Few items are more closely associated with Catholicism than the rosary.
Along with statues of saints and traditional nuns’ habits, the rosary – whether it’s the string of beads or the prayers said upon them – is one of those distinctly Catholic phenomena that some non-Catholics find curious or quirky at best, or off-putting and even heretical at worst.
But even Catholics who love their faith with all its emblematic practices, like lighting candles before a Marian shrine or making the sign of the Cross, may draw a deep sigh when asked to pray the rosary, notes Edward Sri, a Colorado based theologian and author who frequently appears on EWTN.
In his latest book, “Praying the Rosary like Never Before: Encounter the Wonder of Heaven and Earth” (Servant 2017, 178 pp.), Sri writes that as devoted a Catholic as Pope Benedict XVI admitted publicly when he was still a cardinal he was a “restless spirit” who found praying all five decades of the rosary at once “too much for me,” and often divided his prayers into one or two decades at time.
“Thousands of devout Catholics – young and old, men and women, lay people, priests and religious – have told me how they love the rosary but struggle from time to time in praying it,” he writes.
However, Sri adds, by changing how one prays the rosary, you can also change how it affects you spiritually and by doing so invigorate your prayer life. Sri lists various practical techniques, from integrating Scripture-based meditations into your recitations to breaking up the prayer into short segments throughout the day, like simply praying a decade at a time, to help folks turn the rosary from a monotonous challenge to cherished moment.
For example, he writes, by reading the scriptural passages associated with a Mystery – like the Transfiguration, the Fourth Luminous Mystery – a person praying can move beyond simply repeating the Hail Mary to thinking deeply about how Christianity is rooted in Judaism, symbolized by the appearance of Moses and Elijah with Christ.
“Accompanying Jesus up the mountain, Peter, James and John see their master in a completely new light,” Sri writes in chapter nine. “And what they experience on this mountain will remind them of what happened to Moses on another famous mountain, Mount Sinai, during another turning point in the history of salvation.”
Sri’s practical and well-researched book, greatly inspired by the late Pope John Paul II’s writings on the venerable prayer, took Third Place this year in the category “Popular Presentation of the Catholic Faith” at the Catholic Press Association awards.
“Dr. Sri offers scholarship for the scholarly and simplicity for the simple, all in a friendly and highly accessible package,” the judges wrote.
Indeed, “Praying the Rosary like Never Before” combines Thomistic theology and Marian apologetics (Sri details exactly why Catholics pray with Mary, not to her, in some of the book’s most illuminating passages) with practical tips on how to pray the rosary, including fingering the beads while you’re running errands, working out at the gym or going for a walk.
“The rosary is like a portable chapel we can keep in our pocket and pull out anytime, anyplace,” Sri writes. “Whether we have a sudden, urgent situation to present to God in prayer or we just want to fill some of our day with thoughts of God, all we need to do is pull out beads and turn to the Lord in this prayer.”
Rob Cullivan is a freelance writer living in Portland, Oregon. He has written for Catholic News Service and other religious and secular publications.
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