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… can be found in this post of mine that includes meditations on the five Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary.

Perfect for Holy Week, if I may say so myself.  :)

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The most wondrous thing just happened!

The day before my father’s death, I spent some time alone with him, talking to him and saying prayers.  I said a Rosary and a Divine Mercy chaplet.  Before I began, I took my second rosary, a little knotted-cord one, and I placed it beneath Dad’s hand.  I decided to leave it there, in case it might offer him some solace.

Later, my mom noticed it.  She asked if I wanted Dad to be buried with it.  I hadn’t really thought about it, but I decided I would like that.  Somehow, it comforted me to think that he would have something that belonged to me, and that I could send something of mine with him.

The next morning, however, after Dad had passed away and the hospice nurses had seen to his body, the rosary was nowhere to be found.  I searched for it everywhere, thinking it had gotten laid aside somewhere in the room by the nurses.  I really wanted it to stay with Dad.  Plus, I didn’t want any harm to come to it, since it was a blessed sacramental.  But I searched to no avail.  And of course, I had much more important and weighty things on my mind, entering into this strange and sorrowful new world without Dad.

It’s been almost a year now since that cold, grey morning–astonishing to think!  I can tell that the second year is going to be much more difficult and more painful.  My loss has begun to sink into me more deeply.  My dad has been even more on my mind than before.  And my tears are running more easily and profusely.  Sometimes unexpectedly.

Well, this evening, I was looking for something.  Something completely common and unimportant.  I picked up my duffel bag that I carry around all the time.  I opened the side zipper.  I found what I was looking for.

I also found something I wasn’t looking for, and indeed something I thought I would never see again–my knotted-cord rosary!

I couldn’t believe my eyes.  But there it was, just sitting there.  I picked it up and held it, and the biggest wave of pure joy swept over me!  I held it tight in my hand–the same rosary that had rested in my dad’s hand.  It was almost as good as holding Dad’s hand myself.  And I just thanked God for giving that back to me–not only the rosary itself, but that sense of closeness with my dad that I’ve been missing so much!

After I got over my bewilderment, I brought the rosary back to my chair and prayed with it.  And now it’s back safe and sound where it always used to be, on top of my bookcase, together with my other rosary and prayer books, my bible and missal, and my framed photo of Dad.

Such a small thing… but my life and my living space seem a little bit more the way they ought to be.

A blessed Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary!  She is also honored today under the title Our Lady of Victory.  The two titles really go hand in hand, as the Rosary is a proven instrument of victory over danger and evil.

I finally made it to Confession this evening, so that was a bit of a personal victory for me.  Or rather a victory of God’s grace and mercy within me.

And now I go forward on this blessed day, healed and whole once more.  I asked Our Lady of Victory for her prayers and help.  I asked her to help me be a strong and virtuous and faithful daughter of God, always victorious over sin–a woman modeled after her.  I prayed for a renewed dedication to the Rosary.  I also asked her prayers and help for the United States, since this county is under her patronage.

Lord, hear her prayers and mine!

The fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary is one I’ve always found a bit challenging.  It is the finding of the 12-year-old Jesus in the Temple, when He stayed behind in the city after the Passover, and His poor, distraught parents looked for Him for three days.  When they finally find Him in the Temple, Mary asks:

“Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.”  And He said to them, “How is it that you sought Me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying which He spoke to them.  (Luke 2:48-50)

Mary and Joseph are not the only ones that did not understand.  I think that many of us today feel the same way.  We understand why Mary asks the question… but the questions the young Jesus asks her in reply are not so easy to understand.  They seem somewhat cold and perhaps insolent.  They don’t seem very much in character for the Son of God, and in fact they seem to go against the Commandment, “Honor thy father and mother.”

I’ve heard quite a few homilies about how it illustrates the fact that the Holy Family were not perfect, that they were human, and they had their tensions just like all families.

