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Catholic Spiritual Direction

The Rosary – Mary’s School (Part I of II)

September 20, 2013 by  
Filed under Fr. Najim, Rosary

October is traditionally the month of the Rosary.  As we get ready to observe that month, I’d like to reflect on a great Catholic tradition that I believe is one of the best ways to practice meditation and to progress in contemplative prayer: the Rosary.  Catholics, and others, pray the Rosary to contemplate more deeply the mysteries of Christ’s life.

Obviously, the Rosary is a set of beads.  But, the beads are not an end in themselves.  They are an aid to prayer, not the focus of the Rosary.  Why not just sit quietly, meditating on the Lord? Well, we certainly can do that.  However, Christianity, in essence, is a very tangible religion.  After all, God became man in the person of Jesus Christ.  You can’t get much more tangible than God taking on human flesh.  Jesus used his own spittle combined with dirt to heal the blind man (John 9:6).  He took ordinary bread and wine and changed it into his body and blood, a miracle that we relive every day at Mass.  A wooden cross became the instrument that brought about our salvation.

If Christ used tangible realities to communicate his divine life to us, then we can use tangible things to deepen our union with him.  The Rosary is just that: it’s tangible; the beads guide us as we pray; the beads free our minds and hearts to focus on the mystery we are contemplating.

Dr. Mark Miravalle, one of my college theology professors, used to say that “The beads are for the prayers, and the prayers are for the mysteries.”  In other words, the beads help us to focus on the prayers, and the prayers help us to focus on Christ.  The beads and the prayers, in a sense, become the dramatic musical score leading us to experience Jesus in a deeper way.

There’s something relaxing, contemplative, about letting the beads flow through our fingers, spinning them as we prayer the Hail Mary’s.  Like life, like breathing, like the heartbeat, the Rosary is rhythmic.

If you’re not Catholic, stick with me.  I know there are a lot of misconceptions about Catholic devotion to Mary and the Rosary and I’d like to have the opportunity to explain it to you.  If you’re Catholic but don’t pray the Rosary, I encourage you to form the habit.  Just start by praying one decade a day.  It’s not about quickly firing off a bunch of Our Fathers, Hail Mary’s, and Glory be’s; it’s about praying from the heart and entering more deeply into friendship with the Lord.  As we let the beads pass through our fingers, we are freed to lift our minds and hearts to God, to meditate upon Jesus.  Indeed, the Rosary is meant to help us transcend ourselves so that we can contemplate the divine mysteries.

I’ve been reminded of the transcendent in our lives, every time I’ve been in Rome.  Walking into St. Peter’s basilica–or other major basilicas or churches in Rome or around the world–one’s heart and mind is drawn to contemplate divine mysteries and eternal truths.  The very art and architecture of these sacred spaces propel one’s vision heavenward.  Indeed, these places of worship were designed to so.

The Rosary, too, is meant to elevate the mind and heart to God.  The Rosary, like a great basilica, is mean to draw us out of ourselves.  It leads us deeper into the mysteries of Christ’s life and, therefore, deeper into friendship with Christ himself.  The meditation of the Rosary fills the mind and heart with thoughts of the divine.  It takes us up into something greater than ourselves.

What’s so healing about this form of meditation is that our own lives are illuminated by the very mysteries we contemplate in the Rosary: the Joyful Mysteries show us how we can bring Christ’s presence into the world; the Sorrowful Mysteries teach us to see the good that can come from our suffering; the Luminous Mysteries enable us to discover our mission in Christ; and the Glorious Mysteries enflame our hearts with the hope of eternal life.  The Rosary itself is meant to lead to communion with God.  The paradox is that the more we “lose” ourselves in meditating on Christ’s life, the more we “find” our true selves in Christ.

In my next post, we’ll reflect on the Hail Mary prayer itself and consider what Mary teaches us through the Rosary.

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About Fr. Michael Najim

Fr. Michael Najim is a priest of the Diocese of Providence. He is the Director of Spiritual Formation at Our Lady of Providence Seminary and serves as chaplain of LaSalle Academy, a coed Catholic high school in Providence, RI. He is the author of Radical Surrender: Letters to Seminarians, published by the Institute for Priestly Formation. He also blogs at www.liveholiness.com

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  • Camila

    Thank you father for this great post. I love how you compared the rosary to a great basilica. So true. It’s a spiritual basilica filled with precious rooms, images and fragrances inviting and prompting our hearts to greater union with Christ and His magnificent Mother.

    • Magdelene Monaco

      Well said Camila! : ))

    • LizEst

      Beautiful! Thanks Camila. Please see Fr. Najim’s response to you above.

  • A. Crawford

    What a beautiful reflection on the Rosary–I can’t wait for the second part! I am a convert to the faith, and I have found these tangible objects–the Rosary, various chaplets, icons, etc.–to be a great help to my faith in helping me focus on the other world instead of this one so much.

