“I am waiting like the desert for Your rain; I am bracing like the shoreline…
As I have come to understand, everything about God works slowly. His promptings are quiet, His movements are precise and my journey into the heart of Christ, in looking back, has been moving at a snail’s pace. In today’s whirlwind lifestyle of instant gratification, the workings of God may seem insignificant, slow and not in keeping with the culture. However, those of us who yearn to be disciples of Jesus through the virtues of patience and perseverance know that the slow workings of God are perfect and have our salvation always as the ultimate encounter. The Rosary is a perfect example of one of these slow and perfect workings of God.
The roots of the Rosary date back to the Desert Fathers of the 3rd century who used stones and ropes to keep count of the 150 Psalms they prayed. The Our Father prayer was also prayed 150 times using a string of beads. The Hail Mary prayer came about even more slowly and developed over the span of many centuries when the name of Mary was first added to the Scripture from Luke 1:28 – “Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.” Around the year 1050 AD, Elizabeth’s words used to greet Mary were added to form the next piece of the prayer – “Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” In 1261, Pope Urban IV added the Name of “Jesus” to the end of the prayer. In his 1555 Catechism, St. Peter Canisius printed the Hail Mary prayer, adding “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners.” In 1566, the Catechism of the Council of Trent included the final piece, “now and at the hour of our death. Amen.” Finally, in 1568, the Hail Mary version we pray today was given final approval by the Church.
Using Rosary beads is not original to Catholics. In fact, many religions use beads for the purpose of prayer. Hindus, Greeks and Buddhists all use a form of beads for prayer. The word bead comes from the Old English word bede which means prayer. It is widely believed that St. Dominic, in 1214, received a vision of the Blessed Mother and She gave him the Rosary beads and prayers to pray. It was St. Dominic who encouraged small gatherings of people to pray the Rosary together. And it was in 1917, during the appearance of Mary to the children in Fatima, when She asked that the “Fatima Prayer” be added to the end of the Rosary – “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell; lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy.”
Second only to attending daily Mass, the Rosary has been the one crucial prayer in my life which has brought me the most peace, the most joy and the most challenges. But, as I pray more intentionally into the mysteries of the Rosary, it brings me the greatest opportunity to slowly surrender. The Rosary has been the anchor in my life which ties me to Jesus through Mary. As I continue to pray daily this beautiful prayer, I know that my Bridegroom is drawing me closer to Him and has been allowing His Mother Mary to be the conduit of this attraction.
As a convert to Catholicism in my early 20’s, I did not grow up knowing or praying the Rosary and was really not introduced to this prayer until I was in my late 30’s. A dear Catholic friend casually invited me to a Moms In Prayer group which met weekly to pray together for their children, families, schools, intentions and much, much more. This group included a variety of women of all ages and backgrounds who I would come to know as my Prayer Sisters. Twenty years later, I still rely on these women as my pillars of faith and call upon them in my need for intercessory prayers and support. The group would begin each weekly prayer time with the praying of the Rosary. This was the beginning of my slow love story…
At first, I would follow along in my blue pamphlet which gave me all the prayers. I would read along and try to be sure I prayed the words properly. I worked hard to learn the order of the prayers and to remember each mystery. I was like a child, learning something new and unknown. I had no reference to anything like this and I used my pamphlet like a drowning person clings to a buoy. We bobbed along together, my pamphlet and I, for a few years, praying the Rosary once a week with my prayer sisters. Slowly, though, I noticed that I had a desire to pray the Rosary more than just on Tuesday mornings at 9:30. I found myself pulling out my tattered and worn pamphlet more often… when I was in need, when a loved one was sick, when I had a few minutes of downtime during a child’s nap. Slowly, as God would have it, I was drawn to Jesus in the Rosary with Mary at my side. She took me gently by the hand and guided me to Her Son. The desire to pray a Rosary became like a lighthouse to my little bobbing boat of faith until I found myself able to pray the whole Rosary without my pamphlet. I could recall each mystery along Jesus’ journey and I would ponder and sit with this while I offered my heart to Christ in consolation, in petition and simply in love for His great faithfulness and patience towards me.
Now I am here, many, many years later and my love for Jesus through the Rosary has only deepened. The Rosary has become more than just a prayer to pray, it has become like an umbilical cord which gives me breath. Each morning, as I open my eyes and thank God for the day, I begin the Rosary. Some days when I am laser focused (which is not many at that early time of the morning!), I can pray the Rosary before I arrive at morning Mass, but most times, I take the Rosary slowly. I focus on each mystery and its accompanying virtue and can recall the time I walked the footsteps of Christ in the Holy Land. I reflect on being present at the location where each of the mysteries took place… at the place where Mary received the Angel Gabriel and the Word became flesh, at the place where Jesus took His Apostles to teach them to pray the Our Father before ascending into Heaven, at the place of His Crucifixion, Death and Resurrection… at each place where His great love for me opened wide my heart.
My hope is that my Rosary life journey is far from over. I pray that I have many more Rosaries to offer up for the special intentions of those I have met and will meet on my way to eternity. Each Rosary prayer brings me more fully into the love story with my Bridegroom and I know that Mary, the true Bride, has been my encouragement and guide along the way. The gratitude I have for my prayer sisters who so unknowingly brought me to Christ through the Rosary is deep and wide and I have been so blessed by the immense impact the Rosary has had on me. With Christ, I now have a mission to lead others to Him through the Rosary. It’s the wedding gift I continue to give to my Bridegroom and His Mother.
Copyright 2023 – Nicky Verna