and boldness we may always witness to his inexhaustible love. Mary, Woman of the Holy Spirit, pray for us. (Sister Ruth Duckworth (1916-1996) This I say every day.

    1. Dear Anne, Thank you for sharing this beautiful prayer with us! Also, you reminded us that praying the rosary does not “speak” to everyone. As I like to say, the Church is at its best when it promotes a wide variety of ways of praying.” Thanks again, Anne! Sr. Melannie

  5. Good morning,
    I have so many memories and stories connected with the rosary. My mother also was one who had great devotion to the rosary in the months of May and October……in which we were called in from playing …..I can still hear her voice calling, “Come on kids it’s time to say the rosary”…..we, of course, would respond with, “Do we have to?” But her example has been a very important part of who I am today.

    At her wake, a deacon came to lead the rosary and knowing the back story about the rosary, started out by saying, ” For the last time Elizabeth is calling you all to say the rosary”…..that brought tears to everyone’s eyes.

    I don’t say the rosary as often as I used to, but I sometimes will pray it if I’m frightened or lonely……the comfort of the mantra part of it is very consoling.

    One last little story I wish to share….during a retreat day, years ago, the priest who was leading it told this story about Bishop Sheen, who apparently had a great devotion to Mary. A story went around about him that said when he reached the pearly gates and Jesus met him, he said, “Come right in, my mother has spoken of you often”.

    I hope that leaves you all with a bit of a smile!

    I loved the song, as well,

    Thank you, S. Melannie,

  6. I was saying the Rosary with EWTN at 7:30 in the morning even before I became Catholic. Then I got away from it, probably for a year and a half. I have just today finished a 54 day Novena, so what happens tomorrow? I will continue on my own or there will be a big void in my life. It feels good to be back. The song was beautiful, what a great way to hear the Magnificat, which I say every evening. Words slightly different but a beautiful rendition. Thanks Sr. Melanie!

  7. Grandma and aunt Millie lived upstairs when I grew up. I can’t recall if praying the rosary together was a daily happening or maybe once a week.
    We gathered in the living room round a large radio, record player where the rosary was being said. Grandma spoke very little English but moved her fingers across the beads and said her prayers in her native language of Slovenian.
    I remember saying the rosary in elementary school in May. We stood in the large hallway facing a crowned statue of Mary.
    My mother told me that she prayed the rosary each night in bed before she fell to sleep. My dad carried a rosary in his pocket.
    Then many years passed without me praying the rosary.
    Now, I strive to make it a priority. Sometimes I am only able to focus for a few decades. Other times I pray while listening to YouTube versions. I pray it during Adoration, when I am restless, hurting, sad and glad. I pray while driving, sitting in waiting rooms and in bed before I sleep. I carry the beads in all my purses, pockets and many dresser drawers. It is never far from my reach.

    Thank you for your presentation on Saturday at St. John of the Cross. I was so moved by your words, by your joy. I purchased your book,”The Lord Is My Shepherd.” I have read and reread it and hope to pass it on to others but I can’t let it go! I’ll have to purchase more so I can share.
    Thank you for the gift of your faith so freely shared.

    1. Dear Bernadette, Thank you for your response! And I’m so glad my little book, “The Lord Is My Shepherd” speaks to you. As a writer, I don’t have a favorite book that I’ve written, but my book on Ps. 23 is one of my favorites! Thanks for coming on Saturday! Sr. Melannie

  8. I too am a convert. I credit my sweet mother-in-law, may she rest in peace, for inspiring me to say the rosary. I decided one lent to say it every day and when lent was over, I continued and have been saying it ever since. Usually with Father Mitch Pacwa on EWTN

  9. Good Morning ☀️
    My daily walk is when I pray the Rosary, the fresh morning seems the best way to start the day praying and giving Thanks to God for another new day of my life. Blessings to You Sr. Melanie for A Beautiful Fall

  10. Every day I try to have my 30 minutes of peace. I say the Rosary and other prayers for people. When I am home it’s at 5pm. If not home sometime before bed. This is something I look forward to each day.

  11. Over the years, I have had the occasion where a favorite rosary of mine lost a bead…and….I was so upset by that! However, this past spring, I happened to read this article in a magazine that changed forever how I will look at a broken rosary:

    The beautiful rhythm of the Hail Marys is such a wonderful mantra to open up to God in prayer… me, it’s a way of re-affirming over and over again that I believe and why I believe.

    In Cincinnati, we have a tradition of praying the rosary on the steps of Immaculata Church in Mt. Adams on Good Friday. Regardless of the weather, people gather for this tradition, which begins at midnight and goes for 24 hours until Holy Saturday.


