In case it wasn’t clear, I’m really bad at praying the Rosary.
Really, really bad.
Catholics are sometimes like “you should pray the Rosary every day!” And I’m like, “yeah! And then I’ll take my flying pig for a walk!”
If you find the Rosary easy to pray, praise God for that! For me, however, it’s been hard to learn the words (I have think carefully about what they are) and hard to remember the mysteries. (Words? Mysteries? Confused? You need to go here.)
Most of all, it’s hard to pray words and meditate on them at the same time. As Michelle Arnold at Catholic Answers pointed out,
Learning the prayers and how to move around the string of beads is simple enough; it is the meditation on the mysteries that can be difficult. Sometimes it can seem as challenging as the old brain exercise of patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time.
So this is my advice for my fellow Amy Poehlers of Really Bad Rosariers. (It’s a word. Look it up.)
The Rosary is a beautiful, profound, meditative prayer but it is not the be all and end of all of Catholic prayer. It’s okay to pray it badly, it’s okay to pray it rarely, it’s okay to never pray it at all. By that, I mean that our salvation does not rest on the Rosary. It is always and only by the grace of God through faith in Christ Jesus. This is Christianity and it is the constant teaching of the Catholic Church.
Sometimes Catholics (and possibly popes too) get a little carried away in All the Rosary-ness. The Rosary is a gift, a beautiful gift, but one gift among many. It holds a special place in our Catholic prayer life and so it should.
Still, it’s not the gospel, it’s not salvation, and if you’re like me and just really struggle with this particular way of praying, that’s okay!
2. Be Open
If some Catholics are in danger of over-emphasising the Rosary, it’s because it has borne miraculous fruit in their lives. Our popes, bishops, teachers and all sorts have consistently urged Catholics to pray the Rosary. This is not a quirk of history. It’s because approaching, learning from and following Jesus through His mother can transform us.
No human being knew Jesus as well as His did and no Christian accepted Him as fully, freely or as faithfully as the Virgin Mother of God. We do not live the Christian life alone and there is no better person to walk alongside us, taking us by the hand, to lead us to Our Lord Jesus than Our Lady.
So be open to the Rosary!
Take the time too to ask yourself why you struggle with it? Is it a practical issue or a doctrinal one? Does it make you feel uncomfortable to be praying that many Hail Marys or is it that your mind wanders like crazy? Do you find it boring or do you think you’re doing fine being a Christian without it, so why bother? This post isn’t going to answer those questions but it’s good to know what’s really going on inside.
3. Take it a Day at a Time
I tend to be an all-or-nothing kind of person. Over the past few years, I’ve had a number of times we’ve I’ve decided, okay! This is it! I’m going to pray the Rosary! Every day! All the mysteries! All the time! You can imagine how long that lasted…
The Rosary is the prayer of Our Lady who is our Mother. Like all mothers, she is delighted with the tiniest, babiest of steps. So take it slowly, a decade and a day at a time.
At the moment, I’m trying to just do one decade a day. This is actually a lot more manageable. One decade prayed well is better than five prayed badly — but then of course, I also have to remember that one decade prayed badly is better than none at all.
4. Make it Your Own
This one decade deal still leaves me in a quandary over the mysteries though. The current custom is to pray the Joyful Mysteries on Mondays and Saturdays, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursdays, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesdays and Fridays, and the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesdays and Sundays.
When you can only pray a decade a day though, this gets tricky.
So I pray the mysteries over weeks, each one after another, completely ignoring the days assigned. (‘Cause I’m a rebel like that.)
You can also mix it up in other ways. For example, I don’t pray most of the “extra” Rosary prayers. This is often how it goes down in Laura town.
1. On the Sign of the Cross, I just pray the Sign of the Cross. (Genius!)
2. On the first bead, I briefly mention the things I’m praying for.
3. On the three little beads, I pray the Jesus Prayer three times. (This is a new decision when I realised that if I prayed Hail Marys, I’d be praying 13 Hail Marys. I might be a rebel but I’m a superstitious rebel. And seriously, 13 Hail Marys just feels wrong!)
5. On the big bead, I pray the Our Father and begin to think on the mystery I’m up to. If I’m feeling super energetic or pious (okay, so there was this one time…) I’ll also read a few pertinent verses of Scripture here. This is something I want to do more of but that requires planning.
6. On the ten little beads, I pray ten Hail Marys.
7. On the chain afterwards, I finish with a Glory Be.
Is it exactly what you’re “supposed” to do? No. Is it doable for little, old me? Yes!
5. Focus on Life & the Virtues
One friend is awesome Rosarier and she says her secret is to focus on the virtues. Sometimes, the mysteries can feel so distant and routine. Oh yes, Jesus carried a cross… that’s sad.
By connecting the mysteries to the virtues, however, we see more clearly how we can follow Christ in our own lives. It’s not just that Jesus is carrying a cross but how am I going to demonstrate and grow in patience today? What crosses is Christ calling me to carry with Him, patiently and calmly, with my eyes fixed on Him and the joy set before me?
Because that’s ultimately what the Rosary is about. It’s not about notching up a certain number of prayers.
It’s about entering into the mysteries of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
We pray the Rosary by the grace of the same Spirit who overshadowed Mary. We pray the Rosary through her eyes, the Mother who was at the cradle and the Cross. And pray so that, treasuring all these things in our hearts like she did, we might do what she says:
His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5)
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
Our Mother, Queen of the Rosary, pray for us.
St Louis de Montfort, pray for us.
Aaaand one last one for good measure. ;)