Making Every Rosary Prayer Count

I’m a fan of the Catholic Answers Forums.  For those who have never visited it, CAF is a huge forum of questions, updates, and news regarding Catholicism.  If you read it long enough, you will start to see patterns emerge in the type of posts submitted.  You will see posts of the type “Is this a mortal sin…?”,  “Please pray for…”, “Why does God allow…?”, etc.  I frequently see this one — “Does rosary prayer count if I…?”  It ends with “was watching TV?”, “thinking of something else?”, “was listening to it on the radio?”, etc.

I find this way of approaching rosary prayer interesting since I believe it misses the point of why we pray.  What does it mean for a prayer to “count?”  For me, that conjures up images of our Mother Mary sporting a visor, whistle, and holding a clipboard like a junior high school gym teacher.  And she’s marking down how many “valid” prayers you’ve said as if you were taking a pushup test.  “Bad form Brent!”  “You missed a word!”  “Hands not folded in approved fashion.”  And in the end, “Not bad; in that chaplet you said 33 decent Hail Marys; you pass!”

“Don’t think I can’t see those knees bending Jimmy.”

I believe many people approach their faith in this binary fashion; that the things you do are scored and count towards getting into Heaven or against it.  You’re in Heaven if you rack up a high enough score by the time you die.  And who knows, maybe certain aspects of our faith are a little like that like attending Mass on Sunday — if you miss it for no valid reason then you’ve broken a Commandment.  Definitely points off.

But I don’t think the rosary breaks down into a nice little checkbox on whether it counts or not.  It’s not a pass/fail activity.  You have to approach the rosary more like a conversation.  Are you talking and listening to God through prayer?  Are you concentrating and meditating on each mystery and really trying to communicate with God or are you just going through the motions with your heart and mind are somewhere else?  Furthermore, what do your thoughts and actions say about the quality of your prayers?  Does prayer actually motivate you to lead a life of conversion towards Jesus’ teachings or does it not really affect you in any meaningful way?  Are you just tuning out God?

“That’s whatever you’re talking about for ya…”

Maybe we can think of rosary prayer like exercise.  No, I’m not going back to the junior high gym class type of exercise that is highly quantitative and you either pass or fail.  I’m talking about general exercise.  You can go to the gym and idly walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes.  And that is better than nothing.  But did you actually push yourself and stress your heart and muscles to make them stronger?  Do you follow up workouts with healthy meals or do you down that slice of cheesecake?

Rosary prayer is similar to the exercise experience except instead of stressing physical muscles, you’re stressing spiritual ones.  Is the rosary helping you develop a closer relationship with God?  Is it motivating you to desire God’s grace and His Kingdom of Heaven?  Are you trying to follow up rosary prayer with virtuous behavior while avoiding sin?

Overall, the rosary only “counts” as much as you make it count.  It’s not evaluated by some external, quantifiable criteria.  I know many of us take comfort in absolutes and it can be frustrating and even a little scary in the absence of it.  But the rosary requires faith to accept that there won’t necessarily be a straight and immediate answer to your prayers.  But don’t worry, it’s a prayer worth learning and becoming comfortable with even if it doesn’t produce the absolute answers you’re looking for.  Because the answers it does provide go far beyond what is observable and quantifiable.  Our faith and God’s grace cannot be limited to rules, regulations, and items on a checklist.

Want the rosary to count?  That’s entirely up to you.  Look at your relationship with God and your faith in His plan.  Has praying the rosary given you more faith and a closer relationship with God?  If not, maybe it’s time to look at how you can get more out of the rosary by investing more time and concentration to it.

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Don’t Buy Satan’s Lies: How to Persist with the Bible and Rosary Prayer

I read an article on why it is so hard to get into the routine of Bible reading.  I know from personal experience that reading the Bible is a love-hate experience.  Part of me dreads it because I know I won’t understand much of it and probably won’t be any more intellectually enlightened by it.  But at the same time, I do value reading the Bible in a way my intellect cannot explain because it fuels my rosary prayers which in turn fuels my life.

 on the blog, Desiring God, talks about this love-hate relationship with reading the Bible.  At the root of why people dread reading it is Satan; specifically, his lies.

