The following was first published on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Media Blog.
Here’s a shout out for the rosary — that prayer you can pray when you’re discombobulated, waiting in the doctor’s office, driving to and from work, too distracted to meditate, lonely in a big city or sitting with the dying or even by oneself.
I pray the rosary daily — so I can be honest when I tell people I’ll pray for them. I want something beyond, “and by the way, God, bless whoever I agreed to pray for today.”
With many nieces and nephews and young colleagues, I pray daily for pregnant women and children.
I live in the Washington, D.C. area, so I also pray to counter road rage. It’s better to go loud with “Holy Mary, Mother of God” than with some deprecation you might later need to confess.
The mysteries of the rosary inspire me. The Joyful Mysteries — the Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity, Presentation of the Lord and Finding Jesus in the Temple — hold meaning.
When I pray the Visitation, I go on a spiritual trip to another in need, thinking, “Hang in there,” a kind of telepathy.
For the fourth mystery, the Presentation of the Lord, I think of parents carrying tiny children in the Communion line at Mass. It’s more than their not having a place to leave the child. The parent walks proudly and appreciates the priest’s offering a blessing over the child.
The Sorrowful Mysteries are a buck-up-suck-it-in prayer. They include the Agony in the Garden, Scourging at the Pillar, Crowning of Thorns, Carrying of the Cross and the Crucifixion and Death of the Lord.
A friend once said meditating on the third sorrowful mystery could put a headache in its place. Carrying of the Cross resonates with anyone facing life’s challenges, from caring for an elderly parent or a chronically ill child, or handling a difficult work situation. It helps to unite one’s pain with that of Jesus.
The Glorious Mysteries celebrate the “Wow!” moments of our faith — the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Descent of the Holy Spirit Upon the Apostles, the Assumption and the Crowning of Our Lady as Queen of Heaven and Earth.
My favorite is the Descent of the Holy Spirit, as I try to wedge myself among the apostles to have the Spirit descend upon me so I can make wise decisions. When I was younger, that meant choosing the right answer on a multiple choice test. Now . . .
Pope John Paul II threw me a curve in 2002 when he introduced the Luminous Mysteries. They celebrate the public life of Jesus: his Baptism, the Miracle at Cana, the Proclamation of the Kingdom of God, the Transfiguration and the Institution of the Eucharist. I need a mnemonic device to help me remember them.
Legend says St. Dominic taught people to pray the rosary around 1200. Others say its roots go earlier and that the rosary helped uneducated peasants pray.
We can read now, but we’ve traded the uncomplicated life of a peasant for a distracted, hectic existence where sometimes it is hard to even think. It’s one more argument that the rosary — a prayer that moves us past words, past thoughts and into the presence of God — still has a place.
Sister Mary Ann, a Sister of Mercy, is director of Media Relations for the USCCB.