This week I saw the rough sketches for my next book, which is about funny stories from Sisters of Notre Dame classrooms. I suggested that the artist add a large rosary to the drawing of a Sister and e-mailed this photo of the one I used to wear. Although the rosary no longer hangs from our waist, warning students that we are approaching, we still pray it everyday. It is a powerful prayer, and one that Mary urged us to pray when she appeared at Fatima. She prayed it with Saint Bernadette at Lourdes (except for the Hail Marys!). In fact, after the catastrophe of September 11, Pope John Paul II asked us to pray the rosary for peace. October 7 is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, and the whole month is dedicated to this beloved prayer. It’s a good time to renew the practice of praying the rosary. It is not old-fashioned but ever new because while we say the formula prayers, we mediate on Gospel events.
I like to tell this story, which is quoted here from my book The Catholic Companion to Mary:
“A university student sitting on a train next to an old man praying the rosary remarked, “I don’t believe in such silly things. Take my advice. Throw the rosary out of this window and learn what science has to say.” “Science? I don’t understand,” replied the man. “Maybe you can explain it to me.” The student offered, “Give me your address and I’ll send you some literature.” Fumbling in his pocket, the old man drew out his business card. The boy looked at the card and burned with shame. It read, ‘Louis Pasteur, Director of the Institute of Scientific Research, Paris.’ ”
The rosary came about when illiterate people couldn’t pray the 150 psalms. They began to pray 150 Our Fathers. This evolved into 150 Hail Marys (Mary’s Psalter). Saint Louis de Montfort wrote a book called The Secret of the Rosary. In it he stated, “If you say the rosary faithfully until death, I do assure you that, in spite of the gravity of your sins, ‘you will receive a never-fading crown of glory.’ ”
Rosaries are not just for hanging on rear view mirrors, wearing around the neck, or holding in the hand when our body is in a coffin! They are meant to be prayed in honor of our Blessed Mother. People pray the rosary on beads they received for First Communion, on ten-bead bracelets and rings, or on their fingers, which conveniently number ten. Families pray the rosary together; some people pray it when they can’t fall asleep. Pope Francis prays the rosary when he takes a break—sometimes three rosaries a day. He finds it restful.
If you’ve forgotten how to pray the Rosary, you can pray along at the website www.comepraytherosary.org. To teach children about the rosary, there is the reproducible book The Rosary: The Gospel on Beads for Grades 2–6, which can be found in my Bookstore.
When has the rosary meant a lot to you? Do you have a special rosary?