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A woman prayingOne of the most confounding things about being a new Catholic has been learning how to pray the Rosary. I’ve been to family Rosary gatherings, special Rosary services, and attempted several times to pray it on my own. But, it never quite clicked for me.

In my first attempt, I pulled out my Knights of Columbus “How To Pray The Rosary” wallet card and followed the instructions. I navigated my way around the Rosary without any problems but I had trouble with contemplating each of the mysteries. The instructions said to announce the mystery and then contemplate on it while saying the decade of Hail Marys. So, using the Sorrowful Mysteries as an example, I announced, “The Agony in the Garden”, and then tried to think on that as I was saying my first decade of Hail Marys.

Those five words, “The Agony in the Garden”, didn’t tell me much. There wasn’t enough there to contemplate. What was I supposed to think about? I did manage an image of Jesus wrestling with what he knew He would have to do, but, I couldn’t sustain that vision when I was trying to deliver ten marginally memorized Hail Marys.

For my next effort I went to a Sunday Family Rosary with friends. I followed in sync with everyone but, once again, I got lost when they got to the announcement of the Mystery. This group used the St. John Vianney Vocation Society publication as a guideline. Thus, when they announced, “The first Sorrowful MysteryThe Agony in the Garden”, they also said, “Jesus asked His Apostles to pray so that they ‘might not enter into temptation.’ Our Lord knew they needed to pray in order to endure what would soon happen.”

I thought, “Wow, there’s more to it than simply saying, ‘The Agony in the Garden’”? In addition to envisioning Jesus in agony over his fate, here was something else to be contemplated: praying for the strength to resist temptation. I asked a friend about this and he told me, “Not everyone prays the Rosary exactly the same way.” The heck you say!

About a month ago a friend gave me another Rosary guideline, this one published by the Marian Fathers. It suggested that the first Sorrowful Mystery should be announced as, “In His anguish He prayed with all the greater intensity, and His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground. Then He rose from prayer and came to His disciples, only to find them asleep, exhausted with grief.” (Luke 22:44-45)

As I read this I was able to conjure up a better vision of how Jesus must have felt that night in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Also, about a month ago, one of our priests, Fr. Rob, handed out CDs he had recorded of himself praying the Rosary. The way he announced each Mystery made it more personal for me. For example, with the first Sorrowful Mystery he said, “As we recall The Agony of Jesus in the Garden, let us ask the Lord to feel the weight of our own sins, that we can truly repent from the evil that is in them”. I could do that.

About that same time my wife told me of another resource that helped her to better understand each of the mysteries. The web site, The Rosary Center , illuminates each Hail Mary of each decade of each Mystery in such a way that I can’t help but understand them. It also summarizes each Mystery with a “Spiritual Fruit”, which, for The Agony in the Garden is, “God’s Will be Done”.

In the end, I’ve learned there are many different ways to pray the Rosary, each different but each correct. And, I’ve concluded two things: first, that most cradle Catholics probably learned one way to pray the Rosary and have probably always prayed it that way; and second, that I would teach myself to pray the Rosary by utilizing the expanded reflections on each Hail Mary as presented by the Rosary Center. Then, once I internalize the meaning behind each Mystery, I will be able to recite one of the “shortcuts” as found in the other guidelines but still know the true meaning of that Mystery.

Do you have any special thoughts you can share about how you pray the Rosary?

This week I had an opportunity to give it another try. My experience convinced me to write about it.

Many of my posts are born from “God-Moments” when the Lord reveals Himself to me through subtle indicators that He is present.  Such was the case Tuesday.

I was working at our office in Somerset, Ohio. As I was leaving it began to storm. Rather than drive in a downpour, I chose to stop at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, just three quarters of a mile from my office, for an hour of Adoration. St. Joseph’s is the oldest Catholic Church in Ohio (see my post from September 2013 The Cradle of Faith in Ohio) and is a beautiful church. I grabbed my Rosary from my car’s console, and I ran up the steps to the church. I was the only one there. I knelt in the front pew, said prayers for Thanksgiving and assistance, and then began to pray the Rosary with determination. Since it was Tuesday I prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries and I was able to contemplate each of them in a way I had never before been able to do. With each Hail Mary I felt as though I was there, two thousand years ago, witnessing each event. In perhaps a small way, I had a sense of what Jesus was feeling. But, I also felt a connection with Mary and how she must have felt as a parent watching her Son being crucified. I cried.

When I finished I sat there a while longer in the total silence and solitude of the church. I realized I had not yet read the daily scripture so I pulled out my phone and called up my Laudate app. As I read, a smile came on my face and I nodded gratefully towards the ceiling. I discovered that it was the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary that day. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Lord, I’ve come to expect these visits from You. I look for You to show Yourself and You have never failed or disappointed me. I certainly don’t feel I deserve them but, nonetheless, I thank You for all the Graces You give me. Amen.

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