“The Rosary prepares you to pray.”
I heard these words at a First Saturday talk about prayer. They stopped me in my tracks.
I always thought the Rosary WAS prayer (and a pretty good one, too!)
The priest who spoke these words continued to explain, and when I took the time to reflect deeper – it made total sense.
One of the biggest objections some Christians have to the Rosary is that it’s vain repetition. The way I pray it sometimes, they’re not far from the truth.
The format of the Rosary is made up of lots of Hail Marys, some Our Fathers, and a few Glory Bes.
Every Catholic memorizes these prayers, along with Grace before meals, the Creed, an Act of Contrition, and many others.
But these “prayers” are not the heart of prayer.
Prayer is not about the perfect arrangement of magical words.
And, despite my insistence to “just get the Rosary done” somedays – like checking a task off a list – this is especially true of the Rosary.
Fifty Hail Marys aren’t any better than one, if we rattle them off like some sort of holy robot.
Instead, the prayers of the Rosary set the stage and prepare us for real prayer – lifting the mind and heart to God.
Let’s look at some ways to go beyond the rote of the Rosary.
How to Meditate on the Mysteries of the Rosary
The Rosary is divided into mysteries for a reason. By spending some time with each of these scenes of Jesus’ life, we get to know him better.
Once you become familiar with the prayers and cadence of the Rosary, your mind may begin to wander.
This is actually a good sign!
It shows that you’re ready for the next step.
While your mouth says the words on autopilot and your hand slides the beads through by habit, your mind is ready to give meditation a try.
Meditation is reflective prayer.
There’s no one right or perfect method of meditation. It will be different for each person in every circumstance, and there are lots of different ways to do it!
- You can use your imagination to put yourself in the story, seeing, hearing, and feeling the events as they happen.
- You can speak to Jesus about the events in his life, and imagine him answering you back.
- You can envision witnessing the mystery from Mary’s eyes (or the viewpoint of anyone else in the story).
- You can reflect on what virtues are being exemplified, or what lesson you can put into practice in your life.
- You may find yourself overcome with strong emotion – smiling with joy at the birth of Christ or weeping in sorrow at the Crucifixion. At times like this, no words are necessary. Your meditation consists in uniting your heart to God’s.
Whether you close your eyes and imagine, keep them open to look at pictures and read words to guide your thoughts, use a book, journal freeform, or gaze at Jesus in Eucharistic adoration – if you’re reflecting on the mysteries, you’re doing it right.
The important thing is to open yourself to God’s presence and the words he wants to speak in your heart, and to be willing to follow where he leads.
If it turns out you left off your Hail Marys in the midst of your deep thoughts, that’s okay. Good, even.
Because that’s the whole purpose of the Rosary: to prepare you for reflection and meditation, through entering into the mysteries of Jesus’ life.
How to Apply the Rosary to Your Daily Life
Once you get in the habit of meditation on the Rosary, moving past the rote prayers, and reflecting on the mysteries, you’ll find that the Rosary begins to follow you wherever you go.
It becomes more relevant to the ins and outs of your life experiences.
You can begin applying the Rosary to your daily life.
When my four year old ran away, full speed up the street, I took off running after her.
The image of Mary and Joseph running back to Jerusalem to find the lost Jesus flashed through my mind. Without any words, I entered into prayer by connecting my life to the mysteries of the Rosary.
I drew the grace and inspiration to treat my daughter with compassion and love once I caught up to her. I was able to encourage her to come back home and be obedient like the young Christ.
When we were packing up for a big family move, my mind dwelled on the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt.
In my busy moments, I leaned on their example to guide me in my acceptance of God’s plan for our family. I turned to them to lead me through the challenges of uprooting.
Just as Mary followed Joseph as the leader of their family, I found strength to follow my husband as the leader of ours.
In lonely moments when I was missing a friend or a loved one, my thoughts turned to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.
He was alone and abandoned by his closest friends. He felt a deep pain that dropped him to his knees, made him sweat in anguish.
I shared his sorrow and he shared mine.
From years of praying the Rosary, I have developed and intimate familiarity with the stories, the scenes, the words, and the emotions.
They are there with me in the experiences of my daily life.
These stories give me context.
They let me know I’m not alone in my human joys and sorrows.
They give me somewhere to turn when I need guidance, advice, and an example to follow.
Whatever you’re going through, the Rosary is there for you too.
When the time comes that you grow beyond the learning and saying of the words that make up the prayers of the Rosary, then God will begin to invite you to truly pray.
Give meditation a try.
Lift your mind and heart to God when it begins to wander from the words coming out of your mouth. Let him lead, and go where he follows.
Once you know the stories, inside and out, try applying the Rosary to the moments of your daily life.
Let yourself be united to Jesus by experiencing life side-by-side with him. Let him walk with you through the ups and the downs.
Lift your mind and heart to him, whatever you’re going through.
Then, you will begin to pray everywhere and always.
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