Reflections on Praying the Rosary (Kind of…)

When I was ordained back in September, one of my aunts gave me a rosary. She had purchased it in Italy and then had it blessed by a priest at Notre Dame in Paris. I appreciated the thought, but also didn’t know what to do with it at first, since, as a Presbyterian, I’ve never prayed the rosary before in my life. Then a couple weeks ago, the spiritual formation guide I”m working through suggested taking  a week to try a new form of prayer. So, I decided to try using my rosary for one week…. kind of…

As a Protestant, it was hard for me to pray the Hail Mary. Granted most of it is simply verses quoted directly from Scripture, but it still felt out of place for me, so I replaced each Hail Mary with a recitation of the Jesus Prayer – “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

The main purpose of praying the Rosary is to meditate on the mysteries of our salvation – there are 20 in the Roman Catholic tradition. They’re all more or less events in the life of Jesus.

As I meditated on five of the mysteries each day while reciting the Jesus Prayer, the Lord’s Prayer and the Gloria Patri, I began to realize pretty quickly how “distanced” my mediation was. For example while meditating on each of the sorrowful mysteries (The Agony in the Garden, Scourging at the Pillar, Crowning with Thorns, Carrying the Cross, and the Crucifixion) I began to feel as if I was simply imagining the events in my head, viewing them in my imagination in the same way I would view a movie; thinking about the events in the same way I would think about the Civil War or any other historical event.

As I continued praying the Jesus Prayer, though, I came to a profound sense that Christ was in the room with me. Suddenly, I became convicted that the purpose of meditating on the mysteries is not thinking, but rather listening. My meditations changed from being a product of my own imagination to being an act of seeking to allow Jesus, the One who experienced these events, to tell me about them.

The result of this experiment has been some of the richest times of prayer I’ve had in a long time. Praying the Rosary (kind of…) has given me a “sacred space” of sorts in my time to be reminded of my union with Christ and all that entails. I think this is a practice that’s going to go longer than one week.

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