The Rosary has, I think, really always been present in my life.
I was first given Rosary beads on the day of my First Holy Communion, a little blue set as I recall. Much later on, these were replaced by a set of black glass beads – I still have these in a little box although they have been broken for many years. Various other sets took the place of each preceding set as they were broken, lost or given away. Many years later, I began to make Rosaries as gifts for special occasions, such as a set for my sister on her wedding day. The Rosary I use daily is one I made some years go.
I recall being in the junior Legion of Mary in high school, where the Rosary was prayed at the start of evening meeting. In those days, I had the intention of getting through it as quickly as possible – I had not yet come to understand this devotion, nor it’s power.
One of the things that began to change this was, I think, the first time I made the ’54 Day Rosary Novena’; I had attempted this a couple of times but did not complete it. Finally, I determined that I would pray the Rosary every single one of those days – and I did. Something changed at that point, although it is very difficult to explain the nature of what I mean. I only know that after this, I saw the Rosary quite differently and I felt very drawn to it as a personal devotion. The Rosary Promises speak of a ‘signal grace’ when persevering in the Rosary, and I have often wondered if this offers an explanation.
I read a great deal about the Rosary, trying to understand the devotion better and to gain insights into how to pray it well – praying it as well as possible is very important. Without that determined effort, the chances are that it will never really take root within us. Saint Louis de Montfort wrote the most astonishing book about this devotion, entitled ‘The Secret Of The Rosary’- although written three centuries ago, it is as worthwhile now as then and contains many gems which assist the soul in coming to know and to love this prayer. He uses the motif of the Rosary as a tree of sorts, which we plant in the soul –
“Good and devout souls, who walk in the light of the Holy Spirit; I do not think you will mind my giving you this little mystical rose tree which comes straight from Heaven and which is to be planted in the garden of your soul.”
Reading the book initially, a lot of it seemed somewhat pious and a little sentimental on first reading, but I gradually came to see that what the Saint was describing – in the language and prose of his time, certainly – was actually accurate and described something real. He had a perception which the Saints seem to have quite clearly – the rest of us only begin to appreciate this vision later on.
Be that as it may, the writing of Saint Louis had a profound impact on my – and it has never left me. His informal title as ‘Apostle of the Rosary’ is well-earned!
As the years went on, I read much on what the Holy Fathers had to say about the Rosary; Leo XIII wrote about it and mentioned it often; Pius XII was a devotee and encouraged the faithful to follow his example; and John Paul II not only wrote about it often, but added to it with the inclusion of the Luminous Mysteries. And yet the source material I return to time after time is that book by Saint Louis. There is just something about it.
These days, I pray the Rosary every day and I finally appreciate what a great grace it is to do so; I have written many times previously about the devotion of the Rosary and different methods of praying it, so there should be something for everyone. I would give anything to encourage every soul to pray it with fervour and with perseverance.
My experience of this most beautiful prayer of the Rosary is that it is an exceptionally powerful form or prayer, particularly if prayed as well as we can manage – that is, with effort and with consistency. The Blessed Virgin is very generous when Her Rosary is prayed in this way – She grants the soul little insights into the Mysteries, little glimmers of light which reveal ever new aspects of them. And those Mysteries are like great oceans in which the soul can swim without ever reaching the shore, whose water always refresh and revive. It is a prayer for every moment and occasion – every need, every intention can be recommended to the Mother of God through Her Rosary, with the surety that She is listening and will respond as She judges best.
As ever, it is one thing to read what someone else has to say about devotion to the Rosary or to any other devotion; but it is quite another thing to experience it oneself, at the personal level. And so I would urge you from the depths of my heart – take up your beads and pray the Rosary, every single day if at all possible; discover for yourself what joys and riches it contains and offers.