When I was in second grade, I learned how to pray the Rosary, from a technical standpoint. My second grade CCD teacher, Mrs. Brown, taught our class the prayers and how to count our way around the beads. I received my first Rosary for my eight birthday and First Holy Communion (what a blessed day THAT was!), and I tried to pray it the way Mrs. Brown taught our class. But it was hard, and pressing through all those Hail Mary prayers wore me down. If my father prayed the Rosary back then, I didn’t see him do it (though I suspect he did at meetings with his Knights of Columbus council). I do remember praying it with his council for a May crowning of a brand new statue of the Blessed Mother at the K of C hall, though. It was the Mother’s Day after my First Communion, and everyone who received First Communion got to put on their dresses and suits and process to put flowers out for the Blessed Mother! I was really excited to be a part of it (especially to put the dress back on)!
After the procession and crowning, the men got out the enormous Rosary to pray. Finally, I was going to get to practice the Rosary! Knights and their wives and children held the giant beads of the Rosary, and we spread out in the parking lot to begin. With some men in Regalia, it was a sight to behold! My excitement was at a high as we began the prayer:
“In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
After getting through the Apostles’ Creed (which I could never remember back then), they launched into the Our Fathers and Hail Marys:
And, as the “Amen” sounded:
(And, as “Jesus” sounded:)
And the next one started as the “amen” sounded.
I was completely unable to keep up, and the Rosary was over in about ten minutes.
Now, I have a friend who was shocked to find that I say a Rosary in about 15-20 minutes, but that’s at least the average amount of time. (I’ve heard that Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said the Rosary is the perfect form of prayer because it lasts about 17 minutes, which is about the average attention span of most people.) My friend might have heart failure at the clip Knights of Columbus Council 4969 used to say their Rosary!
Back to my elementary school years…
Alone in my room, I would try to pray the Rosary, but all I knew were the basic prayers: The Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be. I didn’t learn the Hail, Holy Queen or Fatima prayers at all, and no one told me what I was supposed to be thinking about as I prayed. Mostly, what I thought was, “I’m trying, but this is kinda boring, God.” I eventually put away my Rosary.
Years later, as I was reverting to the faith (and, really, learning about the depths and riches of the Catholic faith for the first time), I discovered EWTN. At 7 AM and 3 PM every day, they pray a Rosary, and for the first time, I discovered that there are Mysteries to the Rosary! I loved to get up early to watch Father Pacwa’s Holy Land Rosary and meditate on the beautiful places and icons I saw there.
Having Mysteries to think about while praying unlocked the Rosary for me. I realized that it’s not a vain and repetitious prayer (as I had come to believe half-heartedly), but a way to meditate on Scripture and the life of Our Lord and His Mother. The more I read about it, the more I liked praying it. I read Hail, Holy Queen by Scott Hahn and developed more love for it. I began to pray the Rosary daily, especially when traveling in the car with my girls. I could pray an entire Rosary between my house and the Sam’s Club across town. Perfect!
Unfortunately, my girls didn’t have a love for the Rosary, even when I explained it, and due to their complaints and some pressure from extended family, I stopped praying it when we drove. I admit to having a bit of a martyr’s mentality about it, and it was foolish to give up that time and not find it elsewhere in my day. It hurt me to do it, and it broke a habit I had developed, for praying it in the car was a time when I was sure to do it.
To this day, I haven’t quite gotten back to the habit of a daily Rosary, though I am at least doing it a little more often every week. I often start one and don’t finish it, or I’ll pray a decade while I’m doing something, giving my mind something to do while I perform a mindless task, and never get to the other mysteries. There are nights when I can’t sleep and begin a Rosary, only to fall asleep in the middle.
But I do love it, and even when I resist sitting down to pray it, things change for me once I begin. I fall into the rhythms of the prayers and place myself into the stories that surround the mysteries. I’ve discovered that the more I pray it, the less burdensome it feels, time-wise. So I keep plugging away at getting my Rosary in each day — or at least a part of it.
A few years ago, I was praying the Joyful Mysteries and began to have very specific meditations for each decade. I used them every time I prayed these Mysteries, and they enhanced my meditations on Scripture. I felt a gentle urging that I should share them with others, specifically at the Ladies’ Tea and May Crowning our parish was about to have. But the very idea terrified me, and so I flat-out told God no. Just like that. I said, “No, Lord. I don’t want to.” Then I asked my priest to do a talk about the Blessed Mother instead. He agreed, but, two weeks before the tea he learned what I had done and was a bit upset with me for telling God no. “Please don’t back out!” I begged. “I’ll do it next year! I promise! Don’t back out or I’ll die!!”
The following year, while prepping for the talk, I got a gentle urging again: write out meditations on all 20 Mysteries of the Rosary. Speak on the Joyful ones. This time, I didn’t tell God “no” (because you see how that worked out?), and I wrote an outline of meditations, including short prayers at the end of each one. Each Mystery, I discovered, had lessons from Mary. I began praying daily Rosaries again, and the fruits of doing so were amazing! Soon, I had the basic rough draft for what I felt called to do next: write a book on those meditations.
I’ve fallen off daily Rosaries again, but I’m working on getting back to it. As I do that, I’ve been working on revisions on that very book, preparing it to send to friends who are editors and writers and seeing where God takes it. I do believe it’s His work, not mine, and that I merely need to listen to Him and His Blessed Mother to see what I ought to do next.
And, again, work on getting in that daily Rosary.
Reminder: Today is the last day to enter to win a copy of Word by Word: Slowing Down with the Hail Mary. Find out more here.