Each month of the year has a special emphasis in the Church Calendar and October is dedicated to the Rosary. Growing up Protestant, I was taught to be concerned by ‘rote’ prayers which lead to spiritual dryness and to instead use my own words in order to be more ‘authentic’ and ‘genuine.’ Yet, as I have been exposed to ancient prayers, I have found them not rote, but rhythmic, and not dry, but life-giving. I find great freedom in praying the words of the saints prayed by the faithful for centuries instead of making up my own words spontaneously. This is partly due to my lack of creativity when praying. If I depend on my own words, they usually are exactly the same as the last time, but they aren’t as rich or beautiful as more ancient prayers like the Rosary.
While praying each decade of the Rosary (a decade is an Our Father, ten Hail Marys, and a Glory Be) you are to meditate on one of the Holy Mysteries, such as the Annunciation or the Visitation. Familiarity with the prayers allows you to move beyond the words you are praying to scenes in the life of Christ and of his Mother, Mary. It becomes like a stained-glass window illuminating a scene from the Gospel as you view it. The more I pray the Rosary, the more layers I see unfolding. It is a rich prayer that never grows dull.
An excellent introduction to the Rosary is by Karen Edmisten, also a Catholic convert, called The Rosary: Keeping Company with Jesus and Mary. It discusses theological and devotional aspects as well as practical methods of incorporating the Rosary into busy modern life.
Being unfamiliar with the Hail Mary until a couple of years ago, I was unaware that the first three lines are actually Scripture (the Gospel of Luke). The last two lines are a request for prayer. One of the most beautiful aspects of the Hail Mary is that the name of Our Lord Jesus is at the very center of the prayer:
“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee;
blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of they womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”
Pope Benedict XVI has said of the Rosary:
Together we confirm that the Holy Rosary is not a pious practice banished to the past, like prayers of other times thought of with nostalgia. Instead, the Rosary is experiencing a new Springtime. Without a doubt, this is one of the most eloquent signs of love that the young generation nourish for Jesus and his Mother, Mary. In the current world, so dispersive, this prayer helps to put Christ at the centre, as the Virgin did, who meditated within all that was said about her Son, and also what he did and said. When reciting the Rosary, the important and meaningful moments of salvation history are relived. The various steps of Christ’s mission are traced. With Mary the heart is oriented toward the mystery of Jesus. Christ is put at the centre of our life, of our time, of our city, through the contemplation and meditation of his holy mysteries of joy, light, sorrow and glory. May Mary help us to welcome within ourselves the grace emanating from these mysteries, so that through us we can “water” society, beginning with our daily relationships, and purifying them from so many negative forces, thus opening them to the newness of God. The Rosary, when it is prayed in an authentic way, not mechanical and superficial but profoundly, it brings, in fact, peace and reconciliation. It contains within itself the healing power of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, invoked with faith and love at the centre of each “Hail Mary”.
I’m trying to make the Rosary part of our daily routine, particularly during this month of October, but am more often than not failing to make it happen. Whenever we do incorporate it into our day (usually evening when Daddy is home) it is centering and a rich blessing.
Benjamin calls it a “reereeree.” I’d like to start praying a decade with him everyday. Right now we pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be just before bed but I think he might be ready to lengthen that prayer time little by little.