But after meditating upon this Mystery time and time and time again, I think there was also some divine purpose behind the story, a great moral to the story.  Perhaps He allowed His parents to search in vain for Him until they reached the Temple so that we would not make the same mistake.  That we might not seek Him in vain in the world.  That we might know exactly where to seek Him: in the Church.

Think of all the time and energy we waste running about in search of Him.  True, many people in our world don’t even realize it is Him for whom they search and long.  But even among Christians, even among Catholics, I hear it said, “God is bigger than the Church, God is everywhere.”  I don’t dispute that, but the meaning can easily be twisted or misconstrued: that because we have access to God any time and anywhere, we don’t need the Church.

The error in that is this:  God may be infinite, but we are not.  God may be bigger than the Church, but we are not.  God may be everywhere, but we aren’t necessarily able to find Him everywhere.  There are so many things, so many forces, so many noises and lights and shadows that interfere and lead us astray.  I learned this the very hard away when I was younger.  I turned from the Church in order to truly seek God.  I ended up in the clutches of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

It is folly to seek Christ apart from the Church.  Foolish and quite possibly dangerous.  We Catholics are especially blessed in that our churches truly are temples–God is truly present there.  Wherever the red lamp is lit, He is there, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.  That He is present in our churches–of that, we Catholics can be more certain and reassured than even most of our fellow Christians.

As usual, God and His Church don’t leave us to our own devices.  That is the beauty of our sacramental faith.  The Divine can be found in the midst of the world, in a very particular and definitive place and manner.  We need not seek Him in vain.

7 October, one of the most significant days in history.

On this day in 1571, near the Greek town of Lepanto, a joint navy of Christian states dealt a crushing defeat to the Turkish navy, preventing an invasion of Europe.  The defeat was so crushing that it was considered miraculous.

The victory was attributed to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary, Pope St. Pius V having urged all the Catholics in Europe to pray the Rosary for victory.  Pope St. Pius V was a Dominican, and the Dominicans had long been the special custodians and propagators of the Rosary.  Tradition says that the Rosary was given to St. Dominic by the Blessed Virgin herself, as a special weapon against heresy and other dangers.  The victory at Lepanto reaffirmed the Rosary’s power.  This feast day has also been known as the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary.

Pope St. Pius V also gave Mary the title, Our Lady of Victory, and this is one of the titles under which she is Patroness of the United States, my beloved patria!

So, as a Catholic, as a Dominican, and as an American, this feast day is very special to me!

Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us!

Somebody recently mentioned indulgences to me.  I am very dedicated to seeking indulgences, especially for the poor souls in Purgatory.  I’ve actually been meaning to write about this topic for a while, and especially since I’ve been trying to write about the Rosary–there are special indulgences related to rosaries (the objects) and to the Rosary (the prayer).  I will highlight these below.  So here we go: indulgences!

“An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints”.  (Catechism of the Catholic Church ¶1471)

I’ve heard temporal punishment explained very simply thus *: say that you drop a glass that has a drink in it and make a big mess.  You tell your mother that you are sorry, and she forgives you.  But the mess still needs to be cleaned up.  In justice you should be the one to clean it up.  Having to clean up the mess is your “temporal punishment.”  Every sin we commit makes a mess.  Contrition and forgiveness heal our relationships with God and others, but they don’t clean up the messes.  We each have to clean up our messes, either in this life or in Purgatory.  Indulgences are a divine gift by which we can be freed even from having to clean up our messes.

We can obtain indulgences for ourselves, or for souls in Purgatory.  We cannot apply them to other living persons, however.  Obtaining indulgences for the souls in Purgatory is a great and generous act of mercy.  Personally, I make that my focus.  I consider it a win-win situation; the souls get freed from Purgatory, and I get some new friends up in Heaven to pray for me!

Indulgences are granted via specified actions.  Here are a couple of examples of common indulgenced actions (including the rosary-related ones).  These and many, many more can be found in the Enchiridion of Indulgences along with all the other norms and regulations relating to indulgences.

