Several years ago, I walked into a room and saw a friend kneeling next to her son, who had just asked about the rosary. He had heard his cousins talking about it and he wanted to know what it was.
His mom quickly squashed his curiosity, saying that the rosary was “boring prayers that you say over and over.” I chuckled. And I had to admit, when I was young, that is how I used to think of the rosary.
Whenever my mom called us kids to pray the rosary, I usually stalled. I had a hard time leaving whatever I was doing to go pray.
The rosary seemed boring. Lifeless. Something to get through.
Yet those early years of praying the rosary as a family laid a critical foundation for me. The rosary became a place of consolation and solace in the midst of sorrow when my best friend died of cancer at the age of 17. Just grasping the beads gave me comfort, a physical connection to the eternal.
Several months later, in the summer between my junior and senior year, I traveled to Japan to live as an exchange student for ten weeks. I didn’t have a typical situation; I was left alone a lot while my host parents and sister went to work and school. Now, if you know me at all, you know that I love being surrounded by a ton of people, the more the merrier.
It was beyond strange to be left alone for 8 hours a day in a foreign country, so I simply did what my earthly mama taught me to do: I prayed.
I think that is probably when and where I fell in love with Our Lady. I felt incredibly close to her while in Japan. She was just a breath away from me at all times. I felt her motherly presence as I fingered those beads and meditated on the life of her beloved Son, Jesus.
In college I met a group of fun-loving yet spiritually-focused friends. We prayed the rosary together quite often but it was more about being together as a group of friends. We perfected the Speed Rosary. Did you know you can pray the entire rosary in about 7 minutes?
When I look back at my college years, there was spiritual growth, yes, but it was all about relationships and getting to class on time and working, working, working. (And falling in love and getting married!)
When I graduated from college, my new husband Russ and I moved to St. Louis. I got a job teaching at Sacred Heart in Florissant, MO.
Now, at that time, I did not know my Catechism. I could not tell you doctrinal truths.
I simply loved Our Lady. She was just like my earthly mother, warm and welcoming.
It was around that time, 1990, that I learned that Mary was appearing to six children in Medjugorje.
I started doing some research on it. Mary first appeared to six young people in Medjugorje on June 24, 1981. I saw pictures of them. I read their accounts of what was happening to them.
And I believed.
Over time, I taught my students all about Mary’s apparitions. I taught my students about the rosary and how to pray it well.
The thing about the rosary, it’s NOT about mumbling a bunch of Hail Marys. Or, it shouldn’t be about that. (See me cringe as I recall my college years…)
Rather, praying the rosary is an invitation to leave your life for a moment and enter into a different reality. It’s really quite cool. I think that’s the most amazing part about the rosary. I am a mom of 8 in Goddard, Kansas, living in the year 2020. Yet when I pray the rosary, I enter into a whole different world. I think and breathe and live the life of Jesus for 15-20 minutes.
And He teaches me new ways to see the “same thing.”
Pope John Paul II said it far more eloquently:
“...Against the background of the words Ave Maria the principal events of the life of Jesus Christ pass before the eyes of the soul. They take shape in the complete series of the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries, and they put us in living communion with Jesus through – we might say – the heart of his Mother. At the same time our heart can embrace in the decades of the Rosary all the events that make up the lives of individuals, families, nations, the Church, and all mankind. Our personal concerns and those of our neighbour, especially those who are closest to us, who are dearest to us. Thus the simple prayer of the Rosary marks the rhythm of human life.” -Rosarium Virginis Mariae
Don’t you love that? The rosary “marks the rhythm of human life” as the life of “Jesus Christ passes before the eyes of the soul.”
Why is prayer so important? Well, I think it has to do with conversion. God wants His family back. We have strayed. Or at least I have. I get so caught up in this or that thing. I get enamored by a Netflix series or a new artist on Pandora. I look to the world to fill me.
God wants First Place.
After I pray the rosary, this thing happens. I cannot listen to certain songs. The lyrics that I once accepted as “okay” are no longer okay. I don’t want to hear or watch crap. I almost cannot stand it. And maybe that’s the point.
This is not our home. This is not our true reality. Satan wants us to think it is. He wants us to be filled with all of the comforts. He wants our ears to be filled with compromising lyrics. He wants our eyes to watch all sorts of things online.
Praying the rosary creates a very clear dividing line. It’s like we are given the eyes to see.
Okay, now let’s get practical. How to “enter into” a prayer that uses recitation? (And how to avoid the temptation of becoming many mumbling mice?)
Well, for me, I’ve had to leave behind the notion that I need to pray, as in an obligation. Obligation is about checking off the box. It’s about just doing the thing. God wants something else. He wants your heart.
So, to truly enter into the rosary, we must enter into it with our heart.
What does it mean to pray from the heart? Well, for this, I wanna share some simple yet powerful thoughts by Mirjana Soldo.
“For me, it’s when I feel everything I want to say instead of merely thinking it, when every word passes through my heart before it comes out of my mouth. When I say Hail Mary, I try to feel like I’m truly greeting Mary with love. When I say full of grace, I marvel at how much grace Our Lady gives everyone. I talk with her in prayer - it’s not that I see her or hear her, but I can sense her voice within. When I reflect on Mary’s Assumption into heaven, for example, I ask her how she felt and what she thought in that moment. Prayer never seems like repetition to me because I always feel new and different things.”
“With prayer and fasting we can turn from all material things that bind us to contemplating God,” said Fr. Slavko. “The more we contemplate God and Our Lady, the more we become like them. And the more we become like them, the easier it is to open our hearts to them.”
“It takes practice, perseverance, and a clean soul to feel God’s presence when you pray,” Mirjana adds. “If you don’t know what it means to pray from the heart, consider trying this: confess your sins and give everything over to God. Fast on bread and water. Pray the rosary and then speak to God in your own words, as if you are talking to your closest friend or loved one. Continue with your fasting and prayer. Soon you will discover what it means to pray from the heart. You will recognize God’s unmistakable presence when you feel it, and you will never want to stop.” (Excerpt taken from “My Heart will Triumph” by Mirjana Soldo, page 350.)
I love that. So much. The truth is, we are at a place in our world where we need to pray. There is a lot of unrest, confusion and fear.
Yet right at our fingertips we have the means to live in peace.
And some good news, our bishop has invited us to pray the rosary daily this month. This is good news because my kids are like I used to be, reluctant to pray. Just telling the kids that this is from the bishop has made them 100% on board. (That good ol’ third party validation!)
Find his letter and invitation here: August Rosary Crusade. (Thank you, Bishop Kemme, for giving this a strong, manly name!)
Print a calendar for the month of August. Hang it up where everyone sees it. Ask your children to mark an X on the day after you pray, which helps you keep it going every day.
If you have forgotten some of the prayers, no worries, use this site: How to Pray the Rosary.
If you have kids, you may want to read this post: “Make the Rosary Come to Life!”
Friends, see with eyes of faith. The rosary is not a bunch of “boring prayers that you say over and over.” Praying the rosary is about entering another dimension, the REAL world.
It is there where we learn from the humble Virgin. It’s there where we experience the surprising, radical love of Jesus. It’s there where we renew our church. It’s there where we become who we really are.
P.S. One of the things that used to keep me from deeper prayer: my inability to feed myself. I know. That sounds crazy, but it was my truth. I was stuck in this weird place, where food was everything to me. I hated living such a small life; I knew I was more than that.
As I learned about my real identity as a child of God, I realized why diets never worked for me. It was never about the food.
If you are a place where you want to walk in freedom, then I invite you to take several hours out of your busy life and go on an online adventure with me: The Inside Out Retreat.
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