(The aim of this post is not to teach about, talk about or describe the different facets, origins or scriptural basis for the rosary. Perhaps another time. I merely felt compelled to write down and to share my “why”.)
The first time I can recall praying a rosary occurred on a lonely stretch of Nebraska highway. I was driving alone in a car heading west towards Blue Hill to attend the funeral of a fraternity brother from my college days which themselves were only a few years behind me in my rearview mirror. Steve had died much too young due to complications from diabetes if I recall correctly.
I do not believe I was yet a Catholic though I was attending weekly RCIA classes with my fiancé at St. John the Apostle which is today my home parish. When I set out that morning from Omaha I just felt that praying the rosary for Steve was the right thing to do. I also wanted to practice this newly discovered method of prayer and devotion.
Since that day two decades of married life have passed. I have prayed the rosary many times, though not as often as I should. I say “should” not because of it being a requirement for Catholics, but for the sake of my own peace as I navigate through this noisy and hostile world.
I have many favorite memories of this prayer. Most occurred while I was a member of an informal prayer group of men at St. John’s. They had been meeting for a year or two before inviting me to join and every Tuesday night from 1999-2005 we’d gather together. Sometimes it was all six or seven of us; at other times it was just two. But every week we would meet, talk, confide, counsel and most importantly pray for one another. This “cenacle” as we called it was very important to me and one of the highlights of my life.
Rosaries have been prayed in front of Planned Parenthood and along O Street during the Life Chain in Octobers passed. During such occasions I have been been yelled at, screamed at, and have witnessed nasty gestures. But at each time I have felt an amazing peace.
Rosaries have been prayed before many a Mass with hundreds of parishioners or alone in a darkened church before the Blessed Sacrament during a Holy Hour. I have prayed them on my commute downtown to work in and on my return home. I pray the rosary for my family, my wife, my children, my children’s children and their future spouses. I pray for my vocation as a husband and a father. I pray for my friends, co-workers. I pray for my priests, religious sisters, bishops and Pope Francis. I pray the leaders of our nation and those who lead other countries. I pray for our world. I pray for you.
In my hand to the right I hold my Sacred Heart rosary. It is the rosary I was holding one night last week. As I sat down to pray I received a private message through Facebook from a friend of mine describing a troubling situation. She closed by asking for my prayers and they have become my own. Tonight as I was about to publish this blog I learned that one of my favorite people from my childhood lost her mom today. I immediately sent her an e-mail and we have made arrangements to talk tomorrow. Tonight her prayers are my own as well.
Among my favorite times in prayer with a rosary has been those prayed with friends and their families on New Year’s Eve. We men that met on Tuesday nights used to have progressive dinners that involved our wives, children, and our priests. We would travel from house to house: for example one year we’d drive to John’s for appetizers, then to Doug’s for the main course, and to our house for dessert. (This would rotate among all of the men and their families each year.) Without a word being said the group would voluntarily stop drinking their wine or beer around 11pm-ish. Around ten minutes to midnight the adults and their children began to pull out their beads and find places to sit. This would include children as young as three as well as teenagers or college-aged kids who would find their way to whichever home was hosting the dessert and rosary that year so they could join in. Midnight would find us holding our beads as well as each other in prayer as we rang in the new year. It is a truly marvelous experience that I wish everyone could enjoy at least once. It is a very satisfying way to begin the new year.
We meditate on the mysteries of the rosary (the events in Christ’s life) in union with the prayers of Mary because she was Jesus’ mom and because she was a model of discipleship. Mary, more than anyone who ever lived, knew Christ. She listened to God’s Word and she trusted that He would bring about the salvation that He promised. She pondered all of these things in her heart.
In everything that Mary does she points the way to her son. She is always guiding us to Jesus. By uniting my prayers with hers and meditating upon the events in Christ’s life in which she has intimate knowledge I am better able to place myself before Jesus. I want to be with Him you see. I want to be transformed by Him, to be in imitation of Him. By uniting myself to Him through His mother Mary I am placing myself in the same sanctified place as countless men and women, sinners and saints, have done before I drew my first breath in this life. In this knowledge I find peace.
That is why I pray the rosary.
Two recent rosary purchases that I highly recommend
The first is a replica of the military rosary issued to soldiers by the U.S. government (by request) during WWI and now available though churchmilitant.com. I purchased this one with a Marine Corps medal for my son who enlisted on his 18th birthday in January. It was his Christmas gift. He had it blessed by the assistant pastor at our parish, took it with him to Washington DC and used it to pray during the March For Life. The folks at this site provided excellent and timely customer service and aided me greatly when I forgot to include the USMC/St. Christopher medal with my initial order. Learn more about these terrific service rosaries here. It won’t go to boot camp with him but I’m confident that he will take it with him going forward.
The second one arrived in the mail today. It is the Four Last Things rosary and it is made by a wonderful woman named Gloria. You can learn more about her and her rosaries by visiting her website at rosacarmel.blogspot.com and I heartily recommend her services. For reasons I cannot explain I was drawn instantly to this rosary. The carved Howlite skull helps me to keep in mind memento mori. Perhaps because I have meditated upon the Four Last Things (death, judgment, hell and heaven) a lot since making a retreat in the fall of 2012 and have read an excellent book on the subject. I’m not really sure. I love the feel of this rosary. It’s strong…solid…weighty. I’m having it blessed over the weekend and it will be the one I use tonight once I publish this blog.
Addendum: after using it last night I think this is probably the last rosary I’ll ever purchase. I love it!