35. Use of Articles of Devotion (Obiectorum pietatis usus)
The faithful, who devoutly use an article of devotion (crucifix or cross, rosary. scapular or medal) properly blessed by any priest, obtain a partial indulgence.

Get your rosaries (and other items) blessed by a priest!  It’s so quick and simple to do.  I’ve just gone up to my priest after Mass and asked him to bless rosaries.  It takes maybe 20 seconds, and he is always more than happy to oblige.  After it is blessed, you can receive a partial indulgence just by using it.  Partial indulgences, as their name suggests, remove part of the temporal punishment you’ve amassed.  But you can gain them again and again–they are unlimited!

But if you think that’s simple, check this out:

55. Sign of the Cross (Signum crucis)
A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful, who devoutly sign themselves with the sign of the cross, while saying the customary words: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The first time I read that, I was like, “Seriously?  Nah, an indulgence can’t be that easy!”  The thing to remember about partial indulgences is that the extent of the indulgence (whether “partial” means a little or a lot) depends on the devotion with which we perform the prescribed action.  It’s not the size of the action, but how well we do it.

But back to #35 above, rosaries can be used for a variety of prayers, such as the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  The above indulgence would apply to any devotional use of a rosary!  This next one, however, applies specifically to the “capital-r” Rosary, and it is an example of another kind of indulgence, a plenary indulgence:

48. Recitation of the Marian Rosary (Rosarii marialis recitatio)
A plenary indulgence is granted, if the Rosary is recited in a church or public oratory or in a family group, a religious Community or pious Association; a partial indulgence is granted in  other circumstances.

“Now the Rosary is a certain formula of prayer, which is made up of fifteen decades of “Hail Marys” with an “Our Father” before each decade, and in which the recitation of each decade is accompanied by pious meditation on a particular mystery of our Redemption.” (Roman Breviary) The name “Rosary,” however, is commonly used in reference to only a third part of the fifteen decades.

The gaining of the plenary indulgence is regulated by the following norms:

1) The recitation of a third part only of the Rosary suffices; but the five decades must be recited continuously.

2) The vocal recitation must be accompanied by pious meditation on the mysteries.

3) In public recitation the mysteries must be announced in the manner customary in the place; for private recitation, however, it suffices if the vocal recitation is accompanied by meditation on the mysteries.

4) For those belonging to the Oriental rites, amongst whom this devotion is not practiced, the Patriarchs can determine some other prayers in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary (for those of
the Byzantine rite, for example, the Hymn “Akathistos” or the Office “Paraclisis”); to the prayers thus determined are accorded the same indulgences as for the Rosary.

Note that it specifies that one must meditate upon the Mysteries of the Rosary–just saying the vocal prayers is not enough.  Also, the 5 decades must be said “continuously”–you must pray them all in one sitting, as opposed to praying one Mystery then doing something else and coming back later to pray the others.  Not all plenary indulgences are specified at such length.  Here is another common universal one:

3. Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament (Adoratio Ss.mi Sacramenti)
A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful, who visit the Most Blessed Sacrament to adore it; a plenary indulgence is granted, if the visit lasts for at least one half an hour.

Pretty straightforward, isn’t it?  There are a number of indulgences which may generally be called partial, but in certain circumstances may be plenary.  For example, devoting a longer period of time to the action, or doing the action on a particular day or during a particular season (e.g. when the Tantum Ergo is recited on Holy Thursday or Corpus Christi)

A plenary indulgence such as this remits your entire temporal punishment, no matter how great it may be.  It’s a very powerful thing, and a very huge gift from God.  We are limited to receiving only one plenary indulgence per day.  The only exception is that plenary indulgences can be obtained at the point of death, even if one has already obtained a plenary indulgence earlier that day.

This brings me to the conditions that must be met in order to obtain any indulgence:

22. § 1. To be capable of gaining an indulgence for oneself, it is required that one be baptized, not excommunicated, in the state of grace at least at the completion of the prescribed works,  and a subject of the one granting the indulgence.