The first [lie] is that our time in God’s word was worthless. Our reading plan gave us half-an-hour’s worth of “So-and-so was an evil king. He fought with these people. He died. And his son became king in his place. . . .” Entertaining, maybe, but if that’s all we’re after in Bible reading, we’ll do better turning on Netflix instead.

I couldn’t help but recall the words of St. Louis de Montfort where he says something similar about Satan’s lies and the rosary in the 43rd Rose of The Secret of the Rosary.

Being human, we easily become tired and slipshod, but the devil makes these difficulties worse when we are saying the Rosary. Before we even begin, he makes us feel bored, distracted, or exhausted; and when we have started praying, he oppresses us from all sides, and when after much difficulty and many distractions, we have finished, he whispers to us, “What you have just said is worthless. It is useless for you to say the Rosary. You had better get on with other things. It is only a waste of time to pray without paying attention to what you are saying; half-an-hour’s meditation or some spiritual reading would be much better. Tomorrow, when you are not feeling so sluggish, you’ll pray better; leave the rest of your Rosary till then.” By tricks of this kind the devil gets us to give up the Rosary altogether or to say it less often, and we keep putting it off or change to some other devotion.

As the saying goes, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.  If Satan so despises Bible reading and rosary prayer, that should be enough inspiration for all of us to double our efforts on those endeavors.  But how do we go about reading the Bible and praying the rosary in a way where we won’t get overwhelmed and quit?

English: Personal bible study Português: Estud...
English: Personal bible study Português: Estudo pessoal da bíblia Italiano: Lo studio personale della bibbia Deutsch: Persönliches Bibelstudium (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s my advice.  Don’t tackle the Bible starting from page one and try to read the whole book like it’s a novel.  You will get confused, frustrated, and succumb to Satan’s lies to give up.  Instead, I encourage you to start with reading only the daily scriptural readings followed up with reading meditations and reflections.

It is the meditation and reflections that will sustain your Bible reading and help you push through the confusion.  The reflections should explain and clarify the readings and help burst through the often confusing prose to uncover a meaning behind the words.  The really good meditations not only explain but also show the relationship between the words and our lives.

My personal favorite Gospel meditation is the Regnum Christi podcast which I listen to every day.  They are short, around 5 minutes, but provide such great insights into the Gospel reading.  If you don’t have any Gospel meditations, this is a great place to start.

This daily, bite-sized consumption of the Bible builds up an intellectual and spiritual foundation for praying and living.  I find that the Bible readings and related meditations add so much more depth to my rosary prayers.  Rosary meditation ideas spring from the themes presented in the Bible so that I always find a new dimension to the rosary mysteries.  Rosary prayer never gets stale because each day is a new Bible reading with new meditations for me to incorporate.

Very few of us will ever be Biblical scholars.  But try reading and meditating on the daily scripture passages to give God an opportunity to work with you.  Like a skilled surgeon, God doesn’t need much of an opening to work miracles.  It’s amazing what he can do with a few scriptural passages if you only give Him that chance.

PS: Sorry for my long absence from updating RosaryMeds.  Seems like Satan is throwing anything he can find my way to keep me busy and away from my website.

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5 Ways to Make the Rosary a Priority

An exclamation point in a Red Circle

I’m going to forgive the “mom centric” tone of this article considering that the source is a website called CatholicMom.com.  But her advice on squeezing the rosary into your daily routine was just too good that I felt like I had to post and comment on it.  Of course, long time RosaryMeds readers will probably find her advice very similar to what I’ve been saying.  In short, 5 ways to squeeze the rosary into your life are:

  1. Commit to trying.
  2. Space it out
  3. Seize the moment
  4. Keep Rosaries in various places
  5. Don’t give in to discouragement

The best part of the article for me was when she said, “Rather than the laundry, the dishes, or checking Facebook, make a decade of the Rosary your first priority when you have a moment to breathe.”  How many times do we make the rosary a priority in our lives on par with our work, our home, and our families?  I know most of us can’t stand that pile of dirty dishes in the sink, the crumbs on the floor, the dust on the tables, or the toys on the floor.  It haunts us until we do something about it.  But how many of us feel that same sense that something is out of place when we haven’t prayed all day long?

