In this month of May, I need to make a confession.
I don’t find the Rosary easy to pray. For many years, I knew I should be saying a daily rosary, but I thought if I started the Creed as my head hit the pillow at night…. well, I could at least say I tried, even though I rarely made it to the first mystery.
There’s nothing wrong with saying the Rosary as you go to bed. In an interview prior to becoming Pope, Benedict XVI said that’s what he does at night when he’s trying to clear his mind to fall asleep. “I would recommend the Rosary. That is a form of prayer that, besides its spiritual meaning, has the power to calm the inner self. If we hold fast here to the actual words, then we are gradually freed from the thoughts that so torment us.”
But maybe by only praying the Rosary then, I was missing out on some of the fruits.
The Rosary generally takes about 15 minutes, depending on what God wants to do in your time of meditation. 15 minutes is about 1 percent of your day.
Americans spend an average of 162 minutes on their mobile devices every day. And that doesn’t include actually talking on them! And the Rosary only takes about 15 minutes.
I couldn’t take 15 minutes? No, I couldn’t. I knew it was nothing, and I still found it difficult to make the time. I wasn’t in the habit. I was lazy. I didn’t try.
So here’s some advice to help make those 15 minutes easier.
- Scripture. We Catholics get a bad rap for neglecting the Word of God, but our liturgical life and private devotions are all saturated in Scripture. The Rosary is one of the best ways to meditate on the life of Christ. There are good Scriptural rosary booklets out there, but you can also just open the Bible and read the passage before you start the mystery. As you pray the Hail Mary’s, close your eyes and put yourself in the scene. Maybe you’re a shepherd at the Nativity. What does the night feel like? What is Joseph doing? Is Baby Jesus sleeping? Pick Him up and worship Him.
- Art. For those of us who get distracted easily, it can help to have something right in front of our faces to keep our minds where they should be. I have a little book called the Rosary Album that has pen and ink drawings for each bead. You don’t need a special book, though – simply find classical art pieces online for each mystery. Allow the image to help your meditation and mental prayer.
- Intercession. Offering each decade for a different intention can help keep your mind on what you’re praying and why.
- Break it up! Who says the Rosary has to be prayed in one sitting? (or one kneeling?) Maybe your schedule allows you to enter into prayer in smaller chunks of time. Or maybe you just can pray better for five minutes than you can for fifteen. If you’re tempted to feel guilty about that, I give you another insight from an interview with Cardinal Ratzinger:
Do you have a particular way of praying the Rosary?
I do it quite simply, just as my parents used to pray. Both of them loved the Rosary. And the older they got, the more they loved it. The older you get, the less you are able to make great spiritual efforts, the more you need, rather, an inner refuge, to be enfolded in the rhythm of prayer of the whole Church. And so I pray in the way I always have.
But how? Do you pray one Rosary, one set of mysteries, or all three?
No, three are too much for me; I am too much of a restless spirit; I would wander too much. I take just one, and then often only two or three mysteries out of the five, because I can then fit in a certain interval when I want to get away from work and free myself a bit, when I want to be quiet and to clear my head. A whole one would actually be too much for me then.
I had to read that twice when I first came across it in God and the World. If he wanders too much … whew. I feel slightly better about myself.
My last piece of advice? Just do it. Set aside time and pray it. It’s only 1 percent of your day. You can start small and pray a decade every day … or the 54-day Rosary novena can be a great way to jump in full force. (There are several versions – here is one.) Not only is it a very powerful novena (I have some amazing stories), doing something for 54 days is a good way to get into a habit!
Our Lady has been asking us to pray it for peace for a long time. Now Our Lord is appearing to bishops asking the same thing. I think it’s time to listen.