  12. Good morning Melannie,
    Thanks for you for your Marian thoughts!
    I prefer to pray the rosary privately , also. I can concentrate on the mysteries, and offer each decade for a different cause: eg.
    “The scourging ” I pray for all battered women and victims of violence, etc. ” The Annunciation ” for all pregnant women”. It makes the rosary more meaningful to me while I pray for others.
    Praying for you in your up-coming presentations. Josita

  13. My wife and I begin each road trip with a Rosary. We also recite acRosary every Wednesday evening before a novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help with friends.

  14. I love praying the rosary too and say it daily (although missed once this yr). I go on line and say it with Father Peyton on many days. It’s the best time of my day. Nita Comp

  15. Dear Sr. Melanie,
    I was in school during the period when the slogan “The family that prays together, stays together” was in vogue. My mother wasn’t Catholic so it was my father who insisted that we kneel and pray to say the Rosary every every after supper. I remember hating kneeling upright on a wooden floor and repeating the prayers. I rarely said the rosary after I grew up although I always carried one. About 20 years ago my mother lay dying in FL while I was visiting a daughter in Okinawa, Japan. That rosary suddenly became my mainstay and I went to sleep every night with it in my hand and the prayers on my lips. I still rarely say the rosary except when starting out on a trip or driving on I-4 in Orlando! However, I am grateful to my father for planting that prayer deep in my heart.

  16. I was a child in the 1950s and 60s. Every Tuesday at 7:00 pm our family had “rosary night”. We stopped what we were doing and my mom and dad and three kids would kneel around their double bed and my dad would lead the rosary. In the beginning, my baby brother (who is now 65!) was too little to kneel, so he was allowed to lie on the bed. My mother was devout in ways we rarely see these days. She prayed often and lit candles in front of an Infant of Prague statue (dressed for the season, of course); and said novenas, especially to St. Jude. We observed all that pre-Vatican II had to offer us, including meatless Fridays, wearing holy medals, and a St. Christopher statuette in the car. Thank you for reminding me of these joyful memories of “growing up Catholic”. It’s a treat to read your column every week. God bless you, Sr. Melannie.

  17. Back in 2007 or 08 my youngest daughter was going to be in Kindergarten and I needed a full time job so I walked 3 miles around the outside of our acreage every morning while praying the rosary. First I prayed for all the people I promised to pray for then I prayed for myself to find a job that was a good fit for me. After a month a friend and I were talking and I shared with her what I was doing. She works at a dental office and her co-worker, who’s husband is a CPA and looking for an office administrator, walked by my friend and stopped her and said, you wouldn’t know of anyone who is looking for a job and would be good for Ron’s office? My friend said, that is weird that you would ask me this because we had just been talking! This co-worker said as she walked by her she had this “voice” or feeling that she should ask my friend this question. So yes, I had an interview and yes I got the job. I worked there for 5 years until the opportunity that I got which I do now. My experience at the CPA office taught me so much for my job now and I see the hand of God in all of it. AND I believe the Holy Spirit whispered to the girl at that office to talk to my friend. I thank the Lord and Mary for all their help leading me in the way to go.
    I haven’t prayed the rosary for a while now. I pray it a lot during lent, that’s what my mother used to always do. I like to continue that in her memory. I miss her very much.

  18. I’ve prayed the rosary in all places in all ways. Currently I am learning the rosary in Spanish Because there are many Spanish speaking parishioners here in Boise. It’s beautiful to connect with other languages in the same beautiful prayer. I love searching on YouTube for other languages as well. In particular, French is gorgeous sounding. The communal chant, no matter what language, brings us all closer together under Mother Mary’s protective mantle. Thanks for your blog, Sister!

  19. My husband and I pray the rosary together every day!! The rosary has changed our life!! It is the weapon for these times padre pio. Thank you Jesus for giving us your Mother!!

  20. As I told a Daughter of St Paul a while back, I’m wacky for the Rosary! I’m very much a postconciliar Catholic, so I was never compelled to say the Rosary. It sort of found me along the way!

    This might be a little controversial, but in my private devotion I sometimes meditate on Gospel events that are not among the 20 generally recited mysteries. To cite three examples: the Woman at the Well; the prodigal son parable; saving the adulteress from stoning. Some of these “unofficial” mysteries speak so intimately of the boundless mercy of God.

    I find that the Rosary unclutters the mind, calms the heart, and makes the soul more supple.

    One of the better books on the Rosary was written by an Anglican priest. I’ve recommended Robert Llewelyn’s A Doorway to Silence to several friends.

    Peace and light, Sr. Melannie and all who comment!

    1. Hi Melannie
      We said the rosary every night after dinner. We sat at the table and prayed together. As a teenager one wished that it would be over soon….When I was dating if the date arrived at rosary time, he was invited to say the rosary with us. You know who loved to time his arrival after the rosary was finished. However, he was often foiled and had to pray with us hoping that he would know the mystery when his time cam.e Over the years, we often talked about those occasions. Thank you for this lovely Sunflower Seed. It has renewed my interest in the rosary.