English: A rosary found on board the carrack M...
English: A rosary found on board the carrack Mary Rose. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are many correct ways to pray the rosary and not too many wrong ways.  The main point of the CatholicMom article was that God cherishes your effort to pray even if the quality is less than ideal.  So stop waiting for the perfect time, place, and inspiration to rattle off a few Hail Marys when you find the time.  Much like getting that quick bite to eat for physical energy to get through the day, the rosary can serve as your quick spiritual recharge.  And often you will find that a spiritual renewal drives a renewed sense of physical energy and motivation.

When’s the perfect time to pray the rosary?  Anytime.  Where’s the perfect place?  Anywhere.  What’s the correct length of time for the rosary?  However much you can find.  Stop finding excuses, start finding Jesus.  Start right now before moving on to the next email, website, or Facebook post with one Hail Mary.  Need help?  There’s a free guide for rosary prayer.

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My Concealed Sidearm

I always leave the house armed. In this world I think you are naive, if not a little crazy, if you don’t carry some sort of personal protection. Of course, given that I live in the Bay Area, I don’t carry my sidearm openly. It’s usually concealed but I’m ready and willing to use it if the situation calls for it. Don’t worry, I have plenty of practice using it. I’ve gone with a standard, white model. It isn’t very fancy, but it packs a punch with a 60 round capacity.

Wait, what? Take a look… yes, you’re still on RosaryMeds and not the NRA website.  And no, I’m not delirious from a lack of sleep.  But I am talking about weaponry in this post; very powerful weapons that pack more punch than what any Colt or Gloc could possibly deliver. If you haven’t guessed, my weapon of choice is the rosary. Of course, the 60 rounds should have been the give away (5*10 Hail Marys + 5 Our Fathers + 3 Hail Marys + 1 Our Father + 1 Crucifix = 60). For the last 8 years, since I started praying the rosary seriously and routinely, my rosary has been in my pocket wherever I go.

English: A sterling silver Catholic rosary. Fr...
My sidearm, always ready for action.

I mention this in the wake of the gruesome execution of James Foley at the hands of Islamic radicals.  One of the lesser known facts about James Foley was his devotion to rosary prayer and how it helped in through his captivity in Libya in 2011.  In a letter to Marquette University (his alma mater) after his Libyan release, Foley wrote:

I began to pray the rosary. It was what my mother and grandmother would have prayed. I said 10 Hail Marys between each Our Father. It took a long time, almost an hour to count 100 Hail Marys off on my knuckles. And it helped to keep my mind focused.  Clare and I prayed together out loud. It felt energizing to speak our weaknesses and hopes together, as if in a conversation with God, rather than silently and alone.

And this is why I think carrying a rosary is so important.  You never know what life is going to throw at you when you will need to respond with the power of prayer.  Granted, most of us won’t be captured by radicals, imprisoned, or martyred.  But we don’t have to go to those extremes to understand the importance of carrying a rosary.  How many times have you received bad news about a friend, family, your job, your city, your neighbors, your country, your parish, or anything that is important to you?  How many times have you faced a difficult challenge in your life?  Or what about the times when something great has happened?  Those are all perfect opportunities to reflect and meditate on some rosary mysteries.  I think we come across opportunities on a daily basis for praying the rosary but maybe we miss them because we aren’t physically carrying one that we can whip out when we need to.

Prepared for every situation.
Prepared for every situation.

