I grew up in a religious household, but I did not grow up praying the Rosary—and I had no desire to learn. Nothing sounded more boring or pointless to me than reciting a bunch of Our Fathers and Hail Marys.
I started praying the Rosary in the evenings. Sometimes it helped me quiet my mind and connect to my heart. The Rosary gave me something to worry in my fingers. It was tactile, something to occupy my breath. When you are speaking, you are breathing words like a mantra. And the biggest gift of all, the one that surprised me most, was that it gave me something to do with my imagination—the mysteries from the life of Christ that you imagine during each decade or set of 10 Hail Marys.
And it takes a while to pray the Rosary—at least 15 minutes—which I thought, at first, was a strike against it, but it turns out it is a benefit because it creates the time necessary for me to settle into a calmer state before bed.
Practices like the Rosary connect us to our ancestors, who are a great source of strength and intercession. For instance, the last words of the Hail Mary—“Pray for us now and at the hour of our death”—were added during a different pandemic, the Black Plague. I feel connected to those who have gone before me when I take part in the practices that sustained them. I also feel connected to people around the world as every minute of every day someone in Nigeria or Belgium or South Korea is also praying a rosary. When Masses went underground or were outlawed, many Catholics would gather in secret to pray the rosary, so this can also be a resource for this time now when many churches are closed.
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Anna Keating is the co-author of The Catholic Catalogue: A Field Guide to the Daily Acts That Make Up a Catholic Life (Penguin Random House) and the co-owner of Keating Woodworks, a handmade furniture studio. The lay Catholic chaplain at Colorado College, she writes for America, Church Life Journal, Notre Dame magazine, and elsewhere.
With thanks to Spirituality & Health and Anna Keating, where this article originally appeared.