In the seventeen years since I was received into the church, I’ve had what might be called an “up and down” relationship with the Rosary. It began with my difficulty with Mary.
I had decided to convert to Catholicism before I was completely comfortable with “the whole Mary thing.” (This is the polite term the Protestant version of myself employed after downgrading my attitude from “strongly suspicious” to a more manageable “awkwardly tolerant.”) As a Protestant Evangelical, I only ever saw Mary around Christmas, and even then, she wasn’t portrayed as anything all that special. She was like a demure, distant cousin who shows up for Christmas dinner and sits quietly in the corner at the kids’ table: you may recognize her, but you don’t remember ever having a conversation with her. After I had become convinced of the truth of the Catholic faith and of the protective offices of the Church, I was willing to admit that my discomfort with “the whole Mary thing” was no reason to stay away from the Eucharist. It would work itself out, I told myself, and for the most part, it has.
The Difficulty and Frustrations of the Rosary
Even though the ensuing years would transform that initial awkwardness toward Mary into affection and finally into love, I just could never get the hang of the Rosary. Intellectually, I understood the benefits of its method and perspective. I understood that so many saints offer it as a preeminent mode of Christian prayer, growth, spiritual flourishing, and peacemaking. I understood the role of its physicality (and, in fact, greatly appreciated this aspect of it). But still, it remained opaque to me. How was I to address myself to one person, making one set of invocations, while meditating on the events of the life of another person, without confusing either and being attentive to both? It always felt like spiritually trying to pat my head and rub my belly. My attention always felt divided, and therefore unmoored. I always felt distracted. I usually gave up. The rosary I carried in my pocket often took the form of a tangled, knotted mess for being so rarely used. A perfect image of my prayer life.
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