How to Effectively Pray the Rosary

The Dominican Rosary, also referred to as Our Lady’s Psalter, is among the most common devotions of Catholics. But unlike other devotions, it is wrong for us to consider the Rosary as an optional devotion. If it is the will of Christ’s Mother, Her will carries with it the force of a command. Our Lady wants us to pray the Rosary. She wants you to pray the Rosary. She has given us the rosary and has repeatedly asked and told us, Her spiritual children, to pray it well and frequently.

Devotion to Mary, the Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ is classified by the Church as the veneration of Hyper-Dulia. That is, in the grades of honour or veneration that we owe to those in heaven, the veneration of Mary comes after God and is above the veneration of the angels and saints.

Latria is the veneration due to God alone. Dulia is the veneration proper to the saints and Hyper-Dulia is given solely to the Blessed Virgin. The Rosary then, because it honours both God and the Blessed Virgin, is a practice of the devotion of Latria and of Hyper-Dulia. This fact alone already raises the excellence of the Rosary to a sublime level.

As to the spiritual profit and the manifold and great benefits that are to be derived from praying the Rosary, these will generally be in proportion to how well we pray. The Rosary carries with it the efficacy of being a combination of both vocal and mental prayer. It always has the potency to produce wonderful results, but the secret to unlocking the treasures contained in it in order to bring about these results is found only in the attention and fervour with which we pray.

I must now attempt to give you some guidelines for how to pray your Rosary in a way that is calculated to produce in you its sanctifying effects.

Many will feel that the Rosary is a bore, a burden, a painful tax on their time and that after all, they don’t seem to get anything out of it. They will also complain that they just don’t know how to say it properly, with attention on the mysteries, and that it doesn’t seem possible to think of the words at the same time as the mysteries.

Some who take it more seriously, may get scrupulous on this account, seeing that they have said almost a whole decade without thinking much at all of the corresponding mystery, or that while dwelling on it, there wasn’t sufficient attention paid to the words.

As applies with all forms of prayer and devotions, the appropriate dispositions for prayer, such as a modest and respectful composure, humility, recollection in the presence of God and the effort to banish distractions, are necessary if we are to benefit much from the Rosary. An effort at the beginning of the Rosary should be made to place yourself in the presence of God.

That’s the first start towards disposing yourself for prayer. The Rosary is going to flood your soul with grace if you are well prepared, so you need to be conscious of this beforehand, lest through negligence, you remain distracted and withdrawn from the presence of God, and thus miss out on this flood of graces. Once you have at least made some effort to banish distractions, you have opened yourself up to the action of grace which will continue to work in you more and more as you pray.

The soul and body are going to work together during the Rosary to pay homage to God and the Blessed Virgin and they are going to work together to receive and cooperate with the great lights and graces that will flow from this devout exercise. But making a good start isn’t everything. There’s still the whole Rosary to get through without falling back into dissipation.

So let’s tackle the concentration problem. How do we do it? How do we stay alert during our Rosary and not lose the merit of it by allowing ourselves to be too distracted and perhaps careless or indifferent?

Number one, you need good will. You need the firm and genuine intention to glorify God, sanctify your soul and assist the souls of others. For these are the principle ends of prayer.

With good will, it doesn’t matter how many times you involuntarily get distracted, because you will correct yourself once you are conscious that you have wandered away from the engagement of prayer.

Being Present in Spirit at the Sacred Mysteries

Number two, you must try to be present in spirit at the sacred mysteries while you pray your Rosary. Do not think that the Rosary is about juggling; trying to think of words and mysteries at the same time. Consider what it means to speak to or write a letter to someone very dear to you.

As you speak or write, your mind is pondering, thinking, meditating and contemplating on the past events of that person in relation to yourself. But if you write or speak to them without thinking about them, it shows little care and a great disconnectedness from them.

Of course, it is however different if this happens involuntarily, due for instance to the pressure and stress of some important business. The inner sentiments are the important thing and these manifest themselves in the manner in which you address and speak to the person externally. Now the Hail Mary is from God, so we cannot do better than use this external expression of reverence, love, praise etc. when we pray to the Blessed Virgin.

We can never say this prayer as worthily or perfectly as the Blessed Virgin deserves. So it is not vain to repeat it again and again. We are entering into a sublime and timeless prayer that is not our own. Like an inexhaustible well, this is a prayer that is always an honour to God, a joy to the Holy Virgin and a source of grace to our souls. Again, the inner sentiments which come to us while we call to mind the mysteries are the most important part of our prayer and it is right to let the words of the Hail Mary flow from us while we meditate without having to actually think of these words.

To be present at the mysteries it helps to be aware that with God, time and space mean nothing. You can place yourself at any one or even more than one of those mysteries instantly and receive the graces contained in them.

So when you meditate on a certain scene in Christ’s life, such as His Agony in the Garden of Olives, you are not spectating from afar, or remembering something that happened two thousand years ago, or thinking about it as one thinks about a work of art, or who studies something. Rather, you are actually there in spirit and simply by your intention.

You can in fact go right now to Jesus in the Garden and be there with Him in the way that matters most; that is spiritually. And, supposing the impossible, it would only do you good to be there physically if you were also there spiritually. It is somewhat like the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in which Christ no longer dies, but we can be present there as though we were at Calvary. This being present at the mysteries and letting the prayers of the Rosary flow from the devotion of your heart, is perhaps one of the best methods of praying, and is perfectly well calculated to sanctify your soul.

May the Blessed Virgin Herself assist us that we may offer this Her High Homage, with all due reverence, piety and good dispositions.

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