I love the rosary. It’s such a cool way to be present in this life and bring in the life of Jesus. I have been marveling at that, actually. I’m an ordinary housewife in south central Kansas and yet, when I take time in the day, I have the opportunity to ponder really big miracles.
My whole life makes more sense when I keep the rosary as part of my daily.
As Lent began this year, I felt a deep desire to give this gift to my kids still living at home. (And we all-of-a-sudden-because-of-this-darn-virus, had the time!) Now, here’s the thing; my bambinos know all about the rosary. They know the mysteries. They could lead the rosary in a church setting.
It is not something my younger kids seek out. It is not like they clamor to pray it after supper every evening.
I was contemplating all of that, wondering how to get my kids (so inundated and stimulated by videos and video games) to fall in love with someone they cannot even see: their Sweet Mama Mary.
Then I thought of the crazy, fun, amazing students that I had taught a million years ago, at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Florissant, Missouri. My sixth students learned to love the rosary and they got to the point where they asked to pray it on a daily basis.
Hmmm….how did all of that happen? As I thought back, I know I didn’t START with praying the rosary. I first taught them WHY the rosary.
Now, there are many roads to take on the journey of “Why the Rosary.”
Back then, in the early 1990’s, I chose the road of Medjugorje. I taught my students how Mary had allegedly begun to appear to six visionaries in a small village in (the former) Yugoslavia in 1981.
As my students heard the stories, their hearts were changed. They began to WANT to pray. Then we did something kind of cool; I knew that prayer to Mary was like offering her a flower, so every time someone prayed the rosary, whether on their own or with the class, they stapled up a flower (cut from construction paper) on the bulletin board around a picture of Our Mother.
Pretty soon the entire board was filled and the Marian flowers began to creep across other bulletin boards in the classroom.
As you can imagine, it was an extremely motivating visual.
All of those wonderful memories came back to me and truth be told, I felt invigorated. I could do the same thing with my own people.
Four weeks ago, during evening prayer time, instead of PRAYING, I told the kids that I wanted to read to them.
I read from the book, “Our Lady of Kibeho,” which is about another Marian Apparition site.
I chose chapters and read them aloud each evening. Then we started praying a decade of the rosary.
All of that was good. Really good.
But praying the Hail Marys was sort of like Dr. Seuss says in his ABC book, ”Many mumbling mice are making midnight music in the moonlight...mighty nice.”
There was no connecting the dots. There was just quick mumbling.
Then, praise GOD, I found an AMAZING way to make the rosary come to life while reading a book, “The Contemplative Rosary: With St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila,” written by Dan Burke and Connie Rossini.
The authors shared that St. John Paul II pointed out that the word “Jesus” is like the “center of gravity” in the Hail Mary. And to help us stay focused on the mystery, we should say a short phrase that helps us connect to the mystery right after we say the name of JESUS.
The book was well-written and the authors had phrases prepared for each Mystery (as well as other reflections) but then I misplaced the book, so we began making up our own little phrases.
For example: The First Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden.
“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus, whose sweat was like blood, Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, amen.”
And all of a sudden, my kiddos woke up.
We were discussing the Resurrection of Jesus and I asked the kids (between the ages of 11 and 24) to come up with a nice phrase to capture what had happened.
My 15-year old, Thomas, said this with great exuberance, “Jesus….Who blew the door off of the tomb.”
That made the other kids sparkle with life. Our JESUS BLEW THE DOOR OFF OF THE TOMB. Isn’t that the truth?! Yeah. But I vetoed it, knowing I could not use that phrase without wanting to do a big fist bump.
I’m not even sure what phrased we used, but it was probably: Jesus, who rose from the dead.
Jesus, who fulfilled the Father’s plan and rose from the dead.
Jesus, even more powerful than death.
Jesus, stronger than death.
You get the picture. There are many ways you can say the same thing. And that’s the point. What means something to YOU?
One evening we were talking about how some of the kids kept mixing up the Ascension of Jesus (who was raised up on His own power) and the Assumption of Mary (who was assumed into Heaven by God).
