Recently I have been teaching several non-Catholic Christians why and how to pray the Rosary. I find that because it requires a lot of careful explanation and answering of questions and objections, I end up being more aware and attentive to the prayer. I’ll reprint here a few of the lessons I sent to them, please share them with your friends and acquaintances who you think might be open to praying the Rosary.
School of Prayer:
Keep in mind that printed books are a pretty recent development in the 2000 years of Christian history! We are so accustomed to having a personal bible (even electronic copy now) that it’s hard for us to imagine what it was like to have to internalize the word of God by just by hearing it proclaimed at Church. It would take a monk years to hand copy the scriptures (and literacy was far less common) so there had to be supplemental ways for people to memorize and contemplate the content of their faith that was more widely available to the rank and file believer. This is why artwork, statuary, stained glass, music, and devotional forms of prayer developed. Some devotions were given to the saints through private revelations. The Rosary is a devotional prayer, that when prayed properly, can unfold for a person virtually all the important events in the life of our Lord Jesus. It is a summary of the Gospel, and therefore a way to get to know Jesus from a very privileged vantage point, through the eyes of His mother, who was in some cases the only witness to these mysterious events. (For example the Annunciation by the Angel Gabriel and the Birth of Jesus). This is why John Paul II said that praying the Rosary is, “contemplating the face of Jesus with Mary”.
Does anyone on this earth know or love your children as much as you do? No? Ok, so let’s ask then, could anyone of us really know or love Jesus more than His mother? It’s very reasonable to expect that we can learn to know and love him much more than we already do if we pay attention to all the things that she knows and loves about him. All His joys, His sorrows, His death and resurrection and all His Glories. If you let it, the meditations of the rosary can take you deep into those mysteries of His Divine Life, with the end result of falling more deeply in love with Him.
The prayers of the Rosary begin and end with the cross of Christ. So taking the cross or crucifix on the Rosary in hand, the sign of the cross is usually made with the finger tips of the right hand by touching the forehead, then the chest, and from the left shoulder to the right. Meanwhile the three Divine persons of the Holy Trinity are invoked, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.”
One of the reasons Christians made the sign of the cross in the early church was as a public witness. Imagine the holy martyrs whose deaths were used as entertainment by the pagan Romans. When they couldn’t be heard, they could at least be seen by the crowds to be making the sign of Christ’s cross, proclaiming their faith. It’s a very precious ancient custom, it recollects us well for prayer, and reminds us that our redemption was won on the cross by Jesus.
Depending on the circumstances the words can be spoken aloud or silently with just the mind and heart.