Uh oh…I’m doing it again… I’ve just found myself rewriting the first sentence of this post about 10 times in order to present you with something catchy that will make you want to hang out with me for the next 250 words or so as we contemplate prayer. But I pledged a few days ago that this blog is going to be an informal arena for me to speak my truth, test the waters of vulnerability and come clean about my recovering perfectionism. Hopefully I don’t scare you off with my topic for today, but I do make fairly decent coffee, the sun is shining in the sun room and I hope you stick around for a while.
I pray… I pray a lot. Prayer is my WIFI connection to God. It’s always there, available to me to tap into anytime of the day to give me comfort, support and most importantly, peace of mind. Most of my prayers are informal; just me having a discussion with my Father. My formula is simple: (1) Gratitude, (2) Personal Requests, (3) Submission to His will. But over the last few years I have a new found love for more structured prayer and especially those that enable me to enter into a meditative or contemplative state. Many religions have some kind of counted, meditative prayer that requires one to stay focused on words or phrases encouraging altered states of consciousness. Regardless of the method, THIS IS NOT EASILY DONE. This kind of prayer should come with a disclosure notice…”results may vary.”
So why talk about the Rosary? Because in my opinion the Catholic faith has one of the most rich, beautiful, and profound methods of this kind of centering prayer. If you choose to sing it (my personal favorite), it engages three out of the five senses. Light a scented candle, presto, now you use four. If practiced with right focus and intention, it has the ability to touch on an emotional level perhaps never experienced before. It’s graces are many and not just for the pray-er, but for the world.
Ok, I know some of you are saying that I sound like Mother Angelica and where is the “new agey” stuff I promised yesterday. Give me a minute, I’ll get there. I feel that the rosary has really gotten a bad rap. Right now all sorts of meditative prayer methods are being popularized by New Age gurus. Every thing from mantras to mala beads, each method having it’s own intrinsic value and heartfelt intention. I’m not saying other methods are bad. I AM saying that just because it’s old and CATHOLIC, doesn’t mean the Holy Rosary has lost it’s value.
Growing up Protestant, I was taught that this kind of prayer was frowned upon. It was nothing more than rote recitation of clinical prayers that earned indulgences (another dirty church word) that would help one rack up “frequent prayer points” redeemable for a non-stop flight straight to the pearly gates. Let me be so bold to say that if you are praying the rosary correctly, it is anything but easy.
The journalist in me requires that I offer up some expert testimony on what I’m eluding to. In his Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, Pope John Paul II states,
“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.” http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_letters/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_20021016_rosarium-virginis-mariae_en.html
Now for those of you who might be interested in a “younger, fresher” approach to praying the rosary, let me offer up a few alternatives to the traditional mysteries, Hail Mary’s and (the prayer that makes me squirm) Fatima prayer. There is a, do I dare say progressive, version of the Franciscan Crown Rosary, called the Rosary of the Seven Rays. It includes seven decades of the Seven Joys of Mary with an LCC slant on the evolution of the human spirit. http://www.saintmichaellcc.org/our-ladys-rosary-of-the-sev-2.html All of the joy without “save me, the sinner” baggage. The sung version, available through the link above, is my personal favorite.
If you are really ready to delve into controversy, may I suggest an entirely new take on the traditional and have you investigate the Magdalene Rosary http://www.margaretstarbird.net/magdalene_rosary.html. Margaret Starbird, a self-professed devout Catholic developed this rosary for intercession through St. Mary Magdalene. I provided the link, you do the research.
My intention today was to take a fresh look at an old tradition and try to breathe new life into its sanctity. I see from my word count indicator that I have well exceeded my 250 word limit, but you can blame JP2’s quote for that. And if you are really ready to give praying the rosary a try but are daunted by its length or don’t want to pray it alone…well, there’s an APP for that!