My Dad’s Rosary

Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary 
October 7, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 1, its very opening verses.

Blessed the one who follows not
    the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
    and meditates on God’s law day and night.

Psalm 1:1-3

Scripture scholar James L. Mays says that the psalm’s primacy is not accidental:

The Book of Psalms begins with a beatitude. Not a prayer or a hymn, but a statement about human existence. Here at the threshold of the Psalter we are asked to consider the teaching that the way life is lived is decisive for how it turns out. This opening beatitude also serves as an introduction to the book. Its location as the first psalm is not accidental; the psalm is there to invite us to read and use the entire book as a guide to a blessed life.

Psalms: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching

Psalm 1 helps us to understand that praying the Psalter is a tool for spiritual guidance. It is not just about the people and times it mentions. It is about us and our lifelong journey with God.

In a sense the rosary, which we think about today as we pray with Mary, is a similar tool. And I’ll be honest with you, it’s a tool I didn’t appreciate until much later in my life.


Most Catholics have a history with the rosary. It’s a form of prayer we learned as children at our grandmother’s or first grade teacher’s knee. But for me as a six-year old, it was just too long. I became bored mid-second decade. I even used to cheat, drop the rosary on the floor, and pick it up a few decades further down the beads!

Me – on the right! 🙂

Of course, as a young nun, I prayed the rosary. I even wore the rosary at my hip and fingered its cool beads throughout the day. But I still didn’t appreciate or love it. Not until I was 36 years old and my father died.

My Dad lived an extremely simple, and I think holy, life. He didn’t vow it, but he practiced the evangelical counsel of poverty beautifully. He possessed very little that was his alone. When he died, almost everything important and precious to him (besides his family) could be found in the bottom drawer of our old China closet. That’s where I found his rosary on the day after his funeral.


It was cuddled in a wrinkled pouch imprinted with the phrase “My Rosary”. I smiled when I read that, thinking one didn’t really need to be reminded what was inside! But there was actually more inside than I expected.

Dad always loved the poems of James Metcalfe, published daily in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. One little poem was folded neatly inside the pouch:


A Dad’s Prayer

Almighty Father help me be . . . 
A good and loving dad . . . 
That my dear children may enjoy . . . 
The blessings I have had . . . 
Give me the wisdom I should use . . . 
To teach them right from wrong . . . 
And how to keep on going when . . . 
The road is rough and long . . . 
To do the duty that is theirs . . . 
Until its very end . . . 
To look for lasting beauty and . . . 
Appreciate a friend . . . 
Endow me with the grace I need . . . 
To mold their gentle youth . . . 
According to the measurements . . . 
Of loyalty and truth . . . 
Enable me to comfort them . . . 
Whenever they are sad . . . 
And O my Father, grant that they . . . 
Will always love their dad. 


Every morning after I discovered Dad’s rosary, I ran the beads through my fingers, wanting in some way to touch Dad again.

I began to read about the rosary and its purpose as a means of meditation on the life of Christ. I began to pray it differently, slowly – eventually using the vocal prayers only as a rhythm underneath the thought of Jesus’s experiences.

Sometimes, rather than rushing through a decade as I had before, I couldn’t stay long enough to absorb all that Jesus or Mary chose to share with me in one of the rosary’s mysteries.


Maybe on this feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, we might renew our love, understanding,and appreciation of this beautiful means of prayer. Online, I found this guide created by the Knights of Columbus which I liked. You might find it helpful. (I didn’t check, but I think it might be printable.)


Music: Verde by Guido and Mauricio deAngelis

(One of my Dad’s favorite pieces of music.)

Our Lady of the Rosary

Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary

October 7, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 117. Since it is also the Memorial of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, I’ll refer you to a previous post on Psalm 117.


For today, the Feast of the Holy Rosary, we may wish to focus on that venerable prayer which had its origins in the very early Church. In fact, those early versions of a rosary are connected to the Psalms:

Prayers with beads like the rosary may have begun as a practice by the laity to imitate the Christian monasticism of the Liturgy of the Hours during the course of which the monastics prayed the 150 Psalms daily. As many of the laity could not read, they substituted 150 repetitions of the Our Father for the Psalms, sometimes using a cord with knots on it to keep an accurate count.
(The Catholic Encyclopedia)


The shape of the rosary as we pray it today emerged more clearly in the 13th century as Marian devotion blossomed in the Church. The tendency of that devotion was to place Mary, and other saints, between us and God. They, having already gained heaven, were deemed to have intercessory power we lacked. So praying the rosary became an “asking prayer” rather than a meditation on the whole of Christ’s life. In many ways, our relationship with Mary also took on a sentimentalism which lessened her true and unique power as witness and companion in the Communion of Saints.


Theotokos of the Passion – 17th century

Today, Marian theology, as well as rosary devotion, looks to a clearer understanding of Mary’s role as participant in the continuing redemptive act of Jesus. Praying with her, in any form, is an opportunity to experience Jesus from her perspective and to apply that grace to our own life and world.

“Remembering Mary as a friend of God and prophet in the communion of saints, a woman who is truly sister to our strivings, allows the power of her life to play in the religious consciousness of the church, encouraging ever-deeper relationship with the living God in whom our spirits rejoice, and allying us with God’s redemptive designs for the hungry, the lowly, and all those who suffer, including in an unforgettable way women with their children in situations of poverty, prejudice, and violence.”

Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ – Truly Our Sister

I try, as I pray the rosary, to imagine Mary within each particular mystery or circumstance of Christ’s life. What did she experience? How did she grow in grace? What is she guiding me toward in my relationship with God?

I also ask Mary to allow those graces and insights to bless and heal not only my life but the life of the world, particularly where there is great pain or suffering for women and children.


In Whom We Live and Move and Have Our Being
~ Denise Levertov
(Reading this poem, we may think of our prayer as a “breathing” enveloped in the Presence of God. The “holy ones”, like Mary, easily ride that breath of prayer. When we pray with them, as in the Rosary, they “rock” us into the silent rhythm of God.)

Photographer: Johannes Plenio
Birds afloat in air's current,
sacred breath?  No, not breath of God,
it seems, but God
the air enveloping the whole
globe of being.
It's we who breathe, in, out, in, in the sacred,
leaves astir, our wings
rising, ruffled -- but only the saints
take flight.  We cower
in cliff-crevice or edge out gingerly
on branches close to the nest.  The wind
marks the passage of holy ones riding
that ocean of air.  Slowly their wake
reaches us, rocks us.
But storms or still, 
numb or poised in attention,
we inhale, exhale, inhale,
encompassed, encompassed.

Music: Beneath Your Compassion (Sub Tuum Praesidium) performed here in Russian by the PaTRAM Institute Singers

The oldest known devotion to Mary can be found in the words of a hymn that is documented to have existed and been sung before the middle of the 3rd century. 

Beneath your compassion,
We take refuge, O Theotokos:
do not despise our petitions in time of trouble;
but rescue us from dangers,
only pure, only blessed one.

Transparent Prayer

Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary

Monday, October 7, 2019

Click here for today’s readings

Today, in Mercy, our first reading is from the Book of Jonah, a drama with which we are all familiar.  Because of the fantastical nature of the tale, we may tend to read it simply on the level of allegory – the way we might read Aesop’s fables. But there is much spiritual depth to be found in this well-known story.

As I pray with the Jonah passages for these three days, I am using an article by Walter Bruggemann to inform my prayer.

You can access Bruggemann’s article here

Since today is the feast of the Holy Rosary, a prayer which has blessed the Church for centuries, Bruggemann’s consideration of Jonah’s prayer caught my attention:

The complexity of (Jonah’s) prayer is reflective of the complexity of all prayer.  Prayer purports to be single-minded in its communication with Yahweh.  Everyone who prays is complex, given to deception, distortion, and willfulness; our prayers are most often thick with mixed motives, distortions, and exhibits, even if only to the self.  There are “saints” who are more mature and more disciplined than this in their prayer.  But evidently Jonah is not among those mature, disciplined saints.  For that reason his compromising and manipulative maneuvers are highly visible in the prayer.  We may spot such maneuvers in his prayer and be driven to reflect on our own acts of seduction in prayer whereby we deceive ourselves, even if God is not deceived.

The Rosary, intended as a contemplation not a recitation, allows us the silence and time to sort out the complexities of our own prayer. It is a prayer not to be rushed. Praying it well requires us to lay aside our busy existence and excuses, and to place ourselves in the stillness of Divine Transparency.

rosary

The Rosary invites us to enter more deeply into the truth of Christ’s life, but also into our own. Seen in the light of Mary’s and Jesus’s lives, what is our own life teaching us?

So many of us have a Rosary in our drawer or purse that we haven’t touched for a while. Many of these beads were given to us by, or belonged to, someone who loved us – who wished us the blessings that come from its devotion. Perhaps we might like to rekindle our love for the Rosary today while remembering that beloved person. In the drawer beside my bed, my Dad’s well worn rosary is waiting for me.

Music: Ave Maria – Bach, sung by Jessye Norman

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Monday, July 16, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/071618.cfm

Today, in Mercy, on this Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, we consider our devotion to Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

Devotion is the honor we we offer Mary and the saints, hoping to imitate their holiness in our own lives. Devotion differs from adoration, which is the prayer we offer to God alone.

Some question the role or efficacy of devotion in our spiritual lives, feeling that the spiritual life is a relationship specifically to God. But for those of us who believe in the Communion of Saints, the power “mentorship” from the saints is unquestionable.

Devotions also play a key role in the early development of our faith. My own faith received abundant nourishment from my mother’s devotion to the Miraculous Medal, and my father’s unending novena to St. Joseph. Even now, in my mature years, I still return to these two devotions when faced with a critical concern.

mt Carmel

Like so many of you, my own young mastering of the Rosary gave me a loving awareness of the evolving life of Christ. And a host of beloved prayers deepened my love of God, including the Prayer before the Crucifix and St. Patrick’s Breastplate. You may want to remember your own favorite devotions – some which you may still use in times of difficulty or uncertainty.

Sacred objects can also support our developing faith – a precious medal, a special statue, a scapular, or a relic. Contemporary religious practice is less focused on these supports, but their value as simple devotional tools is abundantly proven.

What is important to remember is that the value of these devotions and sacramentals lies in their ability to lead us to relationship with God, not in any  “magic” they themselves possess.

For those of us with a special devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, (the Sisters of Mercy included), this is a day to ask Mary’s maternal favor on our lives and world. Picture yourself wrapped in her loving mantle, your deepest needs receive by her maternal heart.

Departure from the Music today – a short reflection on Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and the Carmelite Order.