I’m not saying that you can’t pray the rosary unless you are physically carrying beads.  James Foley prayed the rosary counting on his knuckles.  When I can’t physically hold a rosary (usually because I’m rocking an infant to sleep) I will often look for something in the room that is in a group of five or ten so I  can keep track of where I am within a decade.  Maybe there is a flower pattern on the rug with five petals that I can stare at.  Maybe the door or window has 10 sections that I can focus on.  But I do find that actually carrying a rosary is a great reminder of the importance of integrating prayer into my daily routine.  I take my phone, keys, and wallet with me because they will be useful tools throughout my day.  The same can be said about my rosary.

Try this.  Add a rosary to your other daily essentials that your carry in your pocket or purse.  Or attach a rosary ring to your keychain.  More importantly, instead of reaching for your smartphone when you have five minutes to burn, reach for that rosary and pray.

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A Rosary SEAL Never Quits

“Just ring the bell and this will all be over.”  That must be a common phrase many potential Navy SEALs either hear or think in their initial phase of training called BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL).  This is the stage that whittles down hundreds of candidates to only a select few who can tolerate weeks of physical and mental exhaustion.  While some are cut from the program for underperformance, many voluntarily quit when they ring a brass bell mounted in the barracks three times (hence the term “ringing out”).  When doing hundreds of pushups at night as freezing ocean waves crash overhead, many SEAL recruits question whether the pain and misery is really worth it.

English: Coronado, Calif. (Aug. 23, 2005) &nda...
“Someone remind me why I volunteered for this?”

When I read Saint Louis de Montfort‘s book, The Secret of the Rosary, many chapters really rang true about the mental exhaustion and tediousness of praying the rosary.  I think nearly all of us at some point in our spiritual life begin to feel like a beaten down SEAL recruit and ask, “Why should I continue?”  I know in theory we all love and see value in rosary prayer and meditation.  Many of us set some rosary praying goal whether that is five mysteries a day or all 20 mysteries every week.  We may even start with an abundance of energy.  But over time that initial enthusiasm wears off.  We start to skip a day here and a day there.  We begin to race through rosary decades without even realizing the mystery they represent.  And after a while, whether consciously or unconsciously, we “ring out” and just give up rosary prayer.

When a SEAL recruit quits, he doesn’t quit the armed services.  Quitting BUD/S doesn’t mean one is a bad soldier or isn’t committed to serving this nation.  He just couldn’t find that anchor reason in his heart to keep going through the pain.  And similarly, people aren’t giving up the Catholic faith when they give up the rosary.  They aren’t bad Catholics because they find the rosary repetitive or exhausting.  They are human.  Being human means you probably want a calm, happy, and gratifying life that you don’t immediately feel by reciting 50 Hail Marys.  Fighting our earthly desire that finds the rosary repetitive and tedious and remembering all the benefits of it is a constant battle we all face.  I recall the verse from the Gospel where Jesus tells His apostles, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).

But there is also something else at play besides our own human frailties that pushes people to give up rosary prayer.  St. Louis de Montfort clearly states in his writings that Satan is actively working to make people want to give up rosary prayer.  Satan hates the rosary because he knows just how powerful it defends our souls from his lies and influence.  But he’s very crafty when it comes to weaning people off the rosary.  He starts small and simple by implanting the desire to pray something a little less tedious like a little free-form meditation or read some psalms from the Bible.  Those aren’t bad prayer habits in themselves but they do plant a little seed of doubt about keeping a rosary routine.  It’s that little seed that, much like a SEAL recruit first contemplating quitting, Satan hopes will spread throughout your thoughts.

St. Louis de Montfort says it best:

Being human, we easily become tired and slipshod—but the devil makes these difficulties worse when we are saying the Rosary. Before we even begin he makes us feel bored, distracted or exhausted—and when we have started praying he oppresses us from all sides. And when, after much difficulty and many distractions, we have finished, he whispers to us: “What you have just said is worthless. It’s useless for you to say the Rosary. You had better get on with other things. It’s only a waste of time to pray without paying attention to what you’re saying; half an hour’s meditation or some spiritual reading would be much better. Tomorrow when you’re not feeling so sluggish you’ll pray better; don’t finish your Rosary until tomorrow.”

