We have two ways of praying the Rosary:
1. As in Lectio Divina: contemplating the different Mysteries of Jesus’ life, with Mary’s eyes. This is the classical usual way of meditating on the mysteries of the Lord’s life.
2. As in the Prayer of the Heart: immersed by Mary in Jesus’ Being. This method, can be used during the Prayer of the Heart, and is a more simple, deeply contemplative way of praying the Rosary. Even if it is less known, it is not of lesser importance.
Just as the Mass has two parts and neither excludes the other with both of equal importance, so also it is with the Rosary and both these methods should be used.
In another article (see here) I explained the existence of these two ways of praying the Rosary. In this article I would like to speak more about some aspects of saying the Rosary during Prayer of the Heart. If you want to know more about the two methods, please read the article: “Two ways to say the Rosary”. When in this article I will mention the word “rosary” it will allude to the physical rosary and not to the classical prayer we know with the 4 sets of mysteries.
In a another article, Distractions during “Prayer of the Heart”, we mentioned that during the Prayer of the Heart, in order to reduce the influence of the distractions, it is advisable to pray the decades of the rosary after having made the offering of oneself to Jesus, and placing oneself in the hands of Mary. Here the “hands” are very literal; while your heart is raised in prayer, we are holding the rosary which Mary herself has given to us.
Why and how do we do this? First, we will look at the physical rosary itself and how we should view it and use it.
Holding your own rosary
It is advisable during Prayer of the Heart to hold our very own personal rosary, not one belonging to someone else. A rosary is a personal religious item. In one of her apparitions to St Bernadette, Our Lady noticed that Bernadette wasn’t holding her own rosary – in fact someone else had lent her one. Our Lady noticed this and asked her: “where is your rosary?”
Some people have a fanciful collection of rosaries: one for this, one for that, etc. It is better to unify our habits in our prayer life adopting the simplicity of having only one and just keeping and using the same rosary.
Characteristics of Choosing a Rosary
A good choice would be if our rosary had the following characteristics:
Simple: no excess of size, ornamentation or medals attached to it. It is not its price or its beauty that matters, but the real use we make of it. It is usually blessed by a Priest, and as well blessed and made ours by all the prayers said using it.
Discreet: it is between you and God. No noise (as some are quite noisy), not flashy. One with wooden beads and solid string is quite discreet. Some can have very small beads making it more convenient to carry in a pocket.
Solid: many do break, especially during the night, so it is better to choose one with nylon (or similar) strings and strong beads.
The Meaning of Holding a Rosary in your Hands
What does it mean to hold our rosary physically in our hands? It expresses:
1- A sincere outright dependence on Mary, knowing that we have recourse to her prayers, her fire, and her intimate knowledge of the wisdom and discernment of Jesus.
2- It is our personal Rosary and not that belonging to anyone else. Our body prays. It grounds us.
3- It is comparable to physically holding Mary’s hands. The Rosary is Mary’s prayer given to us. It is Her way of praying with the quality of the fire of her love.
4- It is like receiving the “Good Soil”, the “New Wineskin”, the “New Heart of Flesh” and deciding to use it in order to love God. As long as we are here on earth, with our human condition, our body participates in our prayer and we pray as a unit: body, soul and spirit. We are not three persons, or three beings, we are one being, one person, and our body is part of our prayer. Even at the highest point of our prayer – i.e. the point that is touched by God, our spirit – we are one unit. Therefore, we cannot totally neglect the presence of our body. So holding physically our own rosary is a humble but important part of our prayer. It acknowledges that God’s action and intervention in the world reaches the most humble part of His creation; the Lord has affirmed that even a hair from our head doesn’t fall without God knowing and seeing it (see Gospel Mt 9:30). Therefore by physically holding the rosary, our body confesses that God embraces all that He has created through His Incarnation. All the created world belongs to God. Although we are not angels – heavenly beings – but humans, we are the earthly “mediators” of the work of sanctification, acting for and with Jesus, our real true Mediator.
What is the Meaning of the Beads?
Using the rosary during the Prayer of the Heart, the beads can be seen as:
– Roses sent to God, by the hands of Mary.
