I'm just going to say it: I'm really bad at praying the rosary. I suffer from chronic wandering mind, and no matter how much I set myself up for success, I can't seem to turn it off. It's not even that I'm easily distracted, like putting my phone in another room would do the trick. Any time I'm in a silent, distraction-free space, my mind latches onto whatever problems I think I need to solve at that moment.
I don't think I'm the only one whose prayer life tends to turn this way. I'm very good at sporadic, sometimes desperate, prayer. I can say a Hail Mary when an ambulance goes by or even a dozen when I hear a thump in the night. But when I set aside time to pray, especially if I'm looking at the daunting task of praying a rosary, I can't focus.
Even the language I use shows the unhealthy relationship I have with the rosary — it's a "task." I have such an intellectual affection for it and I believe what the saints say about it… but apparently not enough to actually love being in the moment with the recitation of prayers.
The thing is, we're all called to pray, and especially pray the rosary. I think we all know that in our hearts, but it's hard to explain why. The rosary is unique to Catholics and we've been told it can change the world. But what does that actually mean?
The rosary is as vibrant and dynamic as the Church. It has grown and developed and evolved just like her people have, with the prayers beginning to seed in the Second Century and new additions still being made as recently as the Luminous Mystery by St. Pope John Paul II in 2002.(1) Even our liturgical calendar has blossomed with devotions to the rosary: May, being the month of Mary, is a great time to rejuvenate our love for the rosary. Even more explicit, October is the month of the rosary, with the Feast of the Holy Rosary on October 7.
I have felt the Lord and His mother urging me to pray the rosary throughout my life. I was a senior in high school when I first learned about the brown scapular and its significance after touring Ave Maria University. I came home and enrolled in its promises. Of all of the conditions required to be enrolled in the brown scapular, the daily recitation of the rosary is the most difficult. I believe this enrollment was God’s first way of calling me to pray the rosary.
My birthday is October 13. So not only does my birthday fall in the month of the rosary, but October 13 is the anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun of Our Lady of Fatima. This anniversary planted in my heart an affection for Our Lady of Fatima at a young age, but I didn’t really consider what that meant until I was in college. For Lent 2017, I read Our Lady of Fatima by William Thomas Walsh. It was impossible to ignore that a central message from Our Lady was to pray the rosary daily. In fact, she said, “You must recite the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary to obtain peace for the world.”(2)
Peace for the world. Can we even fathom it? There is so much division at every level of society: within the family, neighborhoods, our great nation — even within the Church. Whatever we are doing to try to create peace is not working. As a Church, we need to revive the importance of the rosary in order to bring about “peace for the world.” History has shown us time and time again that Mary protects those under her mantle who turn to her through the rosary.
On October 7, 1571, Our Lady was first beseeched under the title of Our Lady of Victory, at the direction of Pope Pius V to protect and guide Christian soldiers against the Ottomans in the Battle of Lepanto. The Christians forces were at a disadvantage, so the Pope asked the entirety of Europe to pray the rosary. It was on this day that the Papal States, Venice, and Spain were able to stop the Ottoman navy and thus protect Italy and Rome from the Ottoman takeover. The Feast of Our Lady of Victory later became the Feast of the Holy Rosary by Pope Gregory XIII in 1573.
Even as recent as 1945, we have record of Jesuit priests surviving the atomic bomb in Nagasaki and Hiroshima — they walked away unscathed, despite being near the epicenter of the blasts. Fr. Schiffer, whose house was only eight blocks away in Hiroshima, said, “We believe that we survived because we were living the message of Fatima. We lived and prayed the Rosary daily in that house.”(3) All eight members of the community survived without any wounds or radiation. A similar situation would unfold in Nagasaki just a few days later.
We all know the story of St. Maximilian Kolbe. I just learned recently that Kolbe, then Raymond, was raised with “the daily recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Rosary, and the Litany to Our Lady.”(4) Through this great saint, fueled by the rosary, a condemned man was preserved from death in an act of Christ-like love. We will never know the effects Kolbe’s actions had on the other 9 victims or the Nazi soldiers who listened to their songs and prayers as they died. By Jesus through Mary and the rosary, Maximilian Kolbe was led into Heaven.
I believe the Lord is calling all of us to pray the rosary daily out of a deep desire to bring peace to the world. My personal testimony revolves around Our Lady of Fatima. Your calling is different, but I know you are called to pray the rosary, too. Our Lord has proven that, through Mary, those who pray the rosary will be saved. Now it is our turn to respond to that call, and I am the first to disappoint by failing to act. If we stumble, we get back up again. Tradition says that even our Savior stumbled three times while carrying His cross. Every day is a new day and a new opportunity to renew our devotion to the rosary. All we need to do is pray.
Marissa Meyer is an active cantor within the Diocese of Nashville. She received a Bachelor of Arts from Ave Maria University and a Master of Music from Belmont University. The best part about graduate school was adopting her dog, Esther (like the queen). She has been #blessed to work for Every Sacred Sunday since January 2019.