instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Sunday, October 13, 2013

How I pray the Rosary

Eleven years ago (!), I wrote a series of blog posts on different ways to pray the Marian Rosary.

Since then, I've settled into using a relatively steady way myself, based on a combination of a couple of ways I'd described and largely derived from a presentation I heard by Fr. Bart de la Torre, OP. It looks complicated -- okay, it is complicated -- but I did build up to it over several years. I'm putting it down here not to say, "Here, do this," but to encourage people to think about how they can make their own devotion to the Rosary more fruitful.

From week to week, I change perspective on the twenty mysteries according to time. The time is relative to the occurrence of each mystery, and is one of the following:
  1. Before the event. This could be just before (e.g., during the preparations for the wedding feast in Cana), or during a type of the mystery found in the Old Testament (e.g., Abraham preparing to sacrifice Isaac), or more generally in the centuries before the Incarnation (e.g., Israel looking forward to the coming of the Messiah).
  2. During the event.
  3. After the event. Again, this could be immediately after (e.g., the prediction of Jesus' passion after the Transfiguration), or decades later as the early Church reflects on it (e.g., St. Paul writing about the Institution of the Eucharist).
  4. Today. Either nowadays generally, or sometimes literally the day I am praying.
I stick with a time for a week, then move on to the next. For no particular reason, I align the times with weeks of the Psalter. So, for example, this being the 28th week in Ordinary Time, it's the 4th week of the Psalter, so I'll be meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary from the perspective of today all week. (A normal person might just count by Sunday of the month; the week of a fifth Sunday, they might pray from the perspective of the Second Coming.)

I also change perspective on the mysteries of the Rosary according to circumstances -- usually keeping the same circumstance for a week or more, but sometimes picking a new one day by day. The seven circumstances of human acts, on which St. Thomas conflates Aristotle and Cicero, are:
  1. Who
  2. What / about what
  3. Where
  4. By what aids
  5. Why
  6. How
  7. When
There's a lot that can be said about this list, most of which I don't know and almost none of which I worry about when praying the Rosary. I tend to go with the simpler ones -- who, when, where -- more frequently than the others, and quite often simply default to the "who" of Mary and/or Jesus.

Finally, I pray each decade according to this pattern:
  • The "Our Father" and the first four "Hail Marys": I meditate on the mystery, from the perspective of the time and circumstances as described above.
  • The fifth "Hail Mary": I meditate on Mary's faith in the context of the mystery.
  • The sixth "Hail Mary": I ask for faith like Mary's.
  • The seventh "Hail Mary": I meditate on Mary's hope in the context of the mystery.
  • The eighth "Hail Mary": I ask for hope like Mary's.
  • The ninth "Hail Mary": I meditate on Mary's love in the context of the mystery.
  • The tenth "Hail Mary": I ask for love like Mary's.
For the "Glory Be," I should offer thanks for the gift of the decade, though in practice I usually just use it as a transition from one mystery to the next.

Most importantly, perhaps, I pray the Rosary with the expectation that I'll pray it most every day until I die. This means that, on any single day, I don't fret about getting distracted, or not feeling I got much out of it, or finding myself at bedtime too tired to focus on a Rosary. I'm not going to be graded on how well I prayed the Rosary, I will be judged on how well I followed Jesus. Praying the Rosary is a way to form myself in His image, with His mother's help. That formation is gradual, but not perceptibly monotonic. I'm not trying to achieve anything discrete or sensible with today's Rosary, I am cultivating the habit of reflecting on Jesus' life, death, and resurrection with the heart of Mary.