– Impulses of Divine Pure Love (by the hands of Mary),
– A more modern comparison we can say that the beads (saying one “Hail Mary”) embody our acts of love for God and that they are like: “sparks” of divine energy” sent to God. Remember the ineffable groans of the Holy Spirit praying in us (Romans 8:26 “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”).
For instance, every time we say one “Hail Mary”, in fact we send an impulse of love, we make an act of Love, we send an arrow of Love to God. When we say to the Mother of God: “Pray for us sinners” in fact we are asking her to lift us up to God, so our prayers which come from God, through Mary return to God. Lifts us up Mary, so we can love God with your own capacity of Love, with your own Fire of Love.
There is a danger of transforming the physical holding of the rosary or the rosary itself into idolatry by unconsciously falling into mechanical repetition and not internalising our relationship with Jesus, generating true prayer. The rosary is not an idol or a talisman. Mary’s hand is not an idol. Even Jesus’ body is not an idol. We aim for the entire Jesus, who is God. Only He is God. Holding the Rosary is like holding Mary’s Hand. It doesn’t generate prayer. What establishes the contact with God is the fact that we offer ourselves to Jesus in the Hands of Mary.
Holding the rosary in our hands essentially facilitates the silent quiet repetition of the Hail Marys.
Holding it tighter will not increase the intensity of our prayer.
It should not become too tense or stressful for the hand. We relax and rest in God during the Prayer of the Heart. We abandon ourselves (letting go) to God and in God.
Whilst our body participates in our prayer, it is the heart that prays. God is Spirit. It is in Jesus and in the Holy Spirit that we pray truthfully.
While praying in the company with others, when sincerely they pray to Our Lady, when they hold their Rosary in their hand, when they ask her to “pray for them” (“Pray for us sinners”), I always notice a powerful boost in the connection with the Lord: immersion in Him and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Note: The Eastern Churches’ Rosary (Called чётки – chotki) is used essentially for the Prayer of the Heart – also known as the Jesus Prayer. It is composed of 33 knots (the years of Jesus’ life on earth) or 11 (1/3 x 33) or 99 (3 x 33) knots. In fact the above-mentioned method uses of the the Western Rosary in the same way the Eastern Churches do with theirs. The repetition of the the Hail Mary goes with the natural rhythm of our breathing. Not faster, not slower.
Some Spiritual Aspects of the use of the Rosary
during the Prayer of the Heart
1- Mary’s Fire, God’s transformative Beam
Mary’s is purity itself and it is the absence of anything that is not God in Her that precipitates this transformation. She is fully moved by God, the Holy Spirit.
2- Establishing Peace
What is Peace? No obstacles or impurities or any created thing between us and God.
Peace: Jesus is the king of Peace. He established in us and amongst us God’s Peace. He purified us, removing all what is not God in us. Peace is the very nature of God. Anything that is not God in us is “war” fighting against God. Peace is to be “from God to God”. It is being united to God. It is participating in the very Life of God, breathing from His “oxygen”, the Holy Spirit, the Divine Breath. The purer we become, the greater is the Peace of God in us.
The Holy Spirit is the author of this “pacifying” work of God in us. He removes all what is not God from us, and He does it at all levels: the deepest and most hidden one is the roots of our being, our spirit, or heart (the supra-conscious part in us, operating above the level of our conscious rational thought). During the Prayer of the Heart, the Holy Spirit works in that important part of our being – like water that works giving life to the roots of a tree. This action is essential and is allowed to happen when we practise the Prayer of the Heart. So God directs the Beam of His Light and Love, the Holy Spirit, towards our heart and purifies it, introducing a closer communion with him: this creates the Peace between us and God.
3- Apostolate, Mary’s Apostolate
Reciting the Rosary, in the form of Prayer of the Heart is a central weapon of conquest (Evangelisation) and the most powerful one. It places us at the front of the “war” of conquest deep in the hearts of our brothers and sisters.
Saying silently and quietly: praying the rosary is like: directing the beam of Mary’s Fire on the needs or obstacles of our brothers and sisters, until they are resolved (until it dilutes). St. Therese of the Child Jesus explains what happens when we say it automatically and we don’t think of a specific person. (Please see the article on the Intercessory Prayer).