  21. Looks like I’m a bit late to this amazing Rosary party! Wow!

    A few years back I wrote a poem about my experience saying a rosary while sitting on a bench at Glastonbury Abbey in Hingham, Ma. It’s called “Beads in Shadow.”

    That afternoon at the monastery,
    when I sat for one more dose of warmth
    before the dead-leaf dark of December,
    the November sun cast a shadow
    of my rosary beads onto the bench.

    And soon my only meditation became
    that newly born shadow of bead and link;
    how after every hour of our death
    a new bead of prayer appeared,
    freshly rubbed — still — swaddled in shadow.

    And I knew there must be a mystery,
    some deep truth in these felt shadows
    sun-stenciled onto the monastery bench,
    but as it was in the beginning, is now:
    something to be glimpsed but not grasped.

  22. Melanie,
    Thank you for such an inspiring column this week; as they all are! One of my cherished memories from my parent’s marriage is that they prayed the rosary every single night before they went to bed. Dad would sit on my mother’s bed and together they would pray together. If they missed praying the rosary a dozen times during their 60+ years together, I would be surprised! The meaning of love in soo many ways!

  23. Thanks, Sr. Melannie, for your wisdom and sharing.
    The rosary has always been a special prayer (although like others I didn’t always appreciate the kneeling around the supper table saying it complete with Our Lady’s Litany with my 9 siblings). In my years at Sica Sica, Bolivia, our BIG fiesta was this feast and to prepare we had the Novena each evening which included various ways of praying the rosary with lots of singing in-between! I especially liked when we took turns leading each of the prayers and little 5 and 6 yr olds would lead. Your reflections brought many memories back to me and I am grateful. A few yrs. ago I learned to make rosaries out of “cola de gata” which I cannot find here. The kids learned to make rosaries & I always told them they could pray as they make them, which I continue to do now. When I wake up at night and can’t go back to sleep I pray rosary after rosary for all people I have promised to pray for as well as the many intentions of our world, our church, our universe-YES, in bed!!! Sometimes I fall back to sleep and sometimes I don’t, but am grateful I have Mary, Jesus and the Angels with me and I am peaceful.
    Thank you for helping to bring back these memories and sorry this got so long! Sr. Julie

  24. I pray the rosary every weekday at 6:15 with fellow parishioners at Church of the Nativity in Leawood, Ks.
    In the afternoon I listen to an incredible rosary mediation by Mike Scherschlight with the Holy Family School of Faith. Mike is trying to lead a movement of families and friends praying the rosary together. He is hoping to have 10,000 listeners by August 2020. Here is the link

  25. Melanie
    I just finger the beads with “Yes” or “Woman of God” or “Full of grace”
    Those are my “rosary prayers “
    Thank you for your stories and inspirational sharing

  26. I try to pray the rosary every morning.. I went years without saying it… then about 15 years ago decided to say it for lent… and asked my mom to say it with me… so after supper Iwould call her and we said it together… my mom has passed but now that I am retired i say it everyday… but sometimes my mind wanders and I wonder if this discounts the prayers. I don’t focus on the mysteries… and also wonder if this is a bad thing not to do… but after reading your blog I guess I am just fine…. God know my heart…Thank You….

  27. I too remember praying with Nana while it was recited on the radio(1300 WERE I believe) I pray it daily and more when time permits. I was blessed to make pilgrimages to Lourdes and night rosary procession is awesome and singing the Lourdes hymn. I was humbled by the many cultures and faiths present and esp the volunteers who shared that the rosary was a part of their every day a Hail Mary as a part of their breathing. Love Talbots Magnicat too. You are so busy. Prayers for your witness to satiating our thirsting Jesus who thirsts for all. Thank you.

  28. Sister Melannie, thank you so much for your teaching on “Hope” at St. John of the Cross last Saturday. It was wonderful. My friend Tony from Our Lady of Mt. Carmel told me he went right home and dug into Uncle Tom’s Cabin. You touched so many. My wife Teri just yesterday gave a copy of your handouts to her sister who is traveling some major speed bumps on our highway toward Heaven. Bless you for all you do. Stan

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Hi and welcome to my blog! I’m Sister Melannie, a Sister of Notre Dame residing in Chardon, Ohio, USA. I’ve been very lucky! I was raised in a loving family on a small farm in northeast Ohio. I also entered the SNDs right after high school. Over the years, my ministries have included high school and college teaching, novice director, congregational leadership, spiritual direction, retreat facilitating, and writing. I hope you enjoy “Sunflower Seeds” and will consider subscribing below. I’d love to have you in our “sunflower community.” Thank you!

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