Some of you know the story of my grandmother, but you may not know that it was the rosary I prayed at her bedside every night. We had been told that she had a very short time to live after she had experienced a serious automobile accident. I was praying that her life would be spared. While I was saying the rosary at her bedside one evening, I told God that I would serve God for the rest of my life if only my grandmother would be healed. Miraculously, she was up and running the following morning, and lived until my second year of seminary! I was 10 years old when I prayed the rosary that night. I am convinced that the rosary led me to the priesthood.
I loved the rosary throughout my childhood and into adulthood. It is, in fact, the one spiritual practice to which I always return. There's something very calming and comforting about having a rosary in your hands. It's a way to keep the mind and the body busy while the soul tries to drop down deep into the heart of God. I've used all sorts of prayers on the beads instead of the traditional Hail Mary, but I inevitably leave all those prayers behind and return to the Hail Mary - ("Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death." The Hail Mary is based on the exclamation of Elizabeth when Mary visited her after she had been told she would conceive the Son of God. See Luke 1:39-45). I tend to be rebellious in nearly everything, so it's odd that I return to that prayer, but I know it so well now, and knowing it well means I am able to pray it without much discursive thought. And that really, is the goal of the rosary -- to be so unaware of the actual words of the prayers that you are able to let go of worldly concerns and simply be in the Divine Presence in a meditative state.
I have had many rosaries throughout my life, but I only have three now and each are special in their own right. The first one is my mother's rosary that she had after she became a Roman Catholic. It hangs in my prayer space, and can be seen here in the video tour of that space. I also have a purple beaded one, and a pearl-colored beaded one (seen in the picture above) that were given to me by 2 very special people in my life. I use the purple one when I'm at home, and the pearl one when I travel.
There are prayer beads in most religious traditions, and I've prayed with Buddhist mala beads, and Orthodox woolen ropes, Anglican prayer beads, and with Islamic prayer beads. In fact, when my father was building a 'free press' printing plant in Albania, he brought me back a lovely set of Islamic prayer beads that one of his workers gave him for me. They are very dear to my heart, and I wish I could meet the person who prayed with them before giving them to my father to give to me. Yet, even with all the options for praying with beads, I seem to find myself always going back to the standard Roman Catholic rosary because it nourishes my soul and keeps me centered on God. I don't pray it every day, as I did when I was a child. But, I am never without it. And, if by chance, I didn't take my purse with me, or the rosary didn't make it in a handbag switch, I still have my ten fingers and they become my rosary. Of course, we don't need beads or fingers to pray, but they do help keep our nervous bodies busy and our distractions minimized, so we are more aware of being with God.
A set of beads can keep me tethered to the Divine. Why would I ever leave home without them?
If you would like a video tutorial of how to say the rosary, or would like to pray a rosary with me, let me know in the Comment section below!