During these difficult times, we may find ourselves struggling to find the words for our feelings, thoughts, and concerns that we want to take to God in prayer. The devotional prayers found in the rich tradition of the Catholic Church can help. 

They provide time-proven words and images, often from the saints, which can lead us, like a road map, to contemplation and meditation. And in this sacred space, through grace which flows from the Holy Spirit, we encounter with the living Christ. 

Now more than ever, many of us need this form of prayer. The queen of such devotional prayer is the holy rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. St. Pope John Paul II was a great devotee of the rosary. He believed it to be an antidote to much of what ails our world. In “Praying the Rosary with St. John Paul II” (Our Sunday Visitor, $12), Gretchen Crowe, author and editor-in-chief of OSV Newsweekly, illuminates the mysteries of this treasured prayer through the gaze of the beloved saint.

Kris McGregor: What motivated you to put together this beautiful book?

Gretchen Crowe: In identifying some of the issues that we’re facing in our world and our culture, I hoped to show how the rosary could combat them: increased secularism, problems within the Church, within the family, the need for peace in the world, and all those areas that affect our response to the universal call to holiness.

St. Pope John Paul II had such a love for the rosary, and it came out so clearly in his beautiful apostolic letter, “Rosarium Virginis Mariae” (“Rosary of the Virgin Mary”). I wanted to show how his love of Mary and love of the rosary helped him to embody the virtues that ultimately got him to heaven. Those same virtues can help us get there, too!

Gretchen Crowe. (Courtesy OSV Newsweekly)

McGregor: St. John Paul encouraged us all to foster a devotional prayer life, not only in the rosary, but also to the Divine Mercy and many others. How important are those anchors for the faithful?

Crowe: It’s so important for growing in the spiritual life and in relationship with Jesus Christ. It seems like people are always looking for the basics: How do I develop this relationship with Christ? How do I know that I’m on the right path where God is calling me? How can I identify the discernment of the Holy Spirit in my life?

St. John Paul, with his direction to the rosary and with his example of devotion in private prayer and personal life, helps us to better discern and find answers to some of these questions. It’s so important that we grow in relationship with Jesus, and a lot of times people have no idea where to start. But if we start by placing ourselves at the feet of the Blessed Mother, she can help us. She wants nothing more than to bring each of us to her Son, and that’s the beauty of the rosary.

McGregor: The rosary has so many beautiful facets, much like a rare diamond. Each facet contains a mystery.

Crowe: There’s always something more to be discovered within the life of Christ and within the life of Mary pointing us to Jesus. That’s one of the reasons that I included the spiritual fruits of each mystery, which I love because not only do we reflect on each mystery, but we reflect on the virtue that we can grow stronger in as we’re praying a particular decade. I find that very fruitful in the spiritual life too, where it’s not just that this happened in the past, in Jesus’ and Mary’s lives. It’s that we are called, based on their examples, to holiness, and these spiritual fruits can help us get there.

(Catholic News Service)

McGregor: The importance of cherishing not only the rosary but the embrace of this new saint is so needed in the Church right now. There’s a lot of anxiety, fear, misunderstandings, but also a lot of anger. There’s just a lot of emotion, and that’s a dangerous place, isn’t it?

Crowe: You can get swallowed up in that anxiety. You understand the frustration and anger that’s out there right now. A lot of it is justified, but at the same time, we can’t let that affect our relationship with Christ. Despite the storms that might be raging, we know where our focus needs to be. 

I hope this book can help route people, ground them, bring them back to Jesus through Mary, to Jesus through St. John Paul; help us to find solace in the midst of whatever trial we might be facing and that the Church is facing right now.

We can see the example of St. John Paul, living out the spiritual fruits that are associated with the mysteries of the rosary and his reflections on each of them, and how he can help us draw closer into the power of each of those mysteries. That encounter with grace can change our lives.

McGregor: You must have a wonderful relationship with St. John Paul now.

Crowe: I think I do. We have in our home a large photograph of St. John Paul, and a statue of him as well. We’re able to talk to our children about him and the great gift that he was to the Church and to the world, and how he is now interceding for us in heaven. I turn to him every day in prayer.