Saturday, July 8, 2017

Living at the Core 6: Praying the Rosary

I really need a Rosary, I thought as I walked towards the church after a stressful meeting and then smiled as I realized that it had become my response to wanting to ease the tension - the kind of feeling that would often make one of my colleagues joke I need a drink.

Sometimes in our faith journeys we never realize just how important a step we feel called to make will be in our lives until we look back and see the impact it has had. In 2014 I chose salud as my one little word to guide the year. It was the first year and so far only year that I chose a word from Spanish, rather than English. Salud is used in different contexts - it means health, it means cheers when saying a toast, and it means God bless you after someone sneezes. Drawing from those translations and some flexibility with nuances in the meaning, I decided that by choosing salud I would be focusing on health: mind, body, and spirit.

I was at a phase in my life where I struggled with career/family balance. I wanted to be more intentional about eating healthy and nurturing my spiritual life. Based on a prompt from Ali Edwards' One Little Word class, I wrote intentions for the year, including learning to pray the Rosary. I can't remember for sure what prompted me to choose the intention. At some point I read Matthew Kelly's section on the Rosary in Rediscovering Catholicism, but I cannot remember whether it was during that year or preceding it. It likely could have been inspired by the youth minister at our church praying the Rosary with youth as I volunteered with the 5th grade class.

While in youth programs in my own middle school and high school experience, we would make Rosaries or decades of the Rosary and pray together. However, I only remembered praying the Our Father and ten Hail Mary prayers. If our youth events focused on meditating on the mysteries, I did not remember that at all. A seminarian at a youth camp once told us about how he would pray the Rosary using his fingers while running, something that I implemented in my own life when backpacking in Spain in college. I think I prayed decades of the Rosary while in labor with my third using the same strategy as well. However, I knew that I did not understand the big picture of the Rosary.

As the end of the year approached, learning the Rosary was an intention I had not yet realized. In general, I reflected on how my one little word journey had been more of the same - a big focus on surviving, trying to cope with the level of stress without really branching out into healthy eating or focusing much on nurturing my faith. Even though late in the year, I wanted that to change, so I committed to learn the Rosary. I went online and printed off guides. I learned about each of the mysteries and the common practices of which mysteries to pray on different days. I familiarized myself with the full sequence of prayers. At that phase, I could not pray without a guide in front of me.

With my goal to learn, it was not my intention to pray the Rosary daily. I just wanted to know how to pray it. Looking back on our faith journeys, it is hard to fully understand all the factors and how they interacted with each other, but I do know that Marian Consecration (early 2015) and the Rosary have been part of the core of my journey. Before hearing about the concept of Marian Consecration, learning about the Rosary probably helped me to be more receptive to wanting to know more about how Mary could play a powerful role in my life. After reading 33 Days to Morning Glory, praying the Rosary helped me to reflect on her life and connections to implications for me.

In the summer of 2015 I committed to praying the Rosary every day in the month of July. Though I recognized the beauty and power of the practice, I thought it was more realistic on summer vacation than as part of my "real" life. Yet, each time I would commit, it felt right. Over a year later, on New Year's Eve at Confession and then again in his homily, my priest focused on making commitments and keeping them with links to Mary during the Vigil Mass for the Solemnity of Mary. The thought entered my mind to commit to praying the Rosary daily during 2017. Doing so inspired me to memorize the last little bit I needed to in order to be able to pray wherever I was at without a guide. Throughout the year I have prayed the Rosary at different times of the day and in different contexts; however, one particularly helpful time has been as a transition point during my day, such as if I am switching from working at the university to working at church or as I transition from work to going home. It can also be a good reset at lunch time.

When I began I saw it as a commitment for the year and have considered from time to time whether I would continue on or replace with a different prayer practice as we transition into 2018. Yet, this summer as I re-read my journaling from summer of 2015, I noticed that I had identified praying the Rosary daily as core. I realized that sometimes it takes time to layer in everything we identify as beneficial to our regular rhythms and routines. There are whispers over time pulling us back, reminding us these practice are worth prioritizing. Just like reading Scripture daily had some starts and stops before making it a consistent long-term part of my day, sometimes we need to recognize the value in something but then leave space to recognize we want it long-term, rather than committing for shorter periods from time to time or having a long-term intention but then falling out of the habit when it is hard to keep all the pieces in place.

These days one of my favorite ways to pray the Rosary is in the quiet of the church when no one else is around, my words filling the space of the church, going at my own pace, meditating on Mary and God as my mentors, reflecting on where I have grown and where I am still called to grow.

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