Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Why say the Holy Rosary?

I have a friend who became a Catholic about five years ago. She was totally secular before that and, as this is similar to my own background, right from the start she would seek my advice about how to live a really Catholic life. I told her all of the usual things (e.g. keep close to the sacraments, pray several times a day, examine your conscience every day, root for the Sox, etc.) and, as she knew me and trusted me, she simply took my advice and did her best at trying to live as a good Catholic in this messy world. And for her, it worked. She has a sense of inner peace and well-being that had eluded her in her former life.

Over time, however, people would challenge her on these things and so she would come to me once again to find out how to answer her critics. We ended up having long, and enjoyable, conversations on the efficacy of the sacraments, the role of women in the church, sexual morality — in short, the “why” of being a Catholic. I have always felt that, being forced to defend my views intellectually in these conversations, my faith is deeper and richer as a result. Many of my posts on this blog are a direct result of these conversations and I will often get a morning after call from my friend saying that she’s forwarded my blog entry off to whoever had been pestering her about things in the first place.

About two years ago, my friend became engaged to a fellow who was just as secular as she had been. Naturally, as she loved him and wanted to see him in Heaven one day, she wished for his conversion and asked my advice in the matter. I told her that usually working for conversion was like pushing on a string, and that more souls have been saved by the example of the saints than by all the words of preaching, so the thing to do was to live as a good Christian example for him. Well — it worked. Two weeks ago her fiancee was accepted into the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and my friend is about as happy as can be.

So, my friend has a new question. Her fiancée thinks that the Rosary is repetitive and pointless. Why should he say the Rosary? Here then, are the best reasons I can think of:

1] It’s boring and repetitive. I know this sounds like a bad reason, but upon reflection you will see that there are many times in your life when something boring and repetitive can be an absolute relief. When we thought my son had broken his leg, and he was being taken off for X-rays, a nice boring, repetitive Rosary was simply the best way of dealing with my anxiety. When the troubles of the day won’t leave you alone and you just can’t sleep, the rhythm of the Rosary can be your lullaby. All spiritualities around the world use chanting as a way of clearing the mind and calming the soul; you can use the Rosary as your own chant.

2] It can be an aid to meditation.
Unlike Eastern Spiritualities, where “meditation” means something akin to self-hypnosis, meditation actually is an exact synonym for “thought.” Sometimes we need to keep from thinking, simply to surrender ourselves to God as I mentioned above, but just as frequently we need to think about God, his plans for us, and our relation to him. The Mysteries of the Rosary are a rich treasure that are not only worthy of our contemplation, but can also speak to us. Recently, when I was out for my evening walk with the Rosary, the Second Joyful Mystery (the Visitation) made me think of how, when my friend told me that she would be getting married in August, the hairs had stood up on the back of my neck. That was not only such good news to hear, but it was so pleasing to see them doing everything the right way (they are chaste, plan on using NFP, have a deep commitment to each other, have learned how to work out their differences, are not concerned with material success), and it was thrilling to think of the many blessings marriage would bring to them (an even deeper commitment, children, a partnership lasting throughout life). I thought of how this good news was a Visitation in my life, and of how all of the Mysteries show up again and again in our lives, and how we can’t let these chances for spiritual growth pass us by. How each Joyful Mystery is a chance for thanksgiving, how each Sorrowful Mystery is a chance to offer our sufferings up to God, and how each Glorious Mystery is a chance to surrender ourselves to God.

3] It pleases God and Mary.
It’s the gift that’s sure to please. Worried about your son’s broken leg? Give Mary a Rosary and she is sure to join in your prayers for him. Praying for the conversion of godless communists? The Rosary is too powerful a weapon to neglect. Just too many troubles in your life to even begin thinking about? Take the time to say the Rosary and, by doing something for God, you will feel you’ve done something valuable.

4] It’s a good example for your kids.
My kids know that I say the Rosary every day after dinner and so they know that prayer is as much a part of my life as eating or drinking. When my little Bean-Girl is sick, she comes to sit on my lap when I say it. When Pod-Man is in the dog-house, he knows that he’ll get out all the faster if he comes out on the back porch and says the Rosary with me. They see that prayer is a habit that you must have if you would be close to God.

5] It’s so manly!
Since the very day Our Lady gave the Rosary to Saints Dominic and Hyacinth for use against the heretics, real men have taken the Rosary as their weapon. Dominic himself marched into the thick of the battle of Muret in 1217 armed only with his Rosary. The battle of Lepanto was won by Don Juan of Austria because he had the drummers in his galleys set the rhythm for the oarsmen by reciting the Rosary. (The feast of the Rosary is on the anniversary the battle, 7 October 1571.) Warriors engaged against the infidel Moslems have been particularly devoted to the Rosary, not merely Don Juan, but also John Sobiewski who relieved Vienna from the Turkish siege, and Eugene of Savoy who again defeated the Turks at Peterwardein as well. Marshal Foch, Generalissimo of all Allied Armies during WW1 said that he never missed a day. During the English occupation of Ireland men willingly went to the scaffold rather than give up their Rosary. It is a militant prayer for a manly faith!

6] It has dignity. A few days ago a bicyclist was hit and killed by a car in a freak accident around the corner from my house. The day after he was hit, his co-workers put up a “Ghost Bike” for him (a bike painted white and locked permanently near the place where the accident occurred). After dinner that night, I took the kids for a walk to see the “Ghost Bike.” There were about ten people standing around, four or five co-workers, two or three of my neighbors, several people who were just curious. We didn’t approach as close as the others, standing about twelve feet away so as not to bother anyone, and we said the Rosary. Very quickly the crowd fell silent and looked at us. They were glad we were there. They were glad that someone who knew how was praying for that poor boy. The Rosary commanded their respect because it has dignity.


John Jansen said...

I heard about that fatal bike accident—how awful. God love you for praying the rosary at the site of that fellow's death.

Maggie said...

Praying the rosary is so satisfying. And it will lull a baby to sleep after all else fails. I walked Michael up and down the floor many nights when we first came home and would say the Rosary after even the tried and true "Sh-boom" wouldn't get him to sleep.