Saint Louis de Montfort (2013-03-10). The Secret of the Rosary (p. 89). Catholic Way Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Like a recruit in some sort of spiritual BUD/S training, we have to ignore that little voice and not let Satan’s little pestering derail us.  Satan wants us to “ring out” of rosary prayer by falsing promising us an easier and more gratifying life.  And, depending on our mood, his lies about the rosary being a waste of time might sound tempting.  But we have to keep our guard up and not let momentary inconveniences dominate our thoughts or overshadow our prayers.

Vincent Vidal (1811-1887): Young lady saying t...
A rosary SEAL (Soul Enthusiastically Approaching the Lord)

Much like an elite Navy SEAL, we do have to dig down deep to overcome that urge to quit or take a more casual approach.  Mary gave us 15 great reasons to pray the rosary continuously.  Saint Louis de Montfort gave us many reasons more.  We know deep down how great the rosary is for our spiritual well being.  So treat Satan like that little gnat that he is and just swat his little nagging voice out of your mind when you pray the rosary.

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Mary’s Rosary Promise #12

All those who propagate the Holy Rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities.

Remember when I said in my previous post about Mary’s rosary promises seeming like a spiritual infomercial?  Well, I take that back.  This promise proves that the rosary is more like an affiliate marketing campaign.  In affiliate marketing, someone gets a small bonus when they convince someone to sign up for a certain service or buy a specific product.  Mary seems to offer us a sort of spiritual affiliate benefit when we spread the joy of rosary meditation to others.  It’s great to pray the rosary for your own good.  But spreading the rosary has an exponentially greater affect both for you own personal salvation and the Catholic Church as a whole.

Where is your rosary?

Imagine if you were able to convince two other people to start praying the rosary regularly.  Now picture those two people each finding two more to pray the rosary and those people went out and got two more and so on.  It doesn’t take to many levels of propagation before hundreds, maybe thousands, and heck, even millions of people turn to rosary prayer starting from your initial passion for it!  Now can you image a Church fueled by rosary prayer and receiving the graces Mary promises us?  That would be one joyful and sincerely happy world-wide community of believers with the strength to truly change all the ills of this world.  And all because you took one leap of faith to pray the rosary routinely and another leap to share your passion with others.

Your personal rosary prayer will yield much more fruit when you propagate rosary prayer to a wider audience.  But this isn’t because you earn more spiritual points that upgrade you to some higher Catholic membership.  It’s not like Mary sits in Heaven with a clipboard with your personal rosary score.  I don’t think she’s saying, “Well let’s see here.  Brent has convinced 10 people to start praying the rosary, he tries to pray it every weekday, but it looks like he missed some days.  So he’s a silver rosary rewards member which means he gets 3 intercessions a year.”  Not quite.

Like Mary’s other promises, the benefits of this one is more of a logical consequence of praying the rosary devoutly.  When you truly enjoy something or find something valuable, are you more likely to share it with others or keep it hidden?  As Facebook clearly shows, when you are passionate about something you have a tendency to share it with others.  People share their opinions and promote television shows, sports, music, movies, and books all the time (just look at the large number of reviews for any given product on Amazon).  Why would prayer be any different? It is logical that those who are passionate about rosary prayer will also want to share it with others.  If you truly believe in the benefits of rosary prayer and it’s something that gives you great comfort facing life’s challenges, why wouldn’t you want to share it with your friends and family?

If you are sharing the joy of rosary prayer and meditation then chances are you are already praying it regularly and devoutly.  After all, why would you promote something that doesn’t interest you or doesn’t provide you any value?  As I said in previous articles, those who do pray the rosary devoutly will be better tuned into how Mary is trying to aid them.  She is always trying to reach out to us but it is those who are really trying to listen to her through the rosary who will receive more aid in their necessities.  But it’s not from Mary giving more aid to some than others.  Rather, it’s some people making more of an effort to receive Mary’s aid by making time to listen to her through rosary meditation and being receptive to how she wants to help you.

