Simcha Fisher: Why not try the rosary?

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PHOTO: James Coleman/Unsplash

We weren’t the rosary-praying kind, but it is changing us

My husband and I agreed: It’s not that it’s magic, or anything. It’s definitely not magic. But it’s unmistakable: Saying a decade of the rosary together every day is changing our lives. Not drastically. Just a little bit. But undeniably.

We are not the kind of couple you’d look at and say, “Oh yeah, they’re big into the rosary.”

I never liked the rosary. I was never sure if I was supposed to be focusing on the mystery, or the prayer, or my intentions, or some combination. It was what you did as a penance, or because your parents made you. I never knew if I was supposed to be coming up with some brilliant new insight into the life of Mary, or finding some kind of spiritual comfort in the familiarity of the *lack* of brilliant new insight, or what. And darn it, I always lose track and end up saying either nine or eleven Hail Marys.

But more and more often, dealing with the problems that naturally come with full lives, we found ourselves saying, “I don’t know. I don’t know anything. I just don’t know what to do.” And while there is some relief that comes with realising your own limitations, sometimes we really did have to do something, and we were just at sea. We do both know how to work our way through a set of beads, though, so at very least it seemed like a rosary couldn’t hurt.

PHOTO: James Coleman/Unsplash

We already go running together most days, so we decided to make a decade of the rosary part of the routine. Since we’ve made it a daily practice, literally come rain or shine . . . well, things have been better.

Surely, part of the improvement is attributable to human psychology: When you decide to commit to doing something to make your life better, that in itself helps. By making an effort, you’re signaling to yourself that you’re worthy of effort and worth taking care of; and this is a thought that, repeated often enough, is very likely to improve your outlook on life. It’s a self-fulfilling self-help routine.

But that doesn’t explain everything. Since we started praying together regularly, we are less prone to fight, less likely to fall into misunderstandings, and more hopeful about the tasks that lie before us, and more at peace about things which should, by all rights, be overwhelming. I don’t think it’s just the power of positive thinking, powerful though that may be. I think it’s just grace.

I think God likes it when you show up with an empty bowl and say, “I got nothing; please feed me.” It doesn’t have to be fancier or more skilled than that. In fact, the less fancy and skillful, the better. I think grace is more likely to come when you know profoundly just how much you need it.

It helps. There’s an anchor. There’s a constant. There’s stability. There’s a reason for hope, and it doesn’t lie with us.

I have spent an awful lot of my life not praying because I knew I was praying wrong. I knew I would be focusing so much on my intentions that I wouldn’t really thinking about God at all, but just myself. I knew I would be letting my mind wander and, even while I was mouthing words of praise and adoration, I would only be giving God about a tenth of my actual attention. I knew I would be drifting into a utilitarian frame of mind where completing the self-assigned prayer was just checking off a box, and I would be expecting God to fulfill his part of the business transaction once I had fulfilled mine.

I knew I would be wafting off into transitory emotionalism that would evaporate like the dewfall the minute it met the heat of something sexier to think about. I knew I wouldn’t fully mean everything I was saying. I knew I would be insincere, and motivated mostly by guilt. I knew that if I prayed, I would be praying wrong.

And I was right! But for whatever reason, we decided not to let all that stop us this time. Maybe it’s because we’re in our late forties, or maybe it’s because it’s the year 2021, but at a certain point, you just have to look around and conclude that you’re helpless. We’re out of ideas. We’re failures. Might as well say the rosary every day.

And what do you know: It helps. There’s an anchor. There’s a constant. There’s stability. There’s a reason for hope, and it doesn’t lie with us.

Well, that’s my groundbreaking Catholic essay for the day: Maybe you should pray the rosary every day, too. It’s not a brilliant new insight, but those are overrated anyway.

Related:

This Catholic Life Podcast: Parenting & Prayer