I have spent the last week or so praying and reflecting with St. John Paul II’s apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae after being instructed to look into it from my spiritual director. I just finished it this morning and felt like sharing some of the insight that John Paul the Great brought me.
First of all, an explanation of my relationship with Mary the mother of our Lord. I have struggled for years to understand the Church’s devotion and veneration of Mary. For a long time, I couldn’t understand why we would focus so much on her and not on Christ, especially when thinking of the rosary and how much emphasis there is on Mary. A couple years ago, I set out to figure out why the Church would encourage such a prayer and devotion. In that time, I encountered Mary. I learned a lot about her and her role for Christ and the Church. I read a lot about her and eventually went through the consecration to Jesus through Mary using Fr. Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days to Morning Glory. Those 33 days truly helped me to understand Mary as mediatrix of grace and spouse of the Holy Spirit. Those roles of hers helped me to understand her importance and to understand the Church’s devotion. However, it still didn’t help me to devote myself to praying a daily rosary or even a weekly rosary.
I never felt called to start up that practice until a couple weeks ago when Bishop Thomas, the Bishop of Toledo, asked us to participate in praying a national 54 day rosary novena for marriage and families. When I saw that exhortation, I felt called to participate and so for the last 33 days I’ve been attempting to pray a rosary a day. I’ve failed many days, but I’ve also built up a routine and a growing love for the rosary. I spoke to my spiritual director last week about the fact that I was doing the novena and we discussed how I was doing with the rosary. There are some days where I am able to truly enter into the contemplative aspect and meditate on the mysteries and gain new insight into the life of Christ and Mary or into my own life in light of the mysteries. However, there are some days where I feel as if I’m just repeating prayers, speeding through to get to the next thing. My spiritual director encouraged me to continue even through those days of monotony, for even if you’re just “wasting time”, wasting time with God is one of the best ways to do so. He encouraged me, then, to read St. John Paul II’s apostolic letter to help me understand better the gift of the rosary.
“The Rosary does indeed ‘mark the rhythm of human life’, bringing it into harmony with the ‘rhythm’ of God’s own life, in the joyful communion of the Holy Trinity, our life’s destiny and deepest longing.”
I’ve witnessed this first hand in my recent recitation. I’ve been incorporating the rosary into my daily commute to and from work. On the way, I’ll have time to pray two mysteries and then I finish up on the way home. Placing the rosary directly into the rhythm of my life has brought incredible fruits. It has transformed my interior life. My perspective walking into work is so much calmer because I have reminded myself that Christ and Mary are walking with me through my day. Finishing the rosary when I’m leaving work has also helped, in allowing me to truly let go and leave it all to God and enter fully into whatever is up next in my day.
“Far from offering an escape from the problems of the world, the Rosary obliges us to see them with responsible and generous eyes, and obtains for us the strength to face them with the certainty of God’s help and the firm intention of bearing witness in every situation to “love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col 3:14)
These 33 days have been incredible for me to truly start listening to the Lord again. The rosary has given Him an opportunity to enter into my day to day life, and as St. John Paul II said, to give me the strength to face whatever comes. Not only has reciting the rosary given me new graces and strength to face what I currently have on my plate, but it has opened me up to the Lord calling me to engage in new experiences to spread His love and mercy.
At first, the letter was hard to enter into, but after spending several days prayerfully reading it I feel like John Paul II has been showing me his mother and walking with me on a greater path of understanding and devotion, especially when it comes to the rosary.
“A prayer so easy and yet so rich truly deserves to be rediscovered by the Christian community. I look to all of you, brothers and sisters of every state of life, to you, Christian families, to you, the sick and elderly, and to you, young people: confidently take up the Rosary once again. Rediscover the Rosary in the light of Scripture, in harmony with the Liturgy, and in the context of your daily lives.”
I truly encourage you to read Rosarium Virginis Mariae. Take however long you need, don’t rush through it, let the words penetrate your heart and your mind. Allow the Holy Spirit to use St. John Paul II’s words to help you better understand Mary’s role in the Church and your life. And then open yourself up to the idea of incorporating the rosary into your life, even if it’s just bit by bit (saying a decade a day or a rosary a week) because you will be astonished by the way it can transform your life. I am personally so excited to see how it continues to transform mine.