Now here’s the hard part.  It’s easy for me to write this article and have a few dozen (hopefully hundreds of) people read this.  It is easy for you all to forward an email or share this post (please do that).  We can all sit back and think we did our part in propagating the rosary.  And yes, we did.  But I think that’s putting the quantity of rosary propagation over the quality.  Maybe we should instead make an effort to personally invite a friend or family member to pray the rosary with us.  It may not be the easiest way to propagate rosary prayer, but I think there is value in actually getting a single soul praying the rosary rather than telling hundreds of people who can easily ignore you.  Are you ready to take that challenge?

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Mary’s Rosary Promise #1

To all those who shall pray my Rosary devoutly, I promise my special protection and great graces.

What does it mean to pray the rosary devoutly? There is two aspects to rosary devotion. First, there’s quantity. Praying the rosary means saying all the prayers. Many people look at a rosary and see a lot of redundancy to it. Why do I need to pray 10 Hail Marys per decade and not just one? What do I get out of reciting the same prayer repeatedly? To answer that, we should look at physical examples. Is one push up the same as ten push ups? Does your body get the same amount of exercise taking one step forward or running a mile? In diets, do you need to eat one healthy meal or multiple healthy meals? Quantity counts! And so you get more out of the rosary, spiritually speaking, when you spend time with it and recite all the prayers. God doesn’t need the prayers, but you do to get into that spiritual “zone” where you will be most receptive to God’s guidance.

Generally available Marian image created in th...

There is also a quality aspect to praying the rosary devoutly. Can you really say you are praying the rosary if you are saying the words but thinking about something else? Are you really getting anything out of it at that point? The rosary isn’t a magic chant where the power is in the words. The power of the rosary is directly related to the amount of earnest effort you put into it. Going back to physical exercise, do you get a better workout walking on a treadmill reading a magazine or really concentrating and pushing yourself to get the most out of the experience? The same goes for prayer — you get as much out of it as you put into it.

Mary promises us special protection. That raises the question, “protection from what?” Satan and his minions of course! Just as there are angels and saints in the spiritual realm, there are also demons. Every day those two sides are at war over our souls. If you just read that last sentence and think I’m exaggerating or lying then that just shows how powerful of an adversary Satan is. His best weapon is for people to think there isn’t a war being waged over our souls. That way, we drop our defenses and become more susceptible to Satan’s influence to turn away from God through sin.

Praying the rosary has two advantages to protect us against sin. First, through prayer we keep our defenses up. When we realize the persistent threat against us, we take whatever steps we need to fight against it. Rosary meditation provides us an opportunity to analyze how well we are defending our souls against Satan’s great attack. Have we created gaps in our spiritual armor by committing sins or just not making our relationship with God a priority in our life? When we acknowledge our weaknesses we can then work on fortifying those weak spots. Otherwise, we are just walking through the battlefield with little protection and become easy targets for Satan.

In addition to greater awareness of the spiritual dangers around us, Mary offers her special protection as well. And in a war for our eternal souls, we probably want as much help and protection as possible. And Mary is a great protector from evil. She is our Heavenly Mother. And like our earthly mothers, she has the special task of trying to keep her children safe. She promises that fervent protection to those who pray the rosary.

Does that mean she only cares and protects those who pray the rosary devoutly? No, of course not. She loves each one of us just as her son, Jesus Christ, taught us. But when we pray the rosary we make Mary’s job to help and protect us that much easier. She can take our willingness to accept her help and multiply it to build a greater defense against evil. Think of her like a doctor trying to help a sick person. The doctor can better diagnose and cure a disease if the patient is helpful, commutative, and trusting. The doctor, despite his good intentions, will have a much harder time helping someone who is combative or just not very accepting of any assistance.

