I love, love, love the Rosary. It’s a sacramental I have been surrounded by and prayed with throughout my entire life. I cherish the memory of the Rosary wound around my Mother’s and my Father’s toil-worn hands before which I knelt in prayer at their wake. The same occurred at my Grandparents’ passing into Eternal Life. Even earlier in my life, each Sunday morning Dad would take me to Mass and I still see his black rosary lovingly fingered on the back of the pew in front of us as the priest intoned the Liturgy. I cherish the memory growing up of my Father choosing me to go with him to the Marian Grotto at a church in our hometown to record us praying the Rosary for our local radio station WMBO. At times, my husband carried a Rosary ring in his pocket when he did not have a One-Decade Rosary at the ready in his pocket. It warms my heart to see the Rosary in the middle storage compartment of my sons’ trucks and cars available at a moment’s notice. My daughter had a Rosary chaplet made for me from the flowers of her Daddy’s funeral which I cherish so much. For Christmas, family members give me Rosaries in special beads handcrafted in love. A son even gave me a Rosary he made for me out of Mardi Gras beads! The image of my own dear Mother and my husband’s dear Mother, sitting each in their own living room every night, novena book in hand, praying the rosary as Women of Prayer comforts me. To strengthen our family, and to imitate the Holy Family, a dear son composed a Family Rosary decade detailing each prayer assigned to a family member to be said daily when we can and wherever we can in honor of his Dad’s grace-filled suffering contemplated in the Mystery of The Agony in the Garden. A “coincidence?” that historically, Fr. Peyton started the Family Rosary Crusade broadcast at my college. “The family that prays together, stays together” was his battle hymn. From October 2002- October 2003, St. John Paul II proclaimed The Year of the Rosary to bring forth a harvest of holiness: ROSARIUM VIRGINIS MARIAE (RVM).
The Rosary, precisely because it starts with Mary's own experience, is an exquisitely contemplative prayer. Without this contemplative dimension, it would lose its meaning, as Pope Paul VI clearly pointed out: “Without contemplation, the Rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation runs the risk of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas, in violation of the admonition of Christ: 'In praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think they will be heard for their many words' (Mt 6:7). By its nature the recitation of the Rosary calls for a quiet rhythm and a lingering pace, helping the individual to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord's life as seen through the eyes of her who was closest to the Lord. In this way the unfathomable riches of these mysteries are disclosed”. Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus (2 February 1974)
JPII understood people will not be able to recite more than a part of the Rosary, according to a certain weekly pattern. This weekly distribution has the effect of giving the different days of the week a certain spiritual “colour”, by analogy with the way in which the Liturgy colours the different seasons of the liturgical year. This indication is not intended to limit a rightful freedom in personal and community prayer, where account needs to be taken of spiritual and pastoral needs and of the occurrence of particular liturgical celebrations which might call for suitable adaptations.
Thank you, dear Holy Father. I have found it a holy and helpful practice to “adapt the mysteries” to my spiritual practice during Lent. I call this adaption “Going Wide”. I have spread our attention from a traditional narrow focus of just saying the Sorrowful Mysteries during Lent to a more diverse one. I call this adaptation The Lenten Mysteries. They are:
1) The Sacred Profaned
2) The Incarnation
3) The Baptism of Jesus
4) The Crucifixion
5) The Resurrection
The diversity begins in taking Mystery 2 from the Joyful; taking Mystery 3 from the Luminous; taking Mystery 4 from the Sorrowful; and taking Mystery 5 from the Glorious.
Ah, but why Mystery 1, The Sacred Profaned? It was inspired from a comment from Rabbi Heschel, “Why do you have a Savior if you do not know why you need one?” Why, indeed? What shall we say? Who can answer that question? I’m Baltimore Catechism-raised so my Faith explains simply that God created us out of nothing in His image to know him, to love Him, to serve Him and to be happy with him for all Eternity. ALL SACRED. But He did not want us to be robots. He gave us FREE WILL to embrace our sacredness. And, Yep!!! We blew it!! Through our negative choices, we sin. Sin is profanity. We profaned God’ Law, profaned our brothers and sisters in humanity, profaned other creatures, profaned the ecology of the universe, even profaned His Holy Name and Himself…….Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Thankfully, we have not lost our identity; nor have we lost our legacy. We are still SACRED. We have been restored through our Savior, Jesus Christ revealed to us in the Incarnation; Baptism into a Public Life as Rabbi; Crucifixion and Death; and Resurrection.
