“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.
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.
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.