It is in the forefront, helping to spread the Peace of God, communion with Him and therefore removing all obstacles between our brothers and Jesus.
|Mary Star of the New Evangelisation|
4- The Deep Contemplative Way
When we enter in the Prayer of the Heart while holding our Rosary and saying silently the prayers of “Our Father” and “Hail Marys” and “Glory be”, we are in fact entering deeper with Mary into the very life of the Trinity, participating in the Trinity’s Being and Life in its operations and acts.
The Trinity has two inner operations: a) The Father begets the Son, b)The Father and the Son love one another in one movement: the spiration of the Holy Spirit.
The Trinity has outer operations: a) The Father sends the Son to each human being (so He grows in him) and b) The Father sends the Holy Spirit, His love, to each human being.
Practising the Prayer of the Heart with Mary, in Mary, allows the following to be received in our spirit: a) God’s Being, b) The inner operations and c) The outer operation that happens in us and through us, here on earth.
Nobody can see that action, even though it is the most important action, communication, change, on earth, but it happens. Practising the Prayer of the Heart with Mary is participating in the transformation of ourselves and the entire world through us and in us.
This way of praying the Rosary is not an alternative to the usual way of saying the Rosary (meditating Jesus’ Mysteries: the Joyful, Light, Sorrowful, and Glorious), it is a complementary way just as there are two parts in the Mass: the Liturgy of the Word – that would be the meditation of the Rosary as it is commonly known – and the Liturgy of the Body and Blood of Christ (the explanation presented here and related to the Prayer of the Heart). Both are prayed “with Mary and in Mary”. They are like two “digestive” processes of the two aspects of the Bread we receive in the Mass (Word and Body of Jesus). Which means: when we we meditate on the daily readings before or fater the Mass, doing Lectio Divina we take time to digest the Word of God given to us during the Mass. When we practice the Prayer of the Heart, before or after the Mass (at any time of the day) in fact we are taking time to digest the grace of our last Communion.
5- Mary is Jesus’ Gift to each one of us
Only Jesus is God. But Mary is “flesh of his flesh”. Through the incarnation of the Jesus, Mary is the archetype of Jesus’ disciple (see Catechism of the Catholic Church numbers: 148-149, 165, 273, 411, 466-469, 484-506-511, 529, 721-726, 773, 829, 963-967-975, 1014, 1172, 2617-2619, 2673-2676, 2679, 2682). In Mary we find the fullness of Jesus. Mary’s way of knowing and Loving Jesus is the most perfect gift from God to us giving us access to her life in Jesus Christ. In Baptism God gives us Himself and Faith. In giving us Mary’s Faith, we receive both the ‘New Wine’ and the ‘New Wineskin’. God doesn’t give us only one thing: i.e. the New Wine, or the New Seed. He gives us two things: not only the New Wine (Himself, the Trinity, Jesus) but also He gives us the capacity to receive him, to know him and to love him. This capacity is embodied in Jesus’ principal disciple, Mary. Mary is personally given to us. This is why it was a fundamental act when Jesus was giving himself on the Cross to us, to give us the capacity to receive him, when He said: Behold! Here is your mother (John 19). (see this article on Mary’s strong mediation)
Holding the Rosary in our hands is humbly confessing that we receive Mary in our place, in our life, and that we understand who she is in God’s eyes.
When we hold the Rosary, we confess the whole totality of our Faith and not just part of it. We hold the most secure understanding and practice of our faith.
6- Conquering Peace
Sometimes when we pray the Prayer of the Heart when we don’t have the gentle peace or the feeling of the divine grace poured in us, how should we pray? This is when we should hold our Rosary, saying it in this contemplative way of Prayer of the Heart. In doing so, we are akin to directing the beam of the Holy Spirit on the conflict in our feelings of “war”. We do so until it subsides and often toward the end of the hour, we find that Peace returns. A battle was won. Did you see or watch any details of this battle? No. It is Mary. We don’t need anything more than the presence of Mary.. We just do our part, as faithful soldiers. Mary manages the rest.
Note: You may want to deepen your understanding of this paragraph by reading the following imporant article: Mary’s Fiery Prayer