§ 2. In order that one who is capable may actually gain indulgences, one must have at least a general intention to gain them and must in accordance with the tenor of the grant perform the enjoined works at the time and in the manner prescribed.

Essentially, you need to be a Catholic in good standing and in a state of grace (no unconfessed mortal sins on your soul).  If there is an indulgence specified by a particular bishop for a particular diocese, you have to be part of that diocese and subject to that bishop.  The rosary-related indulgences are universal.  Also, you have to want and intend to obtain the indulgences.   This is why it is so important that we all be aware of indulgences–and believe in them!  If, after reading all this, you decide you just don’t believe what the Church teaches about indulgences, well, then you’re never going to obtain one.  And that would be very unfortunate.

To obtain plenary indulgences, additional conditions must be met:

26. To acquire a plenary indulgence it is necessary to perform the work to which the indulgence is attached and to fulfill the following three conditions: sacramental Confession, eucharistic Communion, and prayer for the intention of the Sovereign Pontiff. It is further required that all attachment to sin, even venial sin, be absent.

If the latter disposition is in any way less than perfect or if the prescribed three conditions are not fulfilled, the indulgence will be partial only, saving the provisions given below in Norm 34 and in Norm 35 concerning those who are “impeded.”

While to receive a partial indulgence you simply have to be in a state of grace, for the plenary indulgence, you must go to Confession, even if you have only venial sins to confess.  And note that requirement that “all attachment to sin, even venial sin, be absent”!  That’s a tall order.  I think the key word is “attachment.”  We may fall into venial sin, but that’s not the same as being attached to it.  We have to detach and reject sin–we have to be pure of heart and pure of intention.  We have to keep our eyes on our goal, which is to free ourself or some other poor soul from the results of sin.  We can’t very well do that if we ourselves give in to sin all too willingly and perhaps even eagerly.

Note that even if you don’t fully meet the conditions for obtaining a plenary indulgence, you can still obtain a partial indulgence.

27. The three conditions may be fulfilled several days before or after the performance of the prescribed work; it is, however, fitting that Communion be received and the prayer for the
intention of the Sovereign Pontiff be said on the same day the work is performed.

28. A single sacramental confession suffices for gaining several plenary indulgences; but Communion must be received and prayer for the intention of the Sovereign Pontiff must be
recited for the gaining of each plenary indulgence.

29. The condition of praying for the intention of the Sovereign Pontiff is fully satisfied by reciting one Our Father and one Hail Mary; nevertheless, each one is free to recite any other
prayer according to his piety and devotion.

More details about those conditions.  Regarding the first sentence in 27, “may be fulfilled several days before or after”: traditionally, the set time-frame was 8 days.  In 2000, the Great Jubilee Year, it was specified as “about 20 days.”  This longer time-frame remains in force, per the Apostolic Penitentiary.

I know this may all be a little overwhelming.  All these rules and regulations may seem burdensome.  Really, though, the rules basically come down to simply living out the faith.  If you go to Confession pretty frequently, you’re going to be in good shape to meet all the requirements.  And what Catholic wouldn’t want to offer prayers for the Holy Father’s intentions?  Or be detached from sin?

Furthermore, God is merciful.  There is nothing He would rather do than relieve us from troubles and suffering.  That’s the reason Christ died.  And it is only because Christ died that the Church can offer indulgences.  The graces we receive as indulgences were gained on Good Friday.  So if we approach His great mercy, if we seek out the graces of indulgences for ourselves, or especially for others, following the rules and regulations to the best of our ability, God isn’t going to say, “Oh, you didn’t do x perfectly, so no deal!”  God is not held to the rules and regulations of the Enchiridion.  We are bound to fulfill them the best we can.  They are the Church’s way of showing us what is the best way to follow, the Church’s way of saying, “If you abide by these, your success will be assured.”

