Monday, May 4, 2015

Mightier than both Pen and Sword

What if twenty minutes could change your world--and the world?! 
Would you (re)commit to praying the Rosary?

Our Lady of the Rosary


An old friend of mine once asked, "So, how do you pray the Rosary?" 

I was taken aback because I knew he already knew how to pray it, and I slowly realized he was how I, personally, prayed the Rosary.  Naively, I thought there was only one way--i.e., by repeating the words of the prayers.  So, when I turned the question back on him, he shared the idea of inserting the names of specific people within each prayer (e.g., "Hail Mary...pray for X, now and at the hour of death"). 

He also liked to connect a different intention to the meditation designated for each decade.  Who is someone I know going through their own agony in the garden, or being condemned, or being mocked and abused, or taking up his or her cross, etc.?  He even spoke of praying the Rosary while driving, and offering each prayer for the various people he passed along the way.  Talk about snuffing out road rage :)
Since then, I've often taken his advice.  In particular, I enjoy "riffing" on various names in the spirit of a jazz musician--starting with one family member, friend, colleague, neighbor, or public figure, and then seeing who comes to mind with each successive prayer.  It is always amazing to follow the trail of names that the Holy Spirit calls forth!

I've also taken to adding a phrase after the holy Name of Jesus, which stands at the center of each Hail Mary.  Usually, I like to link the phrase to the mysteries of the day:  For example, "...blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus, now risen from the dead" or "now seated at the right hand of the Father" or "now sending the Spirit to renew the face of the earth," etc.  This subsequently led me to reflect on the ways that various mysteries are interwoven, but that's a story for another day.
However we might like to pray it, the time for the Rosary is now.  If setting aside twenty minutes seems like running a full marathon with no training, consider starting with one decade or even one heart-felt Hail Mary each day.  I'm convinced that, if we build these muscles, then we will have nothing to fear.  After all, the demons themselves quake at the thought of this spiritual exercise!

From Our Lady's initial gift of the Rosary in the 13th century, through the amazing events at Fatima in the 20th century, saints and sinners alike have given witness to the transformative power of this prayer. Recently, a Nigerian bishop's vision of Christ has pointed to the Rosary as the answer to the menacing presence of Boko Haram in his homeland. 
Perhaps the threat of radical Islamists kidnapping, torturing or slaughtering Christians is not a real and present danger for many of us.  Nonetheless, we could certainly pray for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who are facing this brutal reality today.  In addition, we could offer prayers for the local worries or concerns that lie heavy on our heart.  Maybe it is the ongoing racial tensions--rooted in issues of structural poverty--which continue to unsettle cities in the U.S.  Maybe it is the countless victims of natural disasters, or the helpless refugees fleeing war-torn and man-made disaster zones.  Maybe it is the lurking threat to vulnerable lives everywhere, or to religious liberty even in our land. 

Maybe your fears or demons are as yet unnamed.  Regardless of what they might be, would you be willing to bring them to Jesus through Mary?  After all, our heavenly Father deigned to give us his son through the Blessed Mother.  And, as he was dying, Jesus himself gratuitously offered us his mother as our mother.  And, while gathered around our Lady in the upper room, the Church received the Holy Spirit and was breathed into life on Pentecost.  We are invited to share in the very life of God, who has revealed himself as a communion of persons in the Blessed Trinity, and no one understands this mystery more fully than our Lady!

Mother Teresa famously explained her devotion to the Blessed Mother by saying, "No Mary, No Jesus."  Today we might paraphrase it:  "Know Mary, Know Jesus"!


The Queen Mother is inviting us to enter into the words of the Gospel through the gift of the Holy Rosary--to meditate on the mysteries and to ponder the prayerful words of the Word.  The only question is whether we are willing to take twenty minutes to hand over the concerns of our world, and of the whole world.

In the midst of the bloodiest century in human history, St. Padre Pio famously penned the following line: "The Rosary is the 'weapon' for these times."  Let's not miss this opportunity to make a real difference--

Mary Immaculate, Patroness of the U.S., pray for us!

P.S.  For an incredible four minute video message from "The People of the Cross to ISIS," check out this potentially world-changing message.