As we continue this series of teaching editorials about Mary, I would like to share a reflection on how Mary invites us to pray and to share our faith through the rosary.
In the spring of 2007, before I entered seminary in the fall, I was living at St. Bartholomew’s rectory with Fathers Peter Do and Bert Rapp. Father Rapp was known for his commitment and service to Our Lady’s Rosary Makers. At the rectory, he would regularly make chain rosaries during the evening as a way of unwinding after a busy day.
One day, a parishioner asked Father Rapp if he would make a rosary for me as a gift before I left for my first year of seminary. Immediately, he pulled a small black pouch from his pocket, which contained a simple, black, beaded rosary, gave it to the parishioner, and told her to give it to me. This was the same rosary I had seen him pray every morning before he celebrated Mass. I was humbled to have it. Two days after I had received his rosary, Father Rapp died unexpectedly.
Many of you may have similar stories in which the rosaries that are in your pockets, purses, homes or in your cars carry memories. Perhaps your rosary belonged to a loved one who died. Maybe you received your rosary for your First Communion or bought one while on a pilgrimage. And every time you stop to pray that rosary, you remember, and you begin to make connections.
One of the biggest misconceptions about the rosary is that when we pray it, we are only praying to Mary. In fact, the rosary is meant to draw us closer to the mysteries of Christ.
From the Annunciation to his passion, his death and his Resurrection, we are challenged to meditate, reflect and pray about Christ’s life. What better way to do that than praying to Mary for her intercession and her guidance? After all, our Catholic tradition teaches us that Mary saw, with her own eyes, what we reflect on when we pray the rosary.
In October of 2002, St. John Paul II wrote an Apostolic Letter on the most holy rosary called Rosarium Virginis Mariae. In paragraph 11, he stated, “Mary lived with her eyes fixed on Christ, treasuring his every word: ‘She kept all these things, pondering them in her heart’ (Lk 2:19; cf. 2:51). The memories of Jesus, impressed upon her heart, were always with her, leading her to reflect on the various moments of her life at her son’s side. In a way those memories were to be the ‘rosary’ that she recited uninterruptedly throughout her earthly life.”
These beautiful words by St. John Paul II challenge us even today in our work of evangelization. We, too, are called to reflect on Christ’s life as if we were there at his side being the faithful disciples we were baptized to be. Now, more than ever, is the time to pray, meditate and reflect on the life of Christ and of his mother by praying the rosary, not only in our schools, homes and churches, but also in the secular world.
Talk about evangelization! What would someone do if they saw you walking the busy city streets praying your rosary? Or how about praying your rosary while taking a public mode of transportation or while drinking your morning pick-me-up at a coffee shop?
You would probably get a couple of stares, some weird looks and many would ignore you. But, there might just be one person whose eye you catch, and they might actually come and talk to you about faith. They might even ask you to say a prayer for them.
The rosary is a tool for evangelization and for making connections. Just like the 59 beads that are connected together, we, too, are connected to Christ through the eyes of his mother; we meditate, we pray and we reflect on the life of Christ from the beginning of his life to the very end. What better person to turn to for help than Mary who was the first to hold her son at his birth and was the last one to hold him at his death?
Deacon Shayne R. Duvall is a seminarian studying for the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Louisville.