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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Book Review: The Secret of the Rosary

I recently finished reading The Secret of the Rosary by Saint Louis de Montfort.  In short, I think this is a terrific book that anyone who regularly prays the rosary should read and share with others.  First, who was Saint Louis de Montfort?  The wikipedia summary is:

Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort (31 January 1673 – 28 April 1716) was a FrenchRoman Catholic priest and Confessor. He was known in his time as a preacher and was made a missionary apostolic by Pope Clement XI.[1]

As well as preaching, Montfort found time to write a number of books which went on to become classic Catholic titles and influenced several popes. Montfort is known for his particular devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the practice of consistently praying the Rosary.

Keep in mind that the average Catholic in the 17th century didn’t have EWTN media, the internet, and RosaryMeds to help them learn about the beauty and power of rosary prayer.  Saint Louis de Montfort basically wrote one of the first howto guides to praying the rosary and spelled out its benefits by telling stories of miraculous events people experienced when they devoted themselves to rosary prayer.

Not to be overly self-promoting, but I was amazed by the similarities between my book, The Rosary for the Rest of Us, and The Secret of the Rosary.  Both books touch on recommended ways of praying the rosary, the benefits Mary promised those who pray it, and even some of the challenges you might face trying to form a rosary praying routine.  Of course, Saint Louis de Montfort had years of theological study in a seminary and was a librarian so he had a lot more spiritual and historical knowledge to draw from for The Secret of the Rosary than I have for RosaryMeds.  Still, I am proud that The Rosary for the Rest of Us overlaps in subject matter with a book written by a saint!  Also, you won’t find commentary on each rosary mystery (not to mention that the Luminous Mysteries didn’t even exist in de Montfort’s time) in The Secret of the Rosary like you find in The Rosary for the Rest of Us.

Buy “The Secret of the Rosary from Amazon.com
Buy “The Rosary for the Rest of Us” from Amazon

The Secret of the Rosary provides a nice little kick of motivation to those who may feel a bit weary after praying the rosary day after day, week after week, and year after year.  Saint Louis de Montfort acknowledges many of the challenges associated with praying the rosary such as finding the time, finding it tedious, mindlessly going through the prayers, wanting to give it up, etc.  Evidently, a 17th century Catholic faced nearly all the same challenges a 21st century Catholic faces about achieving fruitful prayer.  But he offers a sense of hope and infuses a sense of pride for keeping up with rosary prayer even when it is hard.  In the book, he writes:

Even if you have to fight distractions all through your whole Rosary be sure to fight well, arms in hand: that is to say, do not stop saying your Rosary even if it is hard to say and you have absolutely no sensible devotion. It is a terrible battle, I know, but one that is profitable to the faithful soul. If you put down your arms, that is, if you give up the Rosary, you will be admitting defeat and then, having won, the devil will leave you alone.

He often talks about the struggle of good vs. evil, God’s final judgement, and other personal encounters people had with Mary about rosary prayer.  Unlike today’s white-washed view of evil, 17th century Catholics weren’t afraid to acknowledge the terrible reality of Satan and Hell.  When de Montfort writes about the dire consequences of falling into sin and the rewards for remaining in God’s grace, you can’t help but see the rosary in a new light.  No one who reads The Secret of the Rosary can possibly think of the rosary as a silly little necklace or just mindless repetition of prayers when you know all the good it has produced and how many souls it has saved.

I think everyone will take away at least one action item from this book.  For example, I realized that I need to slow down and take my time praying the rosary.  Often, I try to “beat the clock” and get through all five mysteries and additional prayers before arriving at work on my morning commute.  When I know I’m getting close to my office complex, I tend to speed up the prayers in a mad dash.  After reading The Secret of the Rosary, I now realize that there isn’t really no point in racing through Hail Marys so I can check off praying the rosary on my daily todo list.  Essentially, Mary cares more about the quality of your prayers, not the quantity.

Oh, one last point about The Secret of the Rosary.  It’s a fast read.  Each chapter (or Rose as de Monfort calls them) is only a few paragraphs.  So you really don’t have to dedicate a lot of time to the book.  You can read a few chapters a day almost like a daily prayer book.

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