Confession: The Rosary and I have a love-blah relationship.
Love, because the Rosary was the first “Catholic” prayer I ever prayed. Praying the Rosary was a major part of my conversion from evangelical Protestantism to Catholicism, helping me to begin to love Mary. Through it I started to see Our Lord through her eyes and her heart.
Blah, because sometimes the Rosary feels like a tedious obligation.
Perhaps my personality, a Protestant hangover, or sloppy prayer habits lead me to my occasional dislike of the Rosary. Perhaps the cause is much deeper – a lack of faith in Our Lady’s care and intercession, sin, spiritual dryness, or spiritual attack. Or perhaps, on a human level, I don’t always find repetitive prayer appealing.
Am I the only one who feels this way?
If you are like me, you’ve probably discovered a few tricks to help you overcome your struggle to love and pray the Rosary. The following are ten tips that have helped me move past my objections toward a renewal of my dedication to this important prayer.
Ten Tips for Cultivating a Love of the Rosary
1. Remember your freedom. As a guilt-prone person who (unfortunately) often thinks in terms of “ought” and “should,” it is important for me to remember the freedom I have in Christ. Failing to pray the Rosary – or pray the Rosary well – does not automatically consign a person to the “bad Catholic” pile.
It is possible to actively love and honor the Blessed Mother without praying the Rosary, as many of our Eastern Rite brothers and sisters show us.
Ultimately, any devotion is for the sake of our relationship with God. God does not coerce us into loving Him but waits for our free cooperation with His grace. Mary is no different.
2. Remember the many good reasons for choosing to pray the Rosary:
- Devotion to the Rosary is woven into the Catholic religious and cultural fabric.
- It has a long tradition within the Latin Rite.
- Saints, popes, and clergy have encouraged it for centuries.
- It is a “compendium of the Gospel” (Bl. John Paul II).
- Many Marian apparitions call for increased devotion to the Rosary.
- And more!
3. Read Rosarium Virginis Mariae. Bl. John Paul II’s 2002 letter opening the Year of the Rosary explains the history, meaning, and method of praying the Rosary. By understanding why we pray the Rosary, we are better able to embrace it.
4. Aim for one good decade instead of five sloppy ones. I, for one, have a short attention span. It’s better to meditate deeply on one mystery of the Rosary than rattle off five decades while the mind wanders aimlessly.
If you prefer, set a time limit instead of limiting yourself to one mystery. A friend of mine commits to fifteen minutes of the Rosary daily. However far she gets, she gets. If she doesn’t finish, she doesn’t fret.
5. Pray a Scriptural Rosary. The first time I prayed the Rosary, a year before I came into the Church, I used the Christianica Scriptural Rosary. At the time I was terrified that I might offend God by praying the Rosary. Perhaps, I thought, if I prayed a Scriptural Rosary (hey, it’s the Bible!) and stuck to the non-offending Sorrowful Mysteries, God would be lenient with me for trying out this papist thing.
I secretly holed up in my dorm room one Friday night and, trembling, gave it a whirl. And in the middle of praying the Crowning with Thorns I had a breakthrough of understanding and empathy for Our Lord.
At the time, my college language class had been reading Molière’s Le Misanthrope, a biting satire of seventeenth-century French aristocratic life. As I prayed, the story of Christ’s Passion unfolding slowly through the praying of a Scriptural Rosary, I noticed, for the first time, the mockery of Our Lord by the Roman soldiers. It was every bit as offensive as the ugly “wit” of Molière’s French salon – though more so. And I was overwhelmed by empathy for Jesus’ suffering.
The format of a Scriptural Rosary made this possible – that, and God’s grace.
Besides the Christianica Scriptural Rosary, I recommend Christine Haapala’s Psalter of Jesus and Mary, another personal favorite. Haapala interprets the mysteries through the Psalms and Proverbs, giving a fresh perspective to each story.
6. Pray the Rosary using sacred art. Sometimes we just need a visual aid. An artist’s interpretation of events in the life of Jesus and Mary can give us new insights into the mysteries of the Rosary. I highly recommend The Rosary with Fra Angelico and Giotto by Domenico Marcucci. If you are fond of stained glass images, try Mysteries of the Rosary from Stampley Enterprises.
7. Pray the Rosary while listening to sacred or devotional music. Sacred music is meant to lift our senses and stir our devotion, especially when we’re struggling spiritually. My husband and I particularly enjoy Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber’s Rosary Sonatas, which are musical meditations on the traditional three sets of mysteries.
8. Pray the Rosary while doing mundane or repetitive tasks. You may not have great meditation or profound insights, but vacuuming with the Rosary is better than vacuuming without the Rosary. And a long road trip always begins best with a Rosary.
I like to pray the Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy while I exercise, especially when I’m jogging. The prayers tick through my head, keeping pace with my feet. And I’m convinced that Mary hauls my gasping, panting self up the steep hill on which our house sits every time I run.
9. Pray with committed family and friends. “For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt. 18:20). We find strength in a community of believers. Seeing others praying joyful Rosaries can help us grow in our own appreciation for it.
10. Pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament. The Real Presence works miracles in our lives. I find that many of my objections, bad habits, and antipathies melt away in front of the Tabernacle. There is perhaps no better place on earth to pray the Rosary than in the presence of Christ, who loves His Mother and wishes us to love her and, like St. John, bring her into our own homes (cf. John 19:26-27).
Praying the Rosary, I’m learning that sometimes the thing I don’t like is the thing I most need. God can take my efforts, however small, and transform the thing I don’t sometimes like into an activity of grace. The Rosary can be that grace-filled opportunity. It can even become the thing we Rosary strugglers love the most.
Copyright 2012 Rhonda Ortiz