Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hail Mary

I suppose it's partly our own fault. We assume everyone has heard about us already. In a way, that's true. You'd be hard pressed to find people who have never heard of the Catholic Church. Yet whenever I write about Catholicism, I invariably get at least one comment that says, in essence: "I had no idea that (insert Catholic practice/belief here) had meaning for you."

One thing I think is misunderstood is formal prayer. Certainly, other sects memorize prayers too, but none seem to do it quite as much as we do. Most Catholics have memorized a very large number of them, sometimes in both Latin and their native tongue. Why? What is the point? Can't you just pray?

Well, of course you can just pray. Prayer is the raising of one's mind and heart to God - you can use whatever words you like or even none at all. The idea that God needs to hear your prayers in certain words or in a specific language is a bit silly. God doesn't need anything. So what is the point of formal prayer?

For me, formal prayer, especially the Rosary, is communication. It is not mindless repetition of words. The prayers, the beads, are secondary; they are a tool to help maintain focus on what is really important. It is not mechanical; the form gives structure to your prayer. It frees your mind to meditate. When your mind wanders, as it will, the murmured prayers, the beads in your hand, gently pull it back.

Formal prayer helps me to pray when I have no words. When I am lost, confused, or troubled, the Rosary is always there to lead me to Christ, to help me find answers to questions I cannot put into words. You can learn a lot from a daily Rosary. It can give balance to your life. In times of joy, we pray. In times of sorrow, we pray. We come to realize that there is only one constant in our lives: Jesus Christ.

My own Rosary is olive wood. It is nearly a hundred years old. It belonged to my grandfather. The beads are worn smooth, polished in a way that comes only from years of use. I have two others: one for each of my sons when they are old enough. I hope someday they will feel some of the connections I do whenever they pick it up: to family, to faith, to tradition, to hope, to charity, to love. That would be a good beginning.

Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, Ora pro nobis.

Respectfully Yours,



Cheryl Kohan said...

What a lovely post. I'm not Catholic but I absolutely understand the meditation metaphor and the peace and comfort it would give to you. Thank you so much for sharing these very personal thoughts.

Hilary said...

I happy for you that you have such faith and I have little doubt that you will pass it to your sons along with their respective Rosary beads.

Ananda girl said...

Beautifully said.

My ex's family was very anti-Catholic and that made things hard for me. They had such ridiculous assumptions... the greatest of which that there is something wrong with "rituals" in the church. Certainly that is an important aspect. But you know, there is great comfort in the well trod path. Prayer is many things... comfort, absolution, devotion, praise and direct connection to God.

My counter defense was that a great many things in their church were ritual as well... from the typical order of the service to the passing of the collection plate and song is just as repetitive.

Suldog said...

As much of a Catholic as I was (and still am, in many ways) the rosary was never something that did it for me. I understand all that you say, of course, and it's not that reflection holds no gift for me - for instance, I especially enjoy the peace and connection with God one can acquire via walking a labyrinth - but the decades tend to put me in a mood that I think is less worthy of God's audience, not more. Perhaps I need to learn patience.

I have a couple of interesting little stories concerning Mary, and perhaps I'll write them up for my own blog. If so, thanks for the inspiration!

Land of shimp said...

You know, I read Jim's post also, and over there tried to pare down my thoughts.

You and I have talked about this at some length, and you know specifically why I take some issue with the Virgin Mary, as well as the historical role of the Catholic church in gender equality.

So, instead of launching into all that again, Cricket, I'll just say that I am always glad to see how dearly you love your faith, and your religion.

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Cricket: The love you show to God is very important in ones life.

lime said...

when a practice has meaning because it truly focuses an individual's mind on the almighty it has value. even those most vocally opposed to the rosary or other formal prayers on principle have their own practices which could be regarded similarly.

not being Catho9lic i've never learned or practiced the rosary but i recall unison prayers or statements of faith which helped me have a sense of belonging to a body both in present day and reaching back over the millennia. that was a profound thing for me as a young person.

my personal experience with being mentally in a state where i was entirely unable to focus or pray in any other way came in the days and weeks after we had been the victims of a home invasion robbery. each night as i lay in bed fighting the terror that kept me from sleep i'd repeat (sometimes silently, sometimes not) "i will lie down in peace and sleep for though i am alone, o lord, you will keep me safe." (a paraphrase of psalm 4:8) i had read it nightly to my daughter out of a book which had been given to her. i thought it was for her sake that i read it each night, until after the trauma when it was ME who needed to be quieted and calmed.

as always, i appreciate your perspective and depth.

Anonymous said...

(I am catching up on people after a long absence. Sully led me to this post...)

A very dear friend of ours recently returned from a trip to The Vatican.

He brought a Rosary for each of our family members from the The Vatican. Each one has beads made from a different colored glass; he selected the colors based on our personalities.

I am a cradle Episcopalian, and yet was truly touched and honored by his gift (as was our entire family). For him to think of us while on a trip that had such great personal meaning to him makes our Rosaries that much more precious.

I actually own several Rosaries; they came to me at different times in my life.

Thank you for this post; it gives even greater meaning to my Rosaries.

Thim :)