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.
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.