Struggle With The Rosary? You're Not Alone
There are many reasons cited for not saying the Rosary: It takes too much time; it feels like mindless repetition; the mysteries are difficult to remember; it centers on Mary, not God; my mind wanders, therefore I wonder if my prayers are effective.
Sound familiar? If so, you are in holy company. In his book, “Praying the Rosary Like Never Before,” Edward Sri cites numerous examples of devout people who have struggled with its recitation. Sri says, “Pope Benedict XVI admitted that praying a rosary is often too much for him to do in a single sitting.”
However, the difficulty did not hinder the people Sri writes about from praying what Bishop Fulton Sheen dubbed “the perfect prayer.” First, let's consider the time factor. The 15-20 minutes required to say the Rosary (if said with reflection and reverence) offers a person the possibility of entering into a meditative state, something that rarely happens in only a few minutes of prayer. The Rosary teaches us patience and perseverance.
Secondly, as one retreat presenter noted, the Rosary is a summation of Jesus’ life. Since St. John Paul II introduced the Luminous Mysteries in 2002, the Rosary tells the story of Christ’s life from birth (Joyful) through his 3 years of ministry (Luminous) to his suffering and dying (Sorrowful) and finally His and Mary’s entries into Heaven (Glorious). Taking time to reflect on each mystery before reciting the prayers deepens the impact of the Rosary.
St. Therese of Liseux and St. Louis de Montfort both acknowledged struggling with distraction. St. Therese said, “For a long time I was disconsolate about my lack of devotion,” but she went on to explain that she realized Mary is pleased with our good intentions. St. Louis de Montfort said, “Even if you have to fight distractions all through your whole rosary, be sure to fight well…do not stop saying your rosary [for it] is profitable to the faithful soul.” St. Louis noted, “The devils have an overwhelming fear of the rosary,” because its original intention was to fight heresy. We need only to concede the moral decline of society today to understand the need for the healing effects of the Rosary.
Finally, it is important to note that the Rosary is not centered on Mary, but Christ. Listen as you recite the Hail Mary. The center word is Jesus. The mysteries reflect, not on Mary, but on Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. The prayers begin at the crucifix and circle back to the crucifix, revolving around Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice.
In 2018 after much prompting, my new year’s resolution was to recite a daily Rosary. Initially, the resolution was a struggle. Kneeling for 15 minutes wasn’t working. As my husband points out often, I can barely sit that long. Finding the right time was the next hurdle. First thing in the morning appeared to be the best option, but the day’s demands often loomed larger. On the flip side, if I waited too late, then I was faced with the task as fatigue set in. I was struggling.
Finally, I began to recite a decade or two as I drove from one place to another. That worked. I also found the rosary a great walking companion and am sometimes rewarded with a meditative spirit that leads me into other conversations with God. I also learned to take a few minutes to visualize each mystery. Finally, I discovered that dedicating one mystery to certain people on my prayer list makes it more meaningful. I had found some workable solutions.
However, a twinge of Catholic guilt made me wonder if my methods were as reverent as kneeling the entire 66 prayers. Fortunately, as I read about Mother Theresa (who carried and prayed a Rosary everywhere) and other Marian devotees, I realized that, “Mary, our perfect Mother, is pleased with our efforts just as we parents are pleased with the imperfect but well-intentioned gifts of our own children.”
St. John Paul II said this “perfect prayer” leads us directly to God through Mary. During this month of Mary and forevermore, let us join our voices with the thousands of saints, known and unknown, in recognizing the Rosary as “our spiritual sword” against the evil in this world. Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with you.