In this exquisite prayer method of contemplation on the Rosary, there are 3 books I especially love for enhancing mulling over these mysteries. A beautiful and very basic book is Fr. Peyton’s Rosary Prayer Book: The Family That Prays Together Stays Together written by Himself, Venerable Patrick Peyton. In a very practical way, Fr. Peyton hopes to bring his Beloved Mary, Mother of God into the work-a-day world in thoughts from his heart, both lofty and down-to-earth. In his own words, “We are called wholeheartedly to be God’s, and being “ordinary” puts no obstacle in my way.”
The second book, I found very inspiring is Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing, 2nd edition. In this book, Fr. Dwight Longenecker invites us to consider how each of the events in the lives of Jesus and Mary, represented by the mysteries of the Rosary, corresponds to an event or stage in our own life. Through stories, reflections, and prayerful meditations, you will uncover areas where you may need Christ's healing touch, and learn how to take them to Him in prayer through Our Lady. Fr. Dwight shares with us his experience as an Anglican priest with the Rosary thrust into his hand by an Anglican parishioner and the fruits of its prayer for his inner healing and continued trust in Providence of God. It is very “on point.” It is very forthright that transforming ourselves into all God wants us to be is a long journey. It is an adventure of Faith in each Mystery.
The last book I want to share with you popped up on my computer from what must have been a search a while back for stories about angels. I don’t think it would have come up in a search for the Rosary and it is very much about the Rosary and its power. It is Agnes’ Gift: A heartwarming story about the power of the Rosary by Kristelle Angelli. Agnes’ Gift takes a fresh look at the Christian faith through the eyes of a struggling, agnostic teenager. It teaches about God’s amazing love and mercy through a compelling story. Jenna’s journey with her guardian angel through the mysteries of the Rosary might be extraordinary, but having a life-changing encounter with Christ is something many Christians can relate to. Agnes’ Gift is a joyous story about the power of prayer and friendship. It takes the reader on an adventure into the Gospel through the eyes of a struggling young adult, weaving together the story of Jesus and the timeless questions of a contemporary teenager. It is ideal for people of all ages who want to learn more about the ageless wisdom of the Rosary, rekindle a love for it, or wish to take a fresh look at the Christian faith.
This Lent, you might Go Wide with this adaptation of the Mysteries of the Rosary. You may be inspired to create an adaptation particular to you and your life. Traditional or adapted, pray, pray the Rosary. I put little plastic Rosaries on the door knobs of every room in my house. Waiting for the timer to go off? Pray a decade. Finish straightening a room? Pray a decade. “A world at prayer is a world at peace.”
Let us end here with the ending of RVM as St. John Paul beseeches us to place our hopes, our confidence, our Faith in Our Blessed Mother:
I look to all of you, brothers and sisters of every state of life, to you, Christian families, to you, the sick and elderly, and to you, young people: confidently take up the Rosary once again. Rediscover the Rosary in the light of Scripture, in harmony with the Liturgy, and in the context of your daily lives.
May this appeal of mine not go unheard! At the start of the twenty-fifth year of my Pontificate, I entrust this Apostolic Letter to the loving hands of the Virgin Mary, prostrating myself in spirit before her image in the splendid Shrine built for her by Blessed Bartolo Longo, the apostle of the Rosary. I willingly make my own the touching words with which he concluded his well-known Supplication to the Queen of the Holy Rosary:
“O Blessed Rosary of Mary, sweet chain which unites us to God, bond of love which unites us to the angels, tower of salvation against the assaults of Hell, safe port in our universal shipwreck, we will never abandon you. You will be our comfort in the hour of death: yours our final kiss as life ebbs away. And the last word from our lips will be your sweet name, O Queen of the Rosary of Pompei, O dearest Mother, O Refuge of Sinners, O Sovereign Consoler of the Afflicted. May you be everywhere blessed, today and always, on earth and in heaven”.