So, whatever you do, don’t be discouraged by the rule book.  Of course, don’t toss the rule book aside, either.  Respect it for what it is and try to abide by it.  The rest will be taken care of by God’s mercy.  I think this is especially true when we seek indulgences for the souls in Purgatory.  I pray a little prayer that goes something like this:

Dear Lord, today I wish to obtain every possible grace and indulgence for the poor souls in Purgatory.  Please don’t look on my unworthiness to obtain such tremendous graces, but look in mercy upon those poor souls who are longing and suffering so greatly to be united with You at last! Thank You.  Amen.

If you want more information, take a look at the Enchiridion.  This is a PDF copy that you can search if you’re looking for something particular.  Definitely look at pages 19-40, where the various indulgenced actions are listed.  You might be surprised, as I was!

Really, there is no excuse for not seeking to obtain indulgences.

—————–

* I’m sorry I can’t remember exactly who gave this explanation.  I remember hearing it on the radio, and I’m almost positive it was a priest, so I’m thinking it must have been either Father Mitch Pacwa, SJ on EWTN Open Line, or Father Vincent Serpa, OP on Catholic Answers Live.  Many thanks to whomever it was!

As I mentioned, one of the things I commonly meditate on while praying the Rosary is “What is Christ saying to me in this Mystery?”  This is particularly true of the Sorrowful Mysteries in which we meditate upon His Passion.  It plays into the bigger questions, “Why did Christ suffer and die?  Why did He choose that painful, sorrowful, bloody and violent way?  What was the purpose?”

Crucifixion statue, Charles Bridge, PragueI find that Christ’s answer is quite simple: “You were my purpose.  I did it so that in all of your sufferings, you would know that I went before you, that I bore the brunt for you.  I did it so that you would not be discouraged and give up.  I did it so that you would have the hope and the freedom to persevere.”

A simple answer… but not an easy one.  For it does not provide us any denial of, nor escape from, suffering.  Rather, it exhorts us to suffer well.

Note: these little reflections are just some remembered examples of things that have passed through my mind in pondering these Mysteries.  Words do them only so much justice!  The communication between the soul and God is something much deeper than words.  So, these are not verbatim transcriptions.  Just… impressions, if you will.

I.  The Agony in the Garden. O My child, when all you see before you is darkness, when every course of action threatens to be in vain, when all appears empty and desolate, when even the will of the Father seems oppressive…  Know that I went before you.  When darkness falls over you, know that it is but the shadow of My Cross. Do not despair, but only raise your eyes to see Him who has loved you and given His all. Look also to those beyond, those who remain unmoved beyond the reach of My outstretched arms. Do not scorn them, nor keep them away, but love them as I do.  Bring them, and keep them, near to Me.  Let My Passion not be in vain for even one soul!

II.  The Scourging at the Pillar. O My child, when your body aches, when your flesh is weak, when temptations tear at it, when pain breaks it… Know that I went before you.  That you might be whole and that you might be free to surmount the trials of the flesh, that the edge of all your pains might be dulled, and so that you might not be enslaved to lust or any inordinate desire, I mortified my My own Body, delivered it to the tearing, bruising, bone-breaking flagrum.  And when you think of the cruelties that must yet be borne unjustly by poor souls, know that I am not distant nor indifferent, but that I am bound, defenseless and exposed, to the pillar.

III.  The Crowning with Thorns. O My child, when you are mocked and ridiculed, when you are looked upon with scorn by others who do not see or appreciate your great value and dignity, when others do not recognize you as being My child or the precious and unique person that you are… Know that I went before you.  They made of Me a mock king, when I was the only true King!  But so that you might not not be enslaved to pride, I submitted Myself silently to those humiliations.  I exchanged the crown of glory for a crown of torment.  Those who ridicule you are the ones who press it into My head.  And when you wish to mock or ridicule others, ask yourself whether that is the role you wish to play!