Help Mary help you. Have faith in her promise that she will protect you and give you God’s grace if you earnestly pray the rosary.

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Transforming the Rosary from Chore to Joy

“But I don’t want to clean my room!”
“Do I have to clean the dishes now?”
“But this show is almost over! I’ll take out the trash once it’s done.”
“But I’m not tired!”

I think nearly all parents hear excuses like these on a near daily basis. They engage in a constant struggle to instill a solid work ethic in their children and have them focus on others’ needs and not just what they want. But it is just as easy for adults to fall into periods of laziness when we don’t always choose what is best for us or for others. We cheat on our diets, we skip exercise, and we procrastinate on tasks like paying bills or conducting household maintenance in favour of watching television or browsing the internet. And I think we all have a tendency to skip or race through our prayers, especially the rosary. Although we may love the rosary generally, we are often no better than children when we find excuses to avoid praying it.

English: A sterling silver Catholic rosary. Fr...

This past Lent I felt like I received a lot more value from my rosary meditations all thanks to a few simple tweaks to my prayer routine. The biggest change came from thinking of a specific intention for each “Hail Mary” I recite. Praying for a specific intention combated that tendency to go into mental “auto-pilot” and start reciting the words more as worthless incantations than focused prayer. This habit of offering specific intentions started in earnest when I adopted a Catholic cardinal for the papal conclave. While I was praying for Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez of Mexico, I also offered intentions for family members, friends, and priests as well as presented my thanks for all that is good in my life and remorse for my sins.

Are you scared about the seemingly daunting prospect of coming up with an intention for each bead in a rosary? You would be surprised how easily one intention acts as a seed for many others. For example, when I pray the Second Joyful Mystery, The Visitation, I start by praying that all expectant mothers raise their children to know God’s love. That intention leads me to pray for the change of heart of all expectant mothers who are considering abortion. I then find myself praying for sidewalk counselors and those who pray in front of abortion clinics. That leads me to think about the change of heart of those working in the abortion industry. I follow with prayers that politicians (particularly Catholic ones) who publicly support the abortion industry let the Holy Spirit into their hardened hearts. Once I started attaching a few intentions to those “Hail Marys,” the rest came pouring in.

This Lent I also rekindled my love of rosary guides that contain scripture passages and commentary on each mystery. When I’m tired and feel like racing through the rosary, I often want to hide my rosary books in a drawer and forget they exist. I rationalize that I have already read them repeatedly and cannot derive much more use from them. Why do I need to reread the Bible verses of the Transfiguration or the Miracle at Cana? Why do I need to read commentary and meditations I’ve read a dozen times already?

Prayer

I am so glad when I do convince myself to read and integrate a guide into my rosary prayers because I discover something new every time. While the text stays the same, it speaks to me differently because I live through new experiences and the world at large changes every day. For example, I never would have thought back in January that I would now be praying for Pope Francis. Or maybe the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery of Jesus carrying His cross will have a more personal significance to me after a difficult day at work. The same scriptural passages, commentaries, and meditations take on different meanings each time I read them. And these new ideas then manifest themselves as new intentions that I pray on each rosary bead which in turn makes me think of even more intentions, thanksgivings, and remorses. The rosary is no longer a static set of prayers, but is a dynamic dialog with Jesus, Mary, and the saints.

Looking for a good rosary prayer guide?  Try mine!

I believe that when people criticize rosary meditation, they envision someone mindlessly chanting the same phrases repeatedly. They invoke Matthew 6:7 — “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” What the critics do not understand is that the rosary is not “babble” when you put forth specific intentions, sorrows, and thanksgivings before our Mother Mary who then strengthens your prayers before her Son, Jesus Christ. When Mary gave humanity the rosary, she did not intend it to act as a medium for mindless incantations but instead she wants us to really make it our own. And when we pray the rosary as Mary intended, we no longer see it as a chore to avoid, but as a moment of peace and joy in our busy lives.

