There is such a rich prayer tradition in the Catholic church, from its very earliest days. During the months of May and October, dedicated to Mary -- the mother of Christ and His first disciple -- we are reminded to pray the rosary.
Rote prayer may seem tedious to some, but the prayerful repetition of the rosary -- the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary, the Apostles’ Creed -- actually inspires a deep meditative state. Praying the rosary presents an opportunity to dwell on events in the life of Christ, His resurrection, and His call to each of us to follow Him.
Some people, unfamiliar with the prayers, dismiss this devotion as a quaint “Catholic thing,” unrelated to their lives.
But each set of the mysteries inspires us to reflect on God’s great gift of self, to dwell among us in human form, as well as prompts us to inspect our lives and actions, to more closely follow the example of Jesus.
All the prayers of the rosary have their roots in the Bible and life of Christ. We reflect on the birth of Jesus, announced by an angel (the Joyful Mysteries), as well as His suffering and death on the cross (the Sorrowful Mysteries), and His resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit (the Glorious Mysteries). We also have the opportunity to pray and think on the Sacraments through meditation on the Luminous Mysteries -- the wedding feast at Cana, Christ’s baptism, His transfiguration on the mountain, and our celebration of the Eucharist, which Jesus himself called us to commemorate during the Last Supper.
I “forgot” how to pray the rosary as a young adult, rebelling against what I perceived to be its strict confines. Why not pray free-form, let the thoughts and needs just flow? God knew what I needed and the needs of others I prayed for!
Truly, He does, and if we only pray the ABCs, He hears and answers us.
Yet I have discovered through the years that, joining my voice and intentions with others and using the structure the rosary offers, those “free-form” prayers take firmer direction and focus, and the needs of others and our world lift more readily from my heart and mouth, to the ears of our Father in Heaven.
And the concerns that weigh my heart and shoulders lift with each prayer.
St. Pope John Paul II had a strong devotion to Our Lady, and the rosary, and knew of its effectiveness in his own life.
I’ll leave you with his thoughts on this beautiful prayer:
The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer. ... it has all the depth of the Gospel message in its entirety, of which it can be said to be a compendium. ... With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love.