Throughout my life I have heard many, many miraculous stories associated with the Rosary. Some more “earth-shattering” than others. We never prayed the Rosary as a family growing up not because my family was some kind of luke-warm Catholics. On the contrary, we were/are mackerel-snapping Papists who adored Mary and our orthodoxy although we were literally surrounded by Protestants, Evangelicals and Liberal Catholics. But personal prayer and works were where we excelled not so much group prayer aside from grace before meals. Prayer outside of Mass was a deeply personal experience. There was no wrong way to do it.
One of our funniest stories about family prayer is about my brother Matt. Somehow myself and Mike made it through Catechism and First Holy Eucharist and learned the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be by osmosis, I guess. I never remember sitting down and committing any of them to memory, but I knew them all when I was asked. Now, of course, from life-long Mass attendance, we all knew The Lord’s Prayer and my parents had abandoned the “Bless Us O Lord and These Thy Gifts…” before meals in favor of the Lord’s Prayer to ensure we were saying it daily. But with First Holy Communion just a couple of months away, Matt panicked about the Hail Mary and Glory Be. Now, certainly, a family Rosary teaches those other prayers, but again, for whatever reason we didn’t do it. So, my parents instituted the Hail Mary and Glory Be in addition to the Lord’s Prayer as Grace before Meals. Mike and I immediately protested, we had just learned it, so could he! But we were kids, they were the adults, so we lost. And then my grandparents came to visit. My mother’s cradle Catholic parents who still stuck to “Bless Us O Lord,” but embraced my parents’ alternate grace ideas as well. We forgot to clue them in as to the other prayers but they joined in. My grandmother, enthusiastically as if this was the greatest idea she had ever come across. My grandfather in stunned amusement. And immediately after the Glory Be he launched into “Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy…” A prayer that I, unfamiliar with the Rosary, did not know we all had a good laugh.
I owned a Rosary from the my first communion, and I understood the general concept of it, but I had never once prayed it before. I would sit before mass, or in the line for confession or in the Adoration chapel and marvel at those praying their Rosaries silently. I was a teenager just as the internet was starting to take hold and there was no Google then so I had to put the resources together to learn to pray myself. Now I think, duh Kristen, why didn’t you just ask YOUR MOTHER who prayed it every morning. But it honestly never occurred to me. But somehow or other without my asking, my mom gave me a pamphlet she received from some religious brothers or order somewhere that taught me how to pray the Rosary. It gave me helpful pictures. It gave me scripture to link each mystery with and it gave me reflections. It was a good starting point.
But here was the thing. I was praying the Rosary but I didn’t feel like I was “praying the Rosary.” It didn’t feel like rote prayer repeated over and over, but it didn’t feel as charged as I had expected it to. And so I would go through stages. I would devote lots of time to praying it to not at all. And this pattern continued for pretty much all of my adult life. Whenever I would pray, I would leave the Rosary not quite “feeling it.” I would attempt devotions during Lent and Advent to no avail. I read books about how to pray, I watched the International Rosary on EWTN as well as with Mother Angelica. I read more and more stories of Rosary miracles. What was wrong with me?
I realized sometime in the last year that I worried about praying the Rosary “correctly.” I was concerned because I could not ever pray it silently without losing my place. I could not pray it with a look of proper concentration. I was not getting the “earth-shattering” calm (as a good friend calls it) as I prayed. I HAD to pray it out loud. I would sometimes forget the mysteries. At some point as an adult I convinced myself that I was nothing more than a “bad Rosary Catholic.” Whatever that is. It’s what I was.
I had a huge devotion to the Blessed Virgin, I loved rosaries, what was wrong with me?
Then I decided to make a very conscious effort to quiet my life. To focus more on God. More on prayer. More on the state of my soul vs the state of my social life. To listen to the rhythms of my family and understand them. To be grateful in all things. And all of this brought me closer to Mary than marriage, children or anything else had. I realized that whatever joy I had in my vocations as a wife or mother, Mary had experienced magnified. The sorrows were also hers to a higher degree. And while it is doubtful that I will be “assumed” into heaven or crowned queen of anything, every experience of my life is somehow shared by Mary and she knows what it is to be interrupted in prayer by a little person who needs you RIGHT NOW. Or whose mind suddenly goes blank in prayer, even prayer that is being said fervently. Or who feels that today these words feel forced, even thought I know I should be saying them, they aren’t feeling right. Mary must have felt all that in her life time. Yes, she was the most perfect mother ever in the world, but she was also fully human. Didn’t we just read on the feast of the Holy Family she lost her son, who she happened to know was the savior of the world? She understands and loves even in circumstances as silly as mine. And guess, what so does God.
Suddenly, I realized, all the “stuff” I was worried about was nothing. It did not matter how I “felt,” the prayers mattered as long as I was saying them. It was okay that I had to say the Rosary out loud. If I stumbled over which mystery came next out of nowhere, that was okay, Mary understood, God understood. They knew my heart and soul wanted to pray this correctly. I was not going through the motions, I was praying as I could.
My daily routine now includes a Rosary and a Rosary of Seven Sorrows. Some days I offer my various Rosaries up, others, I pray them as fervently as I can even if I know it didn’t match the last time, it is where I am now. All of my worry was just that MY worry, and I was allowing it to cloud myself from the love of both God and our Blessed Mother who were there all along waiting for me to get over me. I don’t have to pray the “perfect Rosary” I just have to pray it and the graces are present to everyone who does. Even me.