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The Physical Benefits of Rosary Meditation

The power of the rosary never ceases to amaze me.  In my daily travels around the internet, I came across this post about the cardiovascular benefits of rosary meditation.  Any long time follower of RosaryMeds knows that I’ve touted the spiritual benefits of rosary prayer.  Increasing one’s physical health should be a nice little extra to motivate you to whip out your rosary beads and get started on those Hail Marys.

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Here is a summary of the findings from Our Lady’s Promise Apostolate Blog (here’s a link to the full study for your science and medical geeks out there):

Luciano Bernardi, associate professor of internal medicine at Pavia University, recorded breathing rates in 23 healthy adults during normal talking, recitation of the rosary, yoga mantras, and six minutes of controlled breathing.

Breathing was markedly more regular during the rosary and the mantra and was slowed to about six breaths a minute. The results mean yoga enhances ‘aspects’ of heart and lung function and might be viewed as a health practice as well as a religious practice, he said.

The benefits of breathing exercises in yoga have long been reported, and mantras may have evolved as a simple device to slow respiration, improve concentration, and induce calm, Professor Bernardi says in this week’s British Medical Journal.

I’ve long said that praying the rosary is spiritual exercise.  But rosary prayer is also physical exercise.  And like any exercise, it’s important to show good form to maximize benefits.  This is what I said in my rosary prayer guide, The Rosary for the Rest of Us, about the connection between prayer and exercise:

It is important that you pray the rosary earnestly. If this is your first time praying the rosary regularly then please set aside some time so you can really concentrate. Going back to the exercise analogy, you cannot expect to get into great shape physically by working out half heartedly. You cannot do one poorly-formed pushup once a week and eat junk food and expect to be in super shape. Similarly, you need to develop good form for praying the rosary, especially in the beginning. Starting anything new and different can be a challenge initially. Think of praying the rosary as spiritual boot camp where you need to put in a lot of effort up front to give your spiritual life a jolt. But once you find your rhythm, the benefits of prayer really start to multiply. Once you are comfortable praying the rosary then it becomes much easier to integrate it throughout the day if you like.

So the benefits of rosary prayer is not just the seemingly random ramblings of this blog, but are backed up by the Church and the medical community.  If you are thinking of buying some new workout gear this year or starting a new fitness plan, perhaps you should add a rosary and my book to your shopping list.  Your mind, body, and soul will thank you.

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We Adopted!

When I heard about adoptacardinal.org on EWTN radio and received two emails from family members about it all on the same day, I knew it was probably a sign from above to mention it on RosaryMeds. The “Adopt a Cardinal” website will randomly assign a Catholic cardinal to you whom you will support through prayer and fasting during the conclave and three days after they elect the new pope. My wife and I are praying for Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez of Guadalajara, Mexico.

In my book, The Rosary for the Rest of Us, I stress how important it is to offer specific intentions in your prayers.

In the rosary, you may have a specific intention each time you pray the Hail Mary. Or you may have a single intention for the entire mystery or even the entire rosary. It is up to you how many intentions you want to present. But it is important to have intentions, thanksgivings, and remorse even if they are just generic ones (for the poor or homeless, for peace, health, etc.). Without intentions you may just go into “auto-pilot” and just say the words without actually praying for anything.

Remember, you are conversing with God, Jesus, Mary, and the saints when you pray the rosary. You have their undivided attention. Don’t you want to have something meaningful to say? While we may speak the the same words as everyone else who prays the rosary, your intentions are uniquely yours. The rosary is your time with Jesus. Make the most of it. He’s listening. The question is, are you actually talking to Him?

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My adopted cardinal

I pray specifically for my adopted cardinal on the first Our Father right after the Apostles’ Creed. I usually reserve that Our Father for the pope’s intentions. Given that the Church currently does not have an active pope, I think it makes perfect sense to pray for one of the cardinals who will play a role in selecting the next pope.

Just don’t say the rosary, but pray the rosary. Make it yours. And adopt and support the cardinals who will choose St. Peter‘s successor.

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