Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Sweetening the Sorrow

I must confess that I have a hard time praying the rosary.  It takes tremendous discipline on my part to recite that many Hail Marys, Our Fathers, and Glory Bes in a row while focusing my mind on the appropriate mystery for each decade.  Why does it feel so difficult for me much of the time?

It is not nearly so difficult for me to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet as that prayer is a very personal prayer for me.  A good friend of mine was praying a Divine Mercy Chaplet Novena for my return to the Catholic Church between Good Friday and Divine Mercy Sunday several years ago.  It was during the time of her novena that I responded to a mysterious but irresistible urge to go see the Catholic pastor in our area.   I did not know him nor had I been inside a Catholic church for some twenty five years.

I was an on-fire Evangelical Protestant as was my husband.  The Catholic Church of my youth would never be a home for me again—or so I thought.  It turned out that the priest in my little ‘Podunk’ town was also a Roman Catholic Canon lawyer and thus began my return to the Catholic Church. My reversion to the Catholic Church also started an intense study into the teaching of the Church I had dismissed.  My ex-Protestant pastor’s conversion to the Catholic Church took place shortly after I returned.  My husband and I came into full communion with the Catholic Church on the Feast day of St. Faustina about a year and a half after my friend’s Divine Mercy Chaplet Novena.

But it only takes me ten minutes to say the Divine Mercy Chaplet, whereas the rosary takes me twenty minutes or more.

As a child, we had meatless Fridays.  At some point after I left the Catholic Church, meatless Fridays were replaced by a personal penance of our own choice on Fridays.  Although this penance is still obligatory, from what I can tell, many Catholics my age are unaware of this.  I only discovered that we are called to perform a personal penance on Fridays a few months ago.

The perfect penance for me is going to Church to pray the rosary on Fridays during adoration.

I am consecrated to Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  This was something I did early on when I came back to the Catholic Church—that is, once I found out about it.  My consecration day is on the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which is always celebrated on that Saturday following the Friday Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus which both follows the feast of Corpus Christi.  My consecration gives me even more reason to be frustrated with my struggles to get through the rosary.

But why is it so hard for me?  So many people love to pray the rosary.

I love to read the original writings of the Saints in the Catholic Church.  I take encouragement in that even great saints had struggles in their prayer life.  So why should a spiritual weakling, such as myself, expect no challenges?  St. Teresa of Avila wrote about her struggles in her prayer life in The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila by Herself.  And for what do we remember St. Teresa?  We remember her for her great prayer life among other things.  After years of slogging through difficult periods of prayer she was given the gift of contemplation where the Lord lifting her up both spiritually and physically (yep!) in ecstasy in during prayer.  Bernini immortalized the ecstasy of St. Teresa in his sculpture.

During my Evangelical years, I took the verse Matt 6:7 as a forever absolution of my ever praying the rosary again.  At that time I thought, “Why do the Catholics pray the rosary when the bible tells us not to keep repeating ourselves?”  However, I now recognize that my misdirected thinking was taking the verse completely out of the historical context in which it was written.   When I pray the rosary, the rhythm of those repeated prayers and the movement of our fingers quiet down my mind to actually allow me to meditate on the mysteries of the God’s mind-blowing actions in Salvation History.

When I facilitated the ‘33 Days to Morning Glory’ class in my home parish, I recall Fr. Michael Gaitley saying, “I do not know why Mary likes us to say the rosary so much, but she does!” on one of the videos.

Ever since then (and that was a couple years back) I have been asking, Why does Mary like us to say the rosary so much?”   

The answer came as quickly as a dried up kernel of corn metamorphosizes into a piece of popcorn when the perfect temperature is reached.  My stubbornly empty kernel of ‘wondering why’ was replaced by a soft, fragrant billowy bite of understanding and accompanying peace.  My explanation could be of my own creation but it makes sense to me and has had a profound impact on my prayer life.

The rosary is not so difficult to pray anymore.

I was in adoration thinking about how God is outside of time.  He has to be because he created both space and time.  Now Christ is fully divine and fully human…The Incarnation is this great mystery. Thus events in human history that Christ participated in occurred in time, as do things we do, but Christ's actions exist outside of time, too as God-events.  It is especially helpful to think this way about the to the passion of Our Lord!

Remember the agony in the garden of Jesus?  Jesus so wanted his three best apostle-buddies to keep him company.  They kept falling asleep while Jesus’ agony was so intense his blood became as drops of blood.  [BTW, this is a real medical phenomena, hematohidrosis.]  Remember how when Christ was hanging from the cross and His mother, his Aunt Mary, John, and Mary Magdalene were the only ones who kept him company?

Both those events are actual historical events, but also they are outside of time as God-events. Indeed in the Mass we are united with the sacrifice of Calvary precisely because this God-event is outside of time.  That is what it means, the representation of the sacrifice of Calvary.  When I hear the under-educated complaining about how boring the Mass is--I see the apostles asleep unable to keep Jesus company.  So many are asleep to the meaning of the Mass and the power of the Eucharist even among practicing Catholics.

Now when I meditate on the sorrow mysteries, as I do on Fridays when I pray my rosary, I can make myself present to Christ and console Him during His passion.  I can be there at Gethsemane and at Calvary.

This is the answer that I received.  I can take the struggles of my prayer life, in focusing my roaming mind and my recalcitrant will, to Jesus and unite them to His passion.   Mary has such a sweet way of bringing me into the company with her Son.  This is what it means to me to Console the Heart of Jesus.


  1. I found this scriptural Rosary for the sorrowful mysteries today. I used it while praying my rosary today. I found it wonderfully helpful! http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers-and-devotions/rosaries/scriptural-rosary-the-sorrowful-mysteries.cfm