Since October is the month dedicated to the rosary, I thought it would be appropriate to revisit a topic I addressed several years ago. If you one of the many individuals who struggle with the rosary, these thoughts may help…
I’ve always found praying the Rosary to be difficult. Although I love the Blessed Mother and understand the importance of the devotion, it just doesn’t come easy to me. In reality, I have no problem SAYING the prayers, the problem arises in transforming the words into a heartfelt prayer. Furthermore, many books tell us how to SAY to Rosary, with only a few instructing us how we should PRAY it. In an attempt to discover the “secret” of this beloved prayer, I’ve done a lot of research and uncovered 10 great (I can say that in all humility because they’re not mine!) tips to help you PRAY (not just SAY) the Rosary!
1. Less Is More – In his book, The Rosary of Our Lady, Msgr. Romano Guardini offers the following advice:
“It is not necessary to ramble through the whole Rosary; it is better to say only one or two decades, and to say them right.”
Talk about removing the pressure! I’ve always struggled to make sure I complete the entire Rosary, even if it meant that I wasn’t paying attention. Now I realize that quality is more important than quantity.
2. You Are Not Alone – A great proponent of Marian devotion, St. Louis de Montfort urges us to be aware of our company while praying the rosary. In The Secret of the Rosary, Montfort reminds us that, when we pray the Rosary, we should put ourselves in God’s presence and imagine that He (along with the Blessed Mother) is watching us and that our guardian angel is standing to our right. If we say the prayers well, our angel will use them to make crowns for Jesus and Mary. Thinking about this before beginning to pray helps us to realize that we are doing A LOT more than just repeating pious words!
3. Watch What You Say – St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, contributes a simple, but often overlooked suggestion. He encourages us to pronounce each Our Father and Hail Mary clearly and without rushing. In doing so, we will better express our love for Mary and Jesus. When praying the Rosary, it’s easy to fall into the trap of mumbling and our rushing through the prayers. Remembering that the Our Father was handed down to us from Jesus and that most of the Hail Mary is taken directly from Scripture should help us to recall that the words DO mean something!
4. Been There, Done That – When we look at Mary’s life, we sometimes overlook her many struggles. Like us, Mary was forced to endure suffering and difficulties, often without a lot of explanation. Being the Mother of God didn’t make her all knowing. The Bible tells us that Mary experienced confusion and had to seek understanding through prayer. In her book, The Splendor of the Rosary, Maisie Ward (Catholic author, publisher and wife of noted apologist Frank Sheed) stated:
“In the Rosary we rejoice, sorrow and triumph with Our Lady as she walks the same path we have to walk. But now she has reached the end.”
When we pray the Rosary, we should remember that Mary understands our problems and confusion. By meditating on the events in her life and the life of her Son, we can obtain help for our daily struggles from someone who is now in a place where we’d like to someday be!
5. Listen To The Word – In his Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae (On The Most Holy Rosary), Saint John Paul II recommends that we supplement our Rosary meditations with Bible reading. After announcing the individual mystery, the late Holy Father encourages us to read an appropriate Bible passage. While this is not always possible (if we are praying while walking or driving, for instance), we can still mentally recall the details of an appropriate Bible story. This underscores the importance of becoming familiar with Sacred Scripture.
6. Savor The Repetition – Sometimes it feels as if praying the Rosary is just “repeating a bunch of words”! In fact, one of the criticisms of the Rosary is that it is nothing more than “vain repetition”. In his book, The World’s First Love: Mary, Mother of God, Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen addresses those who consider the rosary to be monotonous. Using the analogy of a husband telling his wife “I love you” or a mother proclaiming “you’re a good boy” to her child, Sheen stresses that the words mean something different at each point in time that they are repeated. In the same way, each time we pray the Rosary, we are saying “I love you” to God, the Trinity, to Jesus and to Mary. With each successive bead (or decade) the meaning shifts as we contemplate a new aspect of Jesus or Mary’s love.
7. Do Whatever He Tells You – Praying the Rosary, no matter how devoutly, is never a substitute for following the commands of Jesus and His Church. The Rosary should spur us on to live the mysteries in our daily life. In his book, The Sermons of St. Francis de Sales on Our Lady, St. Francis de Sales had this to say:
“The worldly-minded imagine that devotion to Our Lady usually consists in carrying a rosary in their cincture. It seems to them that it is enough to pray it a number of times without doing anything else. In this they are greatly mistaken. For our dear Mistress wants us to do what her Son commands us (John 2:5) and considers as done to herself the honor we give to her Son by keeping His commandments.”
8. Think – In the preface of Father Peyton’s Rosary Prayer Book: The Family That Prays Together Stays Together, Fr. Patrick Peyton reminds us that the Rosary is more than a series of prayers to be recited. Rather, it is “a series of thoughts to be dwelt on, to be turned over in the mind, to be applied in daily life.” While we are saying the words of the prayers, we should be meditating upon the mysteries. That was a hard concept for me to understand, but it’s the key to unleashing the power of the Rosary.
9. Grow In Virtue – Mother Angelica loves the Rosary. In her book, The Prayers and Personal Devotions of Mother Angelica, she discusses how to use the Rosary to grow in virtue:
“If you’re not making progress in one virtue, say your Rosary and meditate on that virtue as Our Lord practiced it. I cannot get over my faults and weaknesses if I don’t substitute those faults and weaknesses for something of God. This is precisely why the life of Jesus and the reading of Scripture and the rosary never seem to change us – why we remain the same: Because to change you need to admire someone other than yourself.”
10. Ask Mary For Help – This one’s so obvious that it’s easy to overlook! This simple, but powerful suggestion comes from a list (Tips On Praying The Rosary More Devoutly) put together by The Association of the Miraculous Medal in Perryville, MO. Before beginning the Rosary, we should ask Our Blessed Mother to help us pray devoutly.
Although the Rosary follows a simple pattern, it can be a very challenging prayer to master. Rest assured that many of the Saints struggled with it too. If you find it difficult to pray the Rosary, try out these tips and see what happens. It might take a little time, but eventually your persistence will pay off. The next time you pick up your rosary beads, imagine that you’re holding Mary’s hand and taking a trip to visit Jesus. For when we pray the Rosary, that’s exactly what happens!
“The Rosary is the most beautiful and the most rich in graces of all prayers; it is the prayer that touches most the Heart of the Mother of God…and if you wish peace to reign in your homes, recite the family Rosary.” (Pope Saint Pius X)