In my work as a Marian speaker, columnist, and author of a popular rosary devotional, and in my role as a parish priest, I am often met with questions about the rosary. People either ask me questions to better understand the rosary, or they might freely share their disinterest with the devotion altogether.
As we bring to a close the centennial anniversary of the Marian apparitions in Fatima, Portugal, (May 1917 to October 1917) and during the traditional month dedicated to the rosary, we are provided with an opportunity to examine our relationship with it. Perhaps it’s time to give the rosary a second chance by asking ourselves why we choose not to pray it, and then reconsider the place of it in our spiritual lives.
Why don’t I pray the rosary?
In order to give the rosary a second chance in our spiritual life, we must first identify the reasons why we don’t pray it.
Maybe you don’t pray the rosary because you have never learned how to pray it. What do I do on what bead? What about these mysteries? There are a lot of guides available on how to pray the rosary. One I would recommend is by Fr. Donald H. Calloway, MIC, aptly titled How to Pray the Rosary (Marian Press, 2016).
Another common objection might be the repetitive nature of the rosary. The repetitive aspect of the rosary is meant to lead us into meditation and contemplation. As we pray the Hail Mary repeatedly, it allows us to get lost in the prayer, and it allows the mystery to captivate our minds. A final reason might be that we don’t have enough time or are intimidated by such a prolonged period of silence. Compared to how we spend most of our day, the rosary only takes 15 to 20 minutes, and the value of each rosary prayed is eternal!
Why should I pray the rosary?
One of the ways to overcome why we might not pray the rosary and to give it a second chance is by understanding why we should pray it in the first place.
The words Mary spoke each month at Fatima are reason enough. She told the three shepherd children (Servant of God Lucia, St. Francisco, and St. Jacinta) to pray the rosary every day to obtain peace for the world. In the six Fatima apparitions, there was not a month that went by that Mary didn’t request the daily rosary. The Mother of God herself has asked us to pray it.
Dissatisfied with war and violence? Pray the rosary. Mary says it is the way to obtain peace for our troubled world.
Secondly, it is the easiest way for us to reflect on the life of Jesus. St. Louis de Montfort asked his readers if they didn’t pray the rosary, would they open the Gospels and meditate on Christ’s life? The rosary allows us to get to know Jesus better by reflecting on his early years, his passion and resurrection, and with the addition of the luminous mysteries in 2002, the public ministry of Christ.
Thirdly, many holy people, saints, popes, and laypeople have recommended the rosary devotion but also saw it as a means for their own sanctity. Take it from Thomas Merton, who said, “I would never do without the rosary.” If the rosary has been a means of sanctity for the saints, then hopefully it will suffice for us.
Lastly, through the rosary we ask Mary to pray for us now and at the hour of our death. As we ask her to pray for us in this moment, her maternal intercession can obtain for us graces and help us advance in virtue. Knowing that she prays for us as we request her to do so is a powerful reason to pray the rosary.
How can I give the rosary a second chance?
If it has been awhile since you prayed the rosary or your rosary devotion has become stagnant, here are a few suggestions to help you give the rosary a second chance.
Use an app. There’s an app for everything, and yes, there is one for praying the rosary. There are a lot of rosary and prayer apps available. I often use an audio version of the rosary either from the Laudate app or the Relevant Radio app. If I’ve been praying the rosary on my own for a while, I sometimes switch things up by listening and praying the rosary. It gives me a change of pace, and sometimes the audio might include meditations.
Pray while in the car. If you commute to work or are taking your children to school, consider praying the rosary during the drive. If you are with a group, let someone else lead. If you are by yourself, try using an audio version.
Go for a rosary walk. I love summer and autumn because it means I can get out, walk, and pray the rosary. If you are like me, you are obsessed with making sure you get at least 10,000 steps a day. Walking and praying the rosary helps me accomplish that goal.
