The rosary has a life of its own, too

Published on 09 Aug 2017

A reflection on the rosary by Teresa McCaffery

The family rosary was a fixture in my growing up. We would kneel together to say five decades of the rosary and other prayers before the youngest (me and my little sister) went to bed, every day.

This pattern lapsed as I learned to live my own life. I found Ignatian prayer, and reflected on the readings for Mass in fits and starts, on my own and in meetings that came and went. Married to a Quaker it did not seem appropriate to expect the children to kneel and say the Rosary.

Thirty years down the line, my children had gone to university and my spouse to his eternal rest, I decided to try it again.

I was surprised to find that the rosary had had a life of its own too. It had grown an extra five decades for starters. As I announced each mystery my attention was caught and the saying of Hail Mary’s came to a halt. After many months of this I decided to bring some order into the chaos like this: -

The five annunciations

The Angel tells Mary what her task can be, if she agrees. I pray for all young people growing up that they will have time and space to learn what God would like best for them.

John the Baptist, still in the womb, leaps for joy as he recognises his Saviour. I pray that young people with a good idea yet unborn will find support as Mary did from Elizabeth.

The birth of Christ is announced to shepherds, and strangers from a far-off land. I pray for all the people who will find Christ outside our community through their love and care for creatures or through their search for truth and knowledge.

The birth of Christ is announced to the Priest of the Temple. Simeon, who has been waiting for this, prepares Mary for what is to come. I pray that all those who have understanding also have the courage to prepare us for pain to come.

The work of the Kingdom is announced in the Temple at Jerusalem. Jesus expresses great wisdom, and is lost for three days.

Five ways of suffering

Agonising decisions.  I pray for people who must make terrible decisions; to leave their country of birth; to allow life support to be stopped for a loved one; to accept real hardship for their children rather than commit sin…

Repeated pain. Child abuse, domestic violence, bullying and discrimination build up damage over time from which we can never recover without scarring.

The crowning with thorns. We may aspire to top jobs or a high-profile career but see how much pain that causes; family breakup; backstabbing; being forced to do things that harm others; finding it impossible to do good things well…

Jesus takes up His cross. So far things have been done to Him, now He takes control. As He falls and rises, accepts help and gives it, Jesus shows us how we continue our ministry as suffering servants.

Final triumph. Never think that you have solved a problem by killing someone; never think that dying is defeat. Jesus dies between two thieves. Both suffer more than they should by modern standards. One accepts that he is at fault; the other wants the pain removed. Which one enters the Kingdom?

The growth of community

Christ is Risen! Another announcement, the green blade pierces the ground upwards.

Ascension. The shoot grows towards the Sun, the link between heaven and earth is strong.

The Spirit. The plant puts out leaves which can process the air to make their substance; it has a life of its own.

The Assumption. God reaches down to earth to pick the first flower from the plant He has sown. Man enters heaven as God entered earth.

Heaven fills with the fruits of the church; the angels gather like butterflies round flowers and Mary is queen of all.

The five great vocations

Baptism. Let us pray for all Christians. All who are Baptised must recognise and live in communion with each other whatever variations there may be in style of church order or ways of celebrating their belief.    

Marriage. Let us pray for all who marry. Christian or not, happy or stressed or even destroyed. For better or worse they give witness to the real, earthly relationship to God that exists in humankind today.

Transfiguration. Let us pray for all religious. A tiny proportion of people give exclusive priority to the relationship to God. Jesus chose Peter, the blustering leader, James the negotiator and John the thinker, to see Him more clearly as the Israelites saw Moses after his encounters with God. Their experience fuels the life of the church.

The Kingdom. Let us pray for all missionaries at home and abroad. May they always remember the true nature of the Kingdom as Jesus taught it; that it is a matter for thought and deed as well as word.

The Eucharist. Let us pray for our diocesan priests; overworked and unsupported; pilloried for the wrongdoing of a few; locked into a straightjacket of forms that cannot be changed. Dear Lord, let them out of their prison.

The rosary at simplest helps to put a time value on praying for a cause. Cordelia, in Brideshead Revisited, tells Charles that he can only have one decade, and all her many causes must be prayed for in rotation. What do you do when asked to pray for someone? But the rosary is also a wonderful set of meditations; a nightly chore can become an interesting and exciting way to pray for others.

PS Don’t forget to say the first three Hail Mary’s for the Popes intention