According to our Rule of Life as Apostles of the Interior Life the rosary is to be part of our daily prayer. For more than twenty years therefore it has been also for me, but the experience of and fruit from it have changed throughout this time — for the better.
In my experience and that of other people with whom I have talked, the rosary can be a difficult prayer. It might feel like it’s just a repetition of words, with the mind wandering off quite easily. Some do not understand how to make the connection between going to Mary and actually praying to Jesus, and the rosary seems to be a “detour”.
Looking back at the beginning of my consecrated life in community I can recognize two strong desires: growing in prayer so as to live in God’s presence all day long, and growing in my relationship with Mother Mary. With time I have come to understand how these two desires are very connected, and I see them now as key to understanding the prayer of the rosary.
People turn to prayer for many reasons, ranging from dealing with fear and need to expressing questions and desires, but deep down it is because of an innate desire to be in relationship with God. We were created for this intimacy. We want to know him and to be known, and to live life with the One who gave us life and purpose.
When prayer is experienced only as a task to perform, or a mental effort to generate great thoughts, or as frustration because our feelings don’t seem “good enough”, we know that something is off.
Prayer is the encounter of our hearts with Jesus’ heart, a deep, genuine, personal encounter between who we really are and who He really is. When prayer is lived in this way for what it truly is, then it satisfies our thirst, even amidst struggles and battles.
Such an encounter, though, is the fruit of a journey. We learn how to pray. The Apostles themselves, seeing Jesus at prayer with the Father, asked him: teach us how to pray!
We take our first steps often times as young children, with someone who teaches us how to speak to the Lord. Mothers are often those teachers and mentors. As a spiritual mother I receive so much joy when I see someone opening up to the relationship with God and entering into a real and loving dialogue with him.
The good news is that our Heavenly Father has given us a perfect Mother, who is united to the heart of Jesus more than any other human being. She knows Him and is known by Him. She shares his very desire for us, namely to lead us into that personal, life giving encounter with our Lord and Savior.
Mother Mary accompanies us in those wobbling first steps in prayer, holding our hands and taking us closer to Jesus. She knows the ways of perfection, and as we grow, she gives us what we need to become stronger and more secure in our surrender to her Son. As she does so, our eyes are not so much on her but on Jesus and the Father. She points to them constantly.
Without this Mother who teaches and accompanies us, the whole process would be slower, more exposed to dangers and illusions, and it would turn out to be really a long “detour”.
During these almost twenty-five years of consecrated life, those two initial desires at some point came together in a beautiful moment of grace and light, while I was praying the rosary.
It was a new experience of being taken by the hand by Mary and walking with her through the scenes of the life of Christ as proposed by the mysteries of the rosary. It wasn’t just a repetition of words. Those Hail Marys were creating the space for an encounter, an experience of Jesus, alive and present in that moment to me through the mysteries.
Since then, the rosary has never been the same for me. It is not always felt like in that moment of great grace, but when I take the rosary I know I am holding Mother’s hand, and I like to ask her, as we enter each mystery, what she would like me to see and receive there. I ask that my heart may be open to encounter Him and be changed. The rosary teaches us the simple receptivity of Our Lady. When we humbly knock, seek and ask, we receive the grace necessary for each day.
I know that there are those concerned about finishing all the mysteries every time they pray the rosary, but I would encourage you to not worry too much about it. You might not finish the five mysteries during your prayer time. What really matters is that you encounter Jesus. There are times when I go only through two or three mysteries because I stay longer in each one of them, taking in what I see.
It can be of great help to read the related passage of Scripture before beginning a mystery, allowing our imagination to be enlightened by what we read.
We might find ourselves bringing into the mystery the people we are praying for, their needs, intentions, and desires. Didn’t the disciples and Apostles do the same, taking various people to Jesus, glad that they could meet Him, his loving gaze and his healing touch?
Prayer always has vast horizons, and as we enter it we don’t really know where we will be led by the Holy Spirit. The rosary is prayer as well, rich, beautiful, led by the Holy Spirit and his spouse, Mary.
The rosary is a safe space and a powerful spiritual weapon, because Mary is the terror of the devil, and when we pray the rosary we are participating in the victory of her Immaculate Heart.
St. John Paul II had, as we know, a great devotion to Our Lady and he prayed the rosary daily. He wrote a beautiful letter about it, called Rosarium Virginis Mariae. We can turn to this papal writing as we continue to reflect on the prayer of the rosary and as we understand how it is, as John Paul II said, more than just vocal prayer, but actually meditative prayer and even contemplative prayer.
Today I will dedicate some time to pray at least a decade of the rosary. As I enter it, I will ask for a specific spiritual grace, connected with those mysteries, through the intercession of Mother Mary.
This month’s Spring of Water reflection is written by Sr. Celestina.