The Month of the Rosary: Working on our Relationships
After the Liturgy, the rosary is esteemed as one of the greatest prayers. Volumes have been written singing the praises of the rosary, including many writings from the hands of popes. The prayer itself is both contemplative and vocal. The rosary is not just a Marian prayer, but a Gospel prayer, centered on the Incarnation, "therefore a prayer with a clearly Christological orientation" (Paul VI, Marialis Cultus).
Since I write on the Liturgical Year, highlighting the rosary is a natural connection, as
[t]he mysteries focus on the central events in the life of Jesus and Mary. In a sense they are a summary of the liturgical year and of the whole Gospel (Francis Fernandez, In Conversation with God, Volume 7, p. 203).
Yet sheepishly I admit I continually struggle with praying the rosary. I'm firmly convinced on the beauty and power of the rosary and how it is so special to grow in love of Mary and Jesus, but it's hard for me to love actually praying the rosary. This one Marian devotion capsulizes my difficulties in my spiritual life: distractedness, lukewarmness, irresolution. And this struggle didn't arise after having my own family. Growing up we prayed five decades of the rosary every night. I know it was only fifteen-twenty minutes of our day, but how I dreaded it and I admit to very mediocre praying most of the time. I look now with regret at those roses I didn't present to Our Lady.
Now with our two sons, my husband and I hear the call for our family to pray the rosary together, but with it comes new struggles. How do we pray together with distracted young sons? How do we demonstrate love of the rosary without having them developing a distaste for it? How to ignite a love for our Lady? The truth is, I don't have the answer. My reply is that this is an area of daily acts of perseverance.
We know that praying a family rosary is important. So many popes have encouraged us to pray, including Paul VI, who will be beatified this month of the rosary!
52. We now desire, as a continuation of the thought of our predecessors, to recommend strongly the recitation of the family Rosary. The Second Vatican Council has pointed out how the family, the primary and vital cell of society, "shows itself to be the domestic sanctuary of the Church through the mutual affection of its members and the common prayer they offer to God."(115) The Christian family is thus seen to be a domestic Church"(116) if its members, each according to his proper place and tasks, all together promote justice, practice works of mercy, devote themselves to helping their brethren, take part in the apostolate of the wider local community and play their part in its liturgical worship.(117) This will be all the more true if together they offer up prayers to God. If this element of common prayer were missing, the family would lack its very character as a domestic Church. Thus there must logically follow a concrete effort to reinstate communal prayer in family life if there is to be a restoration of the theological concept of the family as the domestic Church (Paul VI, Marialis Cultus).
Right now we pray a decade together most nights immediately after cleaning the dinner table. On Sundays, Marian feasts, days with special intentions and road trips we pray five decades together.
Our children started with little lisps of the Hail Mary and now are proud to lead the decades and keep correct track on the rosary beads. One area that has really helped the children focus is a form of discursive meditation. Before we would start the decade, we would describe the scene of the rosary, inviting the child be part of that mental scene. Some days when we had time, we would add a short descriptive sentence of the scene before each Hail Mary. This provided familiarity with the mysteries, but also helped all of us to focus. The Rosary meditations by St. Josemaria are perfect examples of this type of meditation, and easily readable for all ages. We also have used different visual aids to help children pray the rosary.
But don't think we have everything figured out. There are still wiggles and funny stuff going on during our family rosary. It's always a work in progress. And considering how as an adult *I* still get distracted, I have to be patient and carry on the work!
The month of October is a gift of time to concentrate on the rosary, to redouble efforts to love and pray this beautiful prayer well and often. I don't have words of wisdom or great experience to share, but I'm resolving to read the writings of our popes on the rosary during this month, particularly rereading Pope St. John Paul II's encyclical on the rosary:
It could be said that each mystery of the Rosary, carefully meditated, sheds light on the mystery of man. At the same time, it becomes natural to bring to this encounter with the sacred humanity of the Redeemer all the problems, anxieties, labours and endeavours which go to make up our lives. “Cast your burden on the Lord and he will sustain you” (Ps 55:23). To pray the Rosary is to hand over our burdens to the merciful hearts of Christ and his Mother. Twenty-five years later, thinking back over the difficulties which have also been part of my exercise of the Petrine ministry, I feel the need to say once more, as a warm invitation to everyone to experience it personally: the Rosary does indeed “mark the rhythm of human life”, bringing it into harmony with the “rhythm” of God's own life, in the joyful communion of the Holy Trinity, our life's destiny and deepest longing.
All the mnemonic devices, spiritual aids, reading and plans are not going to take away the personal daily struggle in praying the rosary. There will be good days and bad days, but they will all be of merit when we put them in the hands of Jesus through Mary. Praying the Rosary is an area of daily commitment and perseverance. It is not just a recitation of words, but a prayer that reflects our personal relationship with Christ and His Mother. In all our close relationships we must work daily on communication and acts of love. Persevering in praying the rosary is a reflection of our commitment to our love and relationship with Jesus and Mary, and the gains outweigh the struggle.
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