How to pray the Rosary: “There is none like this, give it to me”

Rev. John Shaw (a faithful parish priest gone to his eternal reward)

Four hundred years ago, the Church in Europe was in certain danger of being conquered by the Muslim armies of the Turks. As the only means of stopping this avalanche, Pope St. Pius V called on all the faithful to pray the Rosary each day. Because they obeyed the Pope's call, the invading hordes were halted on 7 October 1571 [at the Battle of Lepanto]. The Holy Father made this the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary, and since then, October has become the Month of the Rosary. Over the past 150 years, Our Lady has appeared repeatedly, in particular at Fatima, asking that every one of us say the Rosary every day, to ward off an even greater danger; the spread of atheism, at that time, from Russia.

Praying the Rosary means trying to meditate upon the mysteries (or events) in the life of Our Lord and His Holy Mother which brought about our salvation from sin.

You start meditating by allowing the words of the prayers to sink into the background and by doing your best to concentrate your imagination and thoughts on a particular mystery. You paint the scene, so to speak, in your imagination. You make it as vivid as you can, so as to move your heart and will to make acts of sorrow for sin, of love, of trust, of adoration, of faith.

No one can become perfect at anything in a couple of days, including prayer, so we must persevere in our efforts, even when we do not seem to be succeeding. God will bless our efforts and help us on. Meditation is intended to establish convictions in our soul. As these convictions grow stronger within us, we become more intimate with Our Lord. Eventually, we no longer need to spend as much time in our prayer on meditating. God wants us to make progress in a far more important task when praying: the task of making acts of our will. He makes us aware of the need to move on when we find the Prayer of Meditation becoming more difficult, and even impossible. We find ourselves saying, "I can't pray any more as I used to: what's going wrong?"

Nothing is going wrong: everything is going right! Prayer is the raising of the mind and heart (will) to God. Thinking about God with our mind, even having the most beautiful thoughts about God, is NOT praying if our will is taking no part. Such thoughts may lead our will to act, but it is only when our will responds and plays its part, that we are truly praying.

By "making acts of our will" we mean such things as telling God we love Him, or asking Him to make us love Him by submitting our will to His, or by telling Him we detest our sins and will decide on some definite way of not committing a certain sin again. We make these acts of our will in unspoken words. Thus do we arrive at affective prayer.

When we make acts of our will without any words at all, God is pushing us toward contemplative prayer. This kind of prayer is normal for any Catholic who has matured in his Faith, by giving adequate time throughout life to daily prayer. Contemplative prayer is simply a union of wills, a union of my will with God's Will. When God leads us on to this kind of prayer, we see how all the words of the Our Father and Hail Mary fit in with every mystery of the Rosary.

To reach contemplative prayer, as God intends for us all, it is essential that you persevere through difficulties and never give up; that you ask the priest in Confession for help if things get hard; that you use the graces God offers you knowing that He loves you with a boundless love, and trusting Him to lead you onwards to a closer union with Himself.

A great help to persevering is to recite the Rosary with others at October Devotions or with the family. Either will ensure that you keep at it, even when you do not feel like it, and you are likely to neglect it if praying it on your own. Saying the Rosary together with others also takes care of the words, and allows you to put greater effort into meditation on the different mysteries. After Father Peyton's Rosary Crusade in the 1950s, at his suggestion, many Catholics invited their non-Catholic partners to say the Rosary with them. They were usually glad to be asked, and often it was they who said at night, "Isn't it time we said our Rosary?" Imagine!

Upon what meat have we Catholics fed, that we no longer need to pray to God for our needs; no longer need the intercession of our Blessed Mother; no longer find it reasonable to reflect on that salvation-history about which there is so much talk? "But the Rosary is not easy to say!" And?

Here we touch the nerve of a larger, contemporary problem. We of the present appear to have made the remarkable discovery that prayer, the raising of the mind and heart to God, is not easy, that it is in fact more difficult than ever before. So we do less of it. And yet Catholic literature shows that prayer was just as difficult to people past as it is to people present. But people past came to a different conclusion. Where we say, "Can't do", our religious forefathers (and particularly OUR MOTHERS) said quietly, "You'll have to try harder."

When David was fleeing from Saul, he went to Achimelech the priest in the priestly city of Nobe seeking sanctuary. He and his men were in urgent need of food, and Achimelech gave them the only food they had: the sacred Bread of the Presence. David told him he also needed a weapon to help him face his enemies. But they had none, except the old sword, wrapped in a linen ephod and hanging up behind the altar. It was the very one with which, as a youth, David had slain Goliath. David looked at it, handled it, and all his memories came back to him. There is none like this," he said. "Give it to me."

Maybe for some of us, our beads are rather like David's sword: lost, broken, rusty. Yet it was once our weapon of victory, and it can be again. Let us begin again this October, taking it into our hands and saying with David: "There is none like this: give it to me.”

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