Yes, another rosary blogpost on a Catholic blog. The rosary is an oft-written about topic: the importance of it, the fruit of it, etc. It's almost become a Catholic cliche. I want to offer this article to those of you who are in the midst of a love/hate or on again off again type of relationship with the rosary (and let’s be honest, most people who are trying to regularly pray it are at least partially in one of those two camps).
I had my conversion praying bad rosaries, muting on commercial breaks to rush through a decade, hoping that I could pray my way out of the eternal condemnation I knew I was heading towards (I mean our Lady promised it right), until I realized those three minute windows of time contained a certain peace that I longed for. So I kept praying the rosary as best I could, and things starting melting away: destructive habits and then eventually my desire for them. And mysteriously, new graces and convictions began to replace them. And so I've continued praying it, as best I can. Maybe not daily (though I wish it was), but consistently, through dryness and bountiful grace, the graces contained in the rosary keep coming.
I was talking about this with my spiritual director and he was re-convincing me how necessary the devotion is with a terrifying story of an exorcism. In the midst of the exorcism the demon began laughing at the priest and called the faithful a bunch of fools. The priest told him to elaborate in the name of Jesus, and it replied that the heads of the evil ones servants are utterly crushed by the recitation of the rosary. We carry a great key to our freedom in our pockets and were fools because we never use it.
All that being said, the rosary is not an easy prayer to pray. We live in the age of distraction, so sitting still for 20 or so minutes and focusing on a string of prayers and meditating on scenes from the gospel, if we were honest, seems like the last thing an overstimulated mind would want to participate in. Keeping the mind focused on such a repetitive, involved prayer can seem more like trying to ride a bull then a serene focusing on the Lord. It can often be the most dry and distracted, rote and bland addition to our devotional lives. And sometimes it should be, but I want to offer some ways to dive more deeply into the mystery of this devotion for each of the ailments that seem to afflict us rosary-averse people.
St. Louis De Montfort offers several methods for entering into the rosary. This resource is a treasure trove and is great in an of itself, but for the sake of writing a more interesting blog post, I’ll highlight a couple of them and also add some different tidbits that you can work into your prayer to help spice it up.
FOR THOSE POOR DISTRACTED SOULS
I recently came to the conclusion that if I was going to pray the rosary consistently I needed to do it the car from time to time. I can never seem to focus, and I feel like I’m cheating prayer fitting it into my commute because I’m not finding other time to set aside for things like the rosary. But alas, sometimes we have to start with the the less than ideal. So I started praying with St. Louis’s second method to help me focus. You add a word after “Jesus” to bring your mind back to the mystery you’re meditating on, to praise Him, etc (i.e. “Jesus becoming man, born to poverty, crucified for my sins, etc.). Not only did this help keep my attention, but I actually got lost in prayer. My car rides became the most fruitful part of my spiritual life.
FOR THE NOT SO VALIANT PRAYER WARRIOR
I’m the worst intercessor I know. People ask for my prayers, and despite my best wishes (not necessarily effort) I always forget to pray for them. The rosary has offered a solution to that as well. Here’s a simple method for interceding with the rosary: 1) Jot down all the prayer requests you receive (have an email folder set aside or whatever). 2) Read the requests before you begin the rosary or pick a few per decade. 3) Throw in some one-liners in between the proper prayers. This article has a good suggestion for a simple way to intercede using St. Elizabeth of the Trinity’s simple method for praying for others. In his third method, while meditating on the crucifixion, St. Louis dedicates each “Hail Mary” to each of the nine choirs of angels, asking them to pray for a particular intention (i.e. “Holy Seraphim, ask God… Hail Mary… Holy Cherubim, ask God… Hail Mary… and so on). I throw a decade or two like this in there from time to time. The possibilities are endless here.
FOR THOSE WHO GET ANNOYED WITH THE INTRODUCTORY PRAYERS (JUST ADMIT YOU’RE ONE OF US)
I also found that I got bogged down during the introductory prayers (I know, I’m really getting lazy), but I found that the Dominican way of beginning the rosary on Reddit of all places. It’s really simple and to the point and gets my heart ready for prayer.
FOR THOSE LOOKING FOR AN EXTRA, PERSONAL UMPF
Lastly, someone taught me this 3-step way of praying the “Jesus Prayer”. Sometimes I pause between each decade, pray this and then apply whatever came up during the decade. Here’s the method:
1. Call to mind Jesus’ presence. Make an act of faith that He is present to you. Here and now. Picture Him sitting across from you, His arms open, ready to receive what you have for Him.
2. And He asks: “What do you want to give to me?” Bring to Him all your thoughts, feelings and desires- what is on your mind that’s impacting you- good and bad? And then He asks “What do you want in return?” Each meditation has a grace to ask for laid out. In your own words, pray to receive this grace.
3. Lastly, recite the Jesus prayer. “Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Remember as you recite His most powerful name, that with the name of Jesus comes His presence, power and healing. Repeat this process as many times as you need to in order to prepare yourself to encounter the Lord.
These have been little tweaks that have helped me transition from the rosary becoming a commonplace ritual that I powder my way through as quickly as possible to really the heart of my prayer life. Use what you like, mix and match, and offer some more suggestions in the comments section. Happy praying!