The whole month of October is dedicated to the Rosary; and today is the feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary.
October 7 was declared the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary in the 17th century. The rosary is one of the oldest forms of prayer in the Church.
There are four sets of mysteries which one meditates upon while praying the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be, at various times. These mysteries are scenes from the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Our Lady has said in nearly every apparition she has made that praying the rosary WILL bring souls closer to Christ. Since Mary is not only the mother of Jesus, but also the first Christian, I like to err on the side of not ignoring her words.
I could spend a lot of pages waxing poetic about the mother of God, and pointing out all the ways that honoring her is an integral part of the Christian life, but I’d rather tell a personal story. After all, this is a personal blog, and I am not a theologian (as much as I might pretend to be!)
I’m going to tell you a story about how the rosary has touched my life and why I pray it often.
My mother was a convert to the faith. She became Catholic when she was 19 years old, in a hospital suffering from kidney disease. She was waiting to receive a transplant, and a kind priest who was hospital chaplain befriended her. She asked him many questions about God, and about why God allows suffering to happen. She must have liked his answers, because she decided to become Catholic.
She entered the Church as a young woman, several years before meeting my father, who was a cradle Catholic.
I believe my mother gathered great strength from her faith in God and His Church. She often prayed the rosary and encouraged me to have faith in God’s plan, even amidst suffering that we cannot understand.
She did many things that should not have been possible; things that doctors tried to talk her out of doing, like having a baby (me!) for instance. If it were not for my mother’s deep faith in God’s goodness and her own generosity, I would not have been born, but would have been aborted in order to protect my mother’s “health”. However, she did not let anything distract her from the joy of new life growing inside her, and did not let fear keep her from doing God’s will.
She loved me with true mother’s love, even before she met me. She never let her illness or fear keep her from God, and her last wish was that I be raised in the Church. She died from complications of her illness when she was 33 and I was 7.
She left me a legacy of faith in God, strength in adversity, and of the redemptive power of her own suffering. She offered her suffering for me, that I might continue to grow in love for God.
And though I have allowed suffering and anger about suffering to keep me from God at many times in my life, I have always been aware that God was nearby. At many times I did not want Him near me, I did not want me near Him. Yet, in moments of quiet sadness, I would hear God speaking to me, often through the voice of Mary.
I have had a few “conversions” in my life (I think most people do!), and one of which happened in college, I owe entirely to the rosary. I attended a Kairos retreat, during which I shared the story of my mother’s death. The retreat facilitator, a wonderful sister, said to me very plainly;
“You are like St. Therese and John Paul II (both of whom lost their mothers at young ages), you must ask Mary to be your mother.”
I wasn’t too sure about that, but it got me thinking. I was raised in the Church; I liked Mary, I knew the hail mary. I thought she was the beautiful lady of Christmas cards and stained-glass windows. But she was not alive to me, and certainly she couldn’t be concerned about me and my lack of a mother.
I decided to do an experiment. I would ask Mary to act as my mother, and try praying a hail mary once a day for a week, just to see what would happen. You know, because one has to be scientific when trying to decide if the Mother of God is intervening in your life!
At the end of that week, I felt a little kinder, a little less angry at the world. I decided to increase my prayer to saying one decade of the rosary a day for another week …and then another…and then another. I’m sure you, dear reader, are snickering to yourself as you read this, knowing exactly where it ends up. I, on the other hand, had no idea what to expect. I only knew I felt more like God cared about me, and that my life had some kind of meaning I hadn’t felt before.
I wanted to pray more; I felt more engaged at Mass. Moreover, I felt a motherly presence around me, and without dragging to much past out into the light, there were a few situations when it seemed that a cosmic mothering presence intervened for me, preventing me from making some pretty disastrous choices.
Within about six months of praying a partial rosary daily, my life had begun to change in a noticeable way. I was nicer in general, less cynical in particular. I began to feel some of the deep wounds of my life being cleansed and starting to heal. All that remains of these wounds today are some battle scars; reminders or what I have survived with God’s grace.
I have been, since that time, a firm believer in the deep love of Mary for all of humanity. She is our Mother; she longs for nothing else but for all of her children to be united to Christ in love.
I can now say that, in addition to the earthly women who have mothered me in many ways (thank you!), I have two mothers in heaven. The woman who gave me my life and my faith, and the woman “clothed with the stars” by whose intercession I was brought back to God and discovered myself.
So go ahead, find that dusty old rosary your grandmother gave you, and give it a shot. You never know what can happen when you call on your Mother in heaven.
Later this month, Atticus will be doing a guest post, telling his story of how the rosary played a role in bringing him to the Church.