IV.  The Carrying of the Cross. O My child, when the world weighs so heavily upon you that you can barely take another step, when you feel on the verge of collapse, when you find very few familiar and loving faces around you, when you feel pursued to the very brink of death… Know that I went before you.  My head throbbing, blood and sweat burning My eyes, My garments sticking to My torn flesh, the wood of the Cross digging into My shoulder, and unable to break my falls–thus did I make my way to Calvary.  But I remember most My mother’s sorrowful but steadfast gaze, Simon’s strength, Veronica’s compassion, and the women’s tears.  If those humble souls reached out to Me, will I not also reach out to you?

V.  The Crucifixion. O My child, when you are at the moment of death, when you feel utterly forsaken, when your senses grow dim, and when you breathe your last breath… Know that I went before you.  I went before you in death so that you would not be consigned to the dark underworld, but rather would find your rest in My eternal light, forever close to Me and in My presence.  I went before you in death so that death would be destroyed by My eternal, unfailing life.  Do not turn your eyes from Me, nailed, pierced, and emptied, but look upon Me as the vessel broken so that life everlasting might be shed upon you.

(photo by Flickr user Christopher Chan)

Writing about the Rosary is still not coming as easily as I’d expected!  So again, I will start with the basics and share some simple things I’ve learned.  This time we’ll look at how to get into the habit of meditating on the Mysteries while praying the Rosary.

1.  Move your mouth. My first breakthrough, so simple it’s almost silly, was to move my mouth.  Part of the Rosary is verbal prayer (the cycle of Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, etc).  Let your mouth take charge of those.  Let your mind, your inner voice, your inner senses, be devoted to the Mysteries.  You might stumble over the words–or at least feel like you’re stumbling–but before long, it will be pretty automatic, just like moving the beads through your fingers.  That’s not to say that the verbal prayers are not important.  The verbal prayers provide a rhythm that helps bring your entire person into harmony and wholeness.  We are both body and soul.  The Rosary utilizes both.  Using your body fully helps you also use your mind fully at the same time.

Mary reading2.  Use a guide. At first, I couldn’t just “wing it.”  I couldn’t just dive into the Mysteries on my own.  Sometimes I still have trouble with it–sometimes I am easily distracted by other things.  So even now, I find it helpful to have a guide, something to focus on.  It could be a book or other written guide.  It could be images.  Usually, you can find both side by side.  I’ve already mentioned the Rosary Center’s how-to page.  Here are some other sources I’ve found helpful:

Father Peyton’s Rosary Prayer Book.  One of my very first Rosary books, and still a favorite.  Scores of meditations, each on a theme that can help you draw connections between the lives of Christ and Mary and your own.

The Rosary: a Journey to the Beloved by Gary Jensen.  This beautiful little book is an excellent introduction!  I really loved the artwork selections for each mystery.  They really spoke to me.  This book also seeks to make the Rosary accessible to non-Catholics, so if you are not Catholic, I recommend this one!

The Virtual Rosary.  This is a computer program you can download for free.  It provides meditations for each Hail Mary, along with illustrations.  You can choose from a few different sets of meditations and images.  It also provides the text for each verbal prayer, which is helpful if you’re just beginning.

3.  Don’t get discouraged by distractions. They’re going to pop up.  I don’t think anybody is immune to them.  Stay calm.  Don’t throw up your hands and give up.  If you find yourself thinking over your grocery list or what’s on TV tonight, then just take a few deep breaths and try to refocus on the divine Mysteries (this is where a guide can come in really handy).  But sometimes distractions can be a blessing in disguise.  Sometimes I find myself thinking about somebody or some situation that could actually use some prayers.  And so I lift them up and focus my prayers on them.  It is a great act of charity to pray for others… our Lord and Lady won’t mind!

4.  Simple is good. Meditating on the Mysteries of the Rosary could bring about earth-shattering insights that could change the world forever.  You could find yourself dazzled and knocked off your horse like Saul on the road to Damascus.  But… probably not.  And that’s OK!  Oh, you will be changed, and, through you, the world too.  But it will happen gently, gradually, and from the inside out.  Simplicity is at the heart of the Rosary, just as it is at the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Let your meditations be simple too.