    • Fr. Michael Najim

      I’m grateful to God for your conversion to the Faith! Thanks for reading and commenting. Peace and blessings!

  • Fr. Michael Najim

    Camila: Thanks for reading and commenting. The Rosary, indeed, is ultimately about a deeper union of our hearts with Jesus and Mary. Peace and blessings to you.

  • Guadalupe Lynch

    I love the Holy Psalter of our Lady, the Rosary, and all the 15 promises attached to it. My favorite promise is: It will cause virtue and good works to flourish; it will obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God; it will withdraw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire of eternal things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.
    The Rosary is our remedy and our weapon against the forces of evil.

    • Fr. Michael Najim

      Guadalupe: thanks for sharing this beautiful promise of the Rosary. Great reminder for all of us! Peace and blessings!

  • http://www.donnasueberry.com/ Donna Sue Berry

    Father Najim, what a fantastic article, I can hardly wait for part 2. …”As we let the beads pass through our fingers, we are freed to lift our minds and hearts to God, to meditate upon Jesus…” Just reading these words that you wrote brought a peace of mind to me as that reflects exactly how it feels and what it does when praying rosary. Thank you!

    • Fr. Michael Najim

      You’re welcome! Glad the article was helpful.

  • walker_percy

    How does everyone feel about iPhone Rosary apps? I can’t really afford a Rosary yet (not the family keepsake I want to buy, at any rate) so I pray both the Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy (and for that matter, various novenas) using my iPhone. I see others doing this, too, but I am always a bit self-conscious about it appearing that I’m texting or checking my email while kneeling in church. On the other hand, the app gives me the saint of the day, the Rosary, scripture readings, the Divine Offices, and lots of prayers — and I use it for all these things.

    • A. Crawford

      Do you mean you don’t have a physical Rosary? If you would feel comfortable sending me your physical address, I would send you one! Do your little girls need them, too?

      • walker_percy

        Correct, That’s so extraordinarily kind of you. My children are being baptized in the Church …. tomorrow ! … and I believe my mother will give them rosary beads as a gift. Let me see how that plays out before I consider imposing. That said, I believe I should get my priorities in order and buy them myself should that not pan out. I am perfectly able to (thanks to some extra work that came after a novena to St Joseph, but that’s another story).

        • A. Crawford

          Well, it wouldn’t be an imposition! I love giving people Rosaries, and I have several on hand (we keep them to give to people who need them). The Autom company has very inexpensive rosaries, though, if you should wish to buy one for yourself.

        • Becky Ward

          Congratulations!! I will pray for all of you.

          • walker_percy

            Thanks. It was absolutely beautiful. I am very, very, very proud of my girls. Did I mention that I’m very proud of them?

    • A. Crawford

      Sorry–I forgot to include my email. ardella.crawford@gmail.com

    • http://www.donnasueberry.com/ Donna Sue Berry

      Hi Percy! Love the Rosary apps for the very reason that there are times when so much has been going on around me that I have a hard time stopping, dropping, and meditating while I pray my Rosary. My mind wants to wander, so I have found that when using the Rosary apps I can really pray and meditate with the person on the app taking the lead so to speak. I don’t use them all the time, but really have enjoyed the help they give me when using them to go away in my spirit to be alone. For example, we travel A LOT, and the rest of the car load may be carrying on their own conversations or listening to the radio, and there are those times I can turn on my ear piece and pray a Rosary, or my Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Also, at nights when the Grandbabies are with us, I turn on the Rosary and pray along with the app. Peacefulness. God Bless!

  • walker_percy

    And another question about our Blessed Mother: I’ve told my girls, ages 8 and 10, that Mary is their friend to rely on when they need her prayer, but I wonder if I’ve been inaccurate in saying this and should stress Mary as their Mother instead.

    • Camila

      Hi walker_percy,

      Here’s a great source to answer your question. It’s an encyclical promulgated by Pope Blessed John Paul II called Redemptoris Mater (Mother of the Redeemer).

      If you don’t have the time to read the entire document, then skip down to the number 44, 45, 46, 47, 48… It is absolutely stunning what you will find there. A beautiful treasure. Here’s the link to the document:
      http://www.ewtn.com/library/encyc/jp2mothe.htm

      May God bless your reading; and may our Mother Mary pray for you and your daughters.

  • Becky Ward

    Dear Fr. Najim,
    This is one of the best explanations of the rosary that I’ve seen. I am working with a young girl who just asked me, “If we can pray right to God, why say all the Hail Mary’s?” I was stuck for a simple answer, but now I have one. I’m printing this out to give to her. Thank you!

    • Fr. Michael Najim

      Becky,
      Thanks for your kind words. I hope the article is helpful to that young girl.

      Peace and blessings!

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