The season of Lent is a great time to get reacquainted with one of the most identifiably Catholic of Catholic prayers… The rosary!
I remember praying the rosary with my grandma. My grandma’s devotion to the Blessed Mother was very personal. Mary was her friend and companion, and she would talk to Mary during the day. Her rosary was a prayer, but it was also a comfort just to have in her hands or her pocket or her purse. I recently discovered this quote from Padre Pio, and I feel like it perfectly summed up the way my grandma felt about her rosary… and the way I have come to feel too.
I have a blue cord rosary that I keep in my pocket a lot of the time. It’s been accidentally washed more than once! Sometimes, just having it on me, just reaching into my pocket to touch it, is a reminder that Mary is with me… and my grandma too! There is a multitude of resources, both print and digital, about how to pray the rosary and what the mysteries of the rosary are (try this one from USCCB. And if you’re interested in rosary history, there are a few good resources for that too, like this one from Franciscan Media.
And I just love this recording from Irish priest Fr. Kevin and his sister-in-law Dana:
I’m not going to reinvent the wheel. Instead, I’m going to share with you a couple of the ways I make my rosary more meaningful. Sometimes, it’s difficult to keep my mind from wandering as I pray. St. Teresa of Avila said of herself, “This intellect is so wild that it doesn’t seem to be anything else than a frantic madman no one can tie down.” I guess I’m in good company!
So here are a few of my strategies for keeping my mind on track as I pray:
When I meditate on the mysteries of the rosary, I like to imagine myself as a bystander or minor character in the scene, like a bridesmaid at the wedding at Cana, or a Jerusalem resident along the Way of the Cross. Sometimes I like to think about a quality of one of the people in the scene I would like to emulate and ask God’s help in making me more full of awe like Peter, James, and John at the Transfiguration, or more patient like Simeon at the Presentation at the Temple.
When I pray the Hail Marys, I divide each one into three parts: the Annunciation part, the Visitation part, and the Petition part. As I pray the words, I imagine one of the many beautiful artworks of the Annunciation, then of the Visitation, then of Mary in prayer. (Just google “Annunciation images” for ideas!)
I imagine Gabriel speaking to Mary…
…and Elizabeth speaking to Mary…
I try to use inflection when I pray the words, speaking with the awe and reverence Gabriel and Elizabeth would have felt to be in the presence of the Mother of God. Elizabeth wouldn’t have said, “blessedartthouamongwomen…” but “BLESSED art thou among women! And BLESSED is the fruit of thy womb!”
I’ve found that The Hail Mary is beautifully rhythmic, and I’ll concentrate on the rhythm as I say the words, aligning my breaths to the phrases.
Hail Mary (inhale)
Full of grace, (exhale)
The Lord is with thee (inhale)
Blessed art thou (exhale)
Among women (inhale)
And blessed is the fruit (exhale)
Of thy womb, Jesus (inhale)
Holy Mary, (exhale)
Mother of God, (inhale)
Pray for us sinners, (exhale)
Now and at the hour (inhale)
Of our death, (exhale)
I almost always fall asleep praying the rosary. Concentrating on aligning my breaths to the rhythm of the Hail Marys and imagining the scenes of the Annunciation and the Visitation keeps my brain from the thoughts that overrun it at the end of the day and keep me from sleep. St. Thérèse compared herself falling asleep during the Rosary to a child falling asleep in her Father’s lap while talking to Him. Some say that our guardian angels finish our prayers as we sleep. I love to imagine my guardian angel finishing my rosary over me as I dream.
My sweet grandma died just over five years ago. Huntington’s Disease slowly stole her body and her mind from her. In her last years, deliberate movement and thought became difficult and then impossible. But her hand never forgot how to move in the sign of the cross, and her constant mantra was, “I’m so happy.”
Written by Corinne Cathcart
Corinne Cathcart has been a parishioner at Blessed Sacrament since her family moved to Midland nine years ago. She’s served as catechist, lector, and Eucharistic minister, and during the 2019-2020 year, she served as Coordinator of Sacramental Preparation. Back in Cincinnati, her hometown, she taught second grade at a Catholic school and served as catechist, lector, and Eucharistic minister at her home parish. She’s the mom of a computer-programming, tuba-playing, robot-building freshman at Midland High and the wife of a football-loving, Dow Chemical-working guy she met 25 years ago at Ohio State! When she’s not at church, you’ll probably find her with a book in her hand or singing along to her favorite playlist while she stirs up something new in the kitchen!