One of my usual strategies is just to ask myself, “What is Jesus saying to me in this Mystery?”  Or, “What is Mary saying to me in this Mystery?”  Sometimes I even think about what some of the other people involved might say to me.  Such as Elizabeth in The Visitation, Simeon or Anna in The Presentation in the Temple, St. Mary Magdalene in The Resurrection, Veronica in the Carrying of the Cross, St. Joseph in The Nativity of the Lord.  I just put myself right there in the Mystery and listen.  And I’m usually amazed at what I hear!

I hope these few little points help!  I’m sure others will offer their own advice and ideas–please chime in!

Friar with Rosary in handWhat would a blog by a Dominican be without some writings about the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary?  I’m preparing a variety of Rosary posts.  But it’s funny–I thought that writing about the Rosary would be the easiest, most natural thing in the world for me.  It’s not really, though.  It’s actually pretty challenging.  The Rosary is so fundamental to my spiritual life, that writing about it is sort of like trying to write about  air or water in relation to my physical life!

But there was a time when the Rosary was not part of my life at all.  And just to perhaps get the ball rolling, I thought I’d ponder how that changed.

One of the first things I did when I joined my parish was stop at the parish gift shop and purchase a rosary.  It was nothing fancy, but it was very pretty.  Honestly, that’s one of the main reasons I bought it!  That, and because it just seemed like a Catholic thing to own.  My faith was not deep yet, it was shallow.  So was my attraction to the rosary.  It was a pretty object.  It lay untouched on my living room mantle for several weeks.

And then came the dark, painful, difficult days of grieving and struggling with conversion.  That’s when the rosary came down from the mantle and became a life-line.  I remember feverishly clutching it, staring at the little instructional leaflet that had come with it, reading and repeating the vocal prayers over and over.  I read the names of the Mysteries, but I was in no state of mind for actually meditating upon them.  I had some vague notion that Christ and Mary were present within them.  That was all I needed to know–that they were there.  I was not alone.  And they in Heaven were close, very close, and able to provide singular comfort and even peace to me, in some ineffable way.

As time went on, I became more and more deeply moved by those holy and loving persons.  I became moved to respond and reach for them.  The Mysteries became more than just vague remembrances of stories from the Bible.  Jesus and Mary became more than just nice, comforting presences.  The rosary (the object) became the Rosary (the prayer).  And I came to sense that the praying of it involved much more than just saying words.

I began to seek out how to properly pray the Rosary, how to delve into it and unlock its tremendous power.  I found the Rosary Center online and their “How to Pray the Rosary” page. For each Mystery of the Rosary, they provide 10 simple meditation points, one for each Hail Mary.  With daily practice, I began to understand and to explore each Mystery.  And I learned to do it while praying the vocal prayers.  It was difficult and felt strange at first, but before I knew it, it was completely natural.

I came to realize that the real meaning and the real glory of the Rosary is that meditation on the Mysteries, that forging of a connection and a personal relationship with Christ and Mary and with the wondrous ways in which God worked in their lives, and continues to work in ours too.  The Rosary is a true divine encounter.  In it, our mother whom Christ gave to us, reflects Him for us and guides us closer to Him.  She wants us to know and love Him as she does.  If she is in a position to “pray for us sinners, now and at the our of our death,” it is solely by His grace.  And so, the Rosary is not, as is often misunderstood, an act of worship toward Mary.  She is merely God’s instrument, and the greatest instrument of them all.  And the Rosary is her instrument, and ours.

Now, I cannot imagine life without it!  It is still a life-line, of course, more than ever before.  It is a direct and powerful line straight to Him who is Life Itself.

(photo by Flickr user Lawrence OP)

I’ve been using the Pro-life meditations on the Mysteries of the Rosary by Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life.  These meditations are very simple, but profoundly moving.

It’s wonderful and powerful to be able to combine two things so important to me.

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St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us!
(Image from a painting at St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Metairie, Louisiana)

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