Rosary Markings

  Year of the Rosary, October 2002 - October 2003

The Act of Prayer

by Liz Kelly*

 

No amount of study or intellectualizing can replace the actual practice of rosary meditation.  Just as a writer must eventually stop planning and start writing, the person who plans to pray must eventually start to pray.  You cannot think your way into rosary devotion.  At some point, you must pick up the beads and take action.

But the act of praying is a blessed act.  As St. Paul tells us, "The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words." (Romans 8:26) In rosary devotion, we ask Mary to intercede for us.  Through the same Holy Spirit that overshadowed her, she joins in our prayers with unique fervor.

The rosary addresses some of the common problems we have with prayer.  It gives us a common language, which conversation and communication require.  Perhaps when you enter into God's presence you are shy and tongue-tied -- an understandable reaction to meeting someone for the first time.  Or perhaps you have an unrealistically exalted notion of how sophisticated prayer needs to be.  Because of its uniformity, the rosary is an excellent prayer for overcoming such obstacles.  The rosary can be prayed easily with groups or alone with little worry about "What will I say?"  As Pope Pius XI wrote, the rosary is "without doubt easy for all." In a way, the rosary does the work for you.  To do it, you only need to show up.  

People like to pray in many different ways -- formally or informally, in solitude and with company, with varying degrees of meditation.  Many people like to say the rosary in groups.  Joining a rosary group may help those who are just starting a rosary devotion to familiarize themselves with it.  You may wish to give some thought as to where you pray the rosary.  Most people like a quiet place -- a room or a park where they won't be disturbed.  Churches are an obvious choice.  Other people pray the rosary while moving around.  The steady rhythm of walking, running, or even riding a bike helps them to enter into deeper meditation.  Many people pray the rosary while waiting in traffic or sitting in buses or on airplanes.  

Distractions may make a deep prayer difficult, but prayer does not necessarily need to be exceedingly deep to be deeply effective.  I've learned not to fight my distractions but to lean into them, to embrace them.  Sometimes I may stop my prayer and name the distraction: "Lord, I'm distracted by the people talking behind me as I'm trying to pray.  Please help me get quiet inside myself."  Surprisingly, those very distractions are often the means by which God leads me to a new understanding, an insight or an answer to a problem.  God uses everything to get our attention.  Don't assume that because you are distracted you are doing something wrong.  That you are aware of your distractions is probably an indication that you are on the right track.

* Excerpts from The Seeker's Guide to The Rosary, written by Liz Kelly.

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