It’s a bit of a long ramble tonight. Sorry, I didn’t have time to make it shorter. (Hiya, Pascal!) ;)
I don’t know how many of my readers are Catholic and how many aren’t. I assume most are but I wonder. I don’t even know how many actual readers I have. Probably a fraction of those who “follow” me ever get around to reading anything I’ve written. Well, I’m going to do what I’ve been doing, and write as if I’m addressing fellow Catholics or someone who is at least interested in Catholicism. And since this is supposed to be a post about the Blessed Virgin Mary (in the Something About Mary Every Day In May series), tonight I will write about one of my favorite Marian topics: the Rosary. Eventually. ;) Here goes.
When I was a young woman, fresh out of high school and no longer expected to accompany (I used to like that word) my family to church on Sundays, I began to search. I didn’t know what I was searching for, but I knew there had to be something. There had to be some way to know more. More about the reality, truth, the universe, more about how Christianity was supposed to work. No one could ever answer when I asked these things at home or at Sunday School or anywhere else. But I knew that someone somewhere had answers, to my questions, to my deepest longings, and I was determined to find that someone and get my answers, once and for all.
I had gotten glimmers of it in the poetry that we read in class, or, more frequently, in the poetry I read in my father’s old high school literature books (which I devoured during weekends spent with my grandmother). I knew that those poets knew something, but I still didn’t know what it was that they knew or where to find it. I didn’t even know where to begin looking.
I took a philosphy class in college. Nope, no answers there. (It was mind-numbingly dumb.) Took a psychology class. Nope, no answers there, either. (Rats? In mazes? Really?) Took a timeout and began to read everything I could get my hands on that made me think or gave me that feeling. I don’t know how else to describe it. It was a feeling. Either a subject had it or it didn’t. A book had it or it didn’t.
This led me down some interesting byways. I’ve written about that journey elsewhere (here and here). Suffice it here to say that I wandered and one day found myself alone in a dark wood (Hiya, Dante!) and it was a very dark wood, indeed. I prayed to the Lord to get me out of all of that. I knew I had taken a very wrong turn. But I was not ready to give up the things I had found along the way. I had no intention of giving up my fascination with new age astrology or Buddhism. The ways of meditation in Buddhism struck a deep chord within me and I thought it was the thing I had been searching for all those years ago.
Enter the Church. A friend of mine became more interested in her Catholic roots and I was eager to see her interest in religion develop, even though I was far from my Christian roots at the time myself. Her interest in Catholicism is what got me interested. Oh, the Lord works in mysterious ways!
Had I known that Christianity had, withint its own traditions and history, so many different paths, so many different ways of meeting the Lord and entering into a relationship with Him, so many ways of devotion and practice, yes, its own ways of meditation (not at all like the ways of Buddhism and yoga, though outwardly and superficially one might believe they were similar)—I might never have wandered in the first place. Reading and listening to tapes was enough for a while, but, once again, I wanted to go deeper.
And this is when I discovered the Rosary. The story of how I came to begin to pray the Rosary is told in another post on the blog. Here I want to talk about how the Rosary has helped me go deeper into Catholicism.
It hasn’t helped me reach a deep meditative state by chanting the prayers of the Rosary over and over. It hasn’t helped me open my third eye or any chakras or raise any energies. Thank the Lord! That’s not what Catholic meditation is all about. Not at all. Catholic meditation is about being with the Lord and letting Him reveal what He wants to reveal in His own time. It’s about conversing and communing and simply being with God, the One Who loves us most, as St. Teresa would say. It’s about helping us be transformed by the One Who is love.
And no one loves God more than His mother. The one who bore Him. The one who took care of Him and protected Him and answered when He called. The one who was brave enough to never fail Him, not once, not even at the foot of the Cross.
I didn’t know all of this about her when I first started praying the Rosary. I had read more about her at this point and I did know more than I had ever known before, but that wasn’t very much. I grew up Methodist, remember. The mother of the Lord just wasn’t part of our world except during Christmas when we got out the family Nativity set and put it in the living room. That was it. And maybe a few times when she was mentioned or shown in old black and white movies I watched with my mom on weekends. Otherwise, nada, zip, zilch. Nothing.
But as I studied the teachings of the Church, and listened to Scott Hahn tapes, and talked to people who came into the Catholic bookstore where I’d begun working—oh, yes, I said He works in mysterious ways—I began to realize that the Blessed Virgin Mary was a force to be reckoned with. Fr. Corapi used to say, “Your mama wears Army boots.” (I miss him.)
I began praying the Rosary and asking the Blessed Mother for help. And one thing after another, problems that I had, and that I thought I would never get away from, began to fall away. Not without some pain and suffering, mind you. But over time, my entire life changed. Totally. Completely. Hallelujah! It needed to! I needed to! And I wouldn’t go back to the way I was before for anything in this world.
I know some people think the Rosary is just “vain repetition” but I have to ask those people: did you ever learn to play a musical instrument? Ride a bike? Learn your multiplication tables? All of those, and a good number of others, too, are learned by repetition. Was that repetition vain? Not if you learned from it. So not all repetition is vain.
The Rosary does contain many words that are repeated. Songs do, too. Some of my favorite songs have verses that are repeated over and over and I never tire of singing them. Same thing with the Rosary: we say the prayers over and over, and sometimes we pay more attention and sometimes we may pay less. And sometimes we experience something deep and surprising, and sometimes we don’t seem to experience anything at all. And that’s okay. We’re not praying the Rosary in order to have “experiences” or at least we shouldn’t be. We’re not spiritual tourists. That’s a good way to get into trouble, to get involved in things that are not about serving God or communing with Him, but are about serving ourselves. And surely we don’t need to spend more time doing that, do we? That’s what we’re trying to NOT do. We’re trying to get free–free of selfishness, which is not free at all and is a great big chain holding us back–but to get really free with the freedom that only the Lord can give us, when we serve Him out of love and not for “what He can do for us” or how He can entertain us or make us feel good.
I invite you now to use the Rosary Project pages on the blog and pray and meditate on the Mysteries of the Rosary, the life of Christ as seen through the eyes of His mother, and our mother. When you’re first learning to pray the Rosary, it’s a bit like that learning we were talking about a few moments ago, learning to drive a car or ride a bike: so many things to keep track of, so much to remember, that it hardly feels like praying at all. But after a while you do begin to remember. You being to notice things. And the more you pray the Rosary and the more you begin to notice, the more you begin to enjoy praying and noticing. And one day after that, you may get to the point where suddenly you find that you have finally begun to pray.
This series continues throughout May. Stay tuned for more. Thanks for reading and visiting. I hope you’ll enjoy your stay and may His peace be always with you and yours. God bless you. Amen.
This has been a post in the Something About Mary Every Day In May series.
Some images contain elements from Wikimedia, in the public domain, added elements from yours truly and her trusty Photoshop Elements. (See what I did there?) ;) Others are from free image sources on the web such as Pixabay.