There is a greater spirituality behind rosary walks. The rosary is Mary helping us reflect on the life of Christ. We could say that Mary walks with us as we reflect on the life of Jesus; she holds our hands and leads us through the mysteries of her son’s life. Mary also was a person who was constantly on the move — going from Nazareth to Ein Karem, from Ein Karem to Nazareth, from Nazareth to Bethlehem to Jerusalem to Egypt, and back to Nazareth. When we walk and pray the rosary, there is a sense of solidarity with Mary.
Pray with someone else. There is an efficacy when we join our voices and intentions with others. St. Louis de Montfort suggests in The Secret of the Rosary that when we pray the rosary by ourselves, we receive the graces for one rosary, but when we pray the rosary with others, we receive the graces of two rosaries or five rosaries and so forth.
Offer each decade for a specific intention. We can try to make the rosary more meaningful by focusing on its intercessory nature — our intercession for someone and Mary’s intercession for our petitions. Once when I was walking to the hospitals to visit parishioners, I was praying the rosary. I knew one parishioner had been in the hospital for more than 20 days and had surgery after surgery during that time. As I prayed the fourth sorrowful mystery (the carrying of the cross), I prayed for her, knowing the cross she was carrying and experiencing. Oftentimes when I pray the third glorious mystery (the descent of the Holy Spirit), I pray for my parish’s Confirmation students. If we reflect on the nature of each mystery, I am certain we will find someone for whom we should pray.
Try a new method. In 2016 I authored a new rosary devotional book called A Rosary Litany (Flores Mariae Publishing). The title might seem confusing: How can you have both a rosary and a litany at once? I call the method a litany because it takes on a format like a litany.
At end of The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort proposed a method of praying the rosary to curb distraction and contemplate the mystery being prayed. De Montfort recommended one phrase to insert in the Hail Mary after the name of Jesus for each decade. For example, the first joyful mystery would be: thy womb Jesus, incarnate, Holy Mary, Mother of God; the second joyful mystery: thy womb Jesus, sanctifying … . De Montfort recommended only one phrase.
Inspired by his method, I developed a saying for each Hail Mary of the rosary — for each decade 10 phrases to insert after the name of Jesus and, at times, after the name of Mary. Many people have found this helpful, saying it encourages them to remain focused and enter more deeply into the mystery. It also reminds us and reinforces the fact that it is Jesus whom we are contemplating when we pray the rosary. If you’ve struggled with the monotony and repetitiveness of praying the rosary, try this method and see if it enhances your personal prayer.
Use a rosary devotional. Many Catholic authors have written rosary devotional books with the aim of helping people pray the rosary better. Oftentimes these devotional books contain meditations to be read before each mystery, providing material for us to think about and ponder while praying that mystery. Visit any Catholic bookstore, and I’m certain you will find a plethora of options.
Participate in a 30-day challenge. People love to challenge themselves with specific goals. Just as we might have physical fitness goals, why not take up a spiritual goal of giving the rosary a second chance? Pray the rosary every day for one month and see if it makes a difference in your life. I’m willing to bet you will experience greater peace of mind and heart, and you might even notice your habits beginning to change.
TO LEARN MORE
I can recommend a lot of books about the rosary. Here are some favorites:
The Secret of the Rosary by St. Louis de Montfort (various publishers)
Champions of the Rosary: The History and Heroes of a Spiritual Weapon by Fr. Donald H. Calloway, MIC (Marian Press, 2016)
The New Rosary in Scripture: Biblical Insights for Praying the 20 Mysteries by Edward Sri (Servant, 2003)
Praying the Rosary Like Never Before: Encounter the Wonder of Heaven and Earth by Edward Sri (Servant, 2017)
Why the Rosary, Why Now? Edited by Gretchen R. Crowe (Our Sunday Visitor, 2017)
Linking Your Beads: The Rosary’s History, Mysteries, and Prayers by Patricia Ann Kasten (Our Sunday Visitor, 2010)
The Rosary Handbook: A Guide for Newcomers, Old-Timers, and Those In Between by Mitch Finley (The Word Among Us Press, Revised Edition, 2017)
All Souls to Heaven: A Catholic Family’s Complete Guide to the Rosary (children’s book) by Tom Wall, illustrated by Martin Whitmore (Aquinas Ventures, 2016)