In our house, we use the word “Accio,” whenever we want someone to give us something. "Accio....salt."
Where did we get that? From the theologian, Harry Potter. Okay, okay, from the wizardish dude, Harry Potter. Whenever Harry wanted to summon an object, he would say, “Accio,” and the object would rush to his hand. (Sort of like Thor and his hammer.)
So this is how Thomas explained the Assumption, “Jesus is in heaven, looks down and says, ‘Accio! Mother!’’
Can you imagine praying this and keeping a straight face?
“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus, who yelled down, “ACCIO! MOTHER!”, Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, amen.”
That one got vetoed, too, but I loved it. I know Our Lady smiled at that one, too.
What I have enjoyed the most: my kids are a bit more INVOLVED in the prayer.
This week I was in the car with my 11-year old, David, and I invited him to pray the rosary with me.
It was cool because we both said our intentions and then as we headed into each of the Sorrowful Mysteries, we stopped for a moment and had a little discussion about each mystery. Then we agreed on a phrase.
As we prayed the Hail Marys, our minds stayed on the mystery BECAUSE OF OUR CHOSEN PHRASE.
When we got to the fourth mystery, “Jesus Carries the Cross,” David and I went back and forth, trying to find a good phrase that made sense to us. When my 11-year old said, “Who carried the weight of our sins,” I was like, whoa, that’s powerful. And so that’s what we used.
“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus, who carried the weight of our sins, Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, amen.”
And then, during the last mystery, which is the Crucifixion of Jesus, we couldn't really decide on one phrase.
So we just spoke a new name for Jesus with each Hail Mary.
Jesus: Who came to conquer.
Jesus: Who beat Sin and Death.
It made the rosary SO ALIVE and made the Passion (and kick-butt power of Jesus) REAL.
Now, on a more personal note, this technique of using a phrase after the name of “Jesus” has truly deepened my faith and taken me to a more personal encounter with Our Heavenly Family while praying the rosary in my quiet alone time.
I was recently on my deck, praying the Glorious Mysteries…..I got to the 5th decade and searched for a phrase for the Coronation of Mary.
Now, I could have just said something brief, like, “Jesus, who crowned His mother.”
I allowed my mind to go.
Mary. 14 years old. Her Fiat.
Her life. Full of Joys. Sorrows.
Her entire life was about Jesus. She was focused on Him. And then, after all of her suffering and sorrow, Mary was Crowned Mother of HEAVEN and EARTH. No longer that little 14-year old, she now intercedes for us; as the Mother of the WORD, she brings us closer and closer to her Son.
What phrase even begins to capture that? I just sort of got still during that mystery and pondered the glory of God. When we do HIS WILL, He exalts. In ways beyond imagining.
When I prayed the Hail Mary, I got overwhelmed, thinking about her holy life. “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus, who crowned you over all of heaven and all of earth, Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, amen.”
It was pretty dang beautiful.
And that, more than anything, is what I want to share with you today, my friends. The rosary is a powerful weapon. It is a way that we bridge heaven and earth. (And yes, there are a myriad of promises attached to the rosary. But I want this to be about giving to Our Mother, not about Rewards to be Received. You know the difference because you know how it feels when a child does something out of pure love! It's absolutely breathtaking.)
So, if you want to make the rosary come to LIFE, simply pause before each mystery and contemplate what’s really happening in that particular scene. What’s the message that Jesus wants to share with you? Put that into a small sentence and say it after the name of Jesus during the Hail Mary.
By the way, we finally found the rosary book. A child of mine couldn’t shut the reclining part of our sofa and of course he kept trying to get it to shut. Slam! Slam! Slam! I finally said, “Why don’t you see what’s stuck in there?” and he pulled out the shredded book.
That is our life. But, it was a grace that the book was lost. Otherwise, we’d be glued to the pages, using the phrases that the authors had given. Using their technique but thinking up our own phrases has been a massive blessing.
Enjoy, my friends!
P.S. If you have forgotten or don't yet know how to pray this powerful prayer, no worries. Just learn! (And it's not just for Catholics.) Click here: How to Pray the Rosary.
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