Is there Rosary in the house?

“Mom! Is there Rosary in the house?”

Why would there be? I grew up happily going to a Presbyterian church with my parents and sister. Praying the Rosary was not a part of my church or childhood prayers.  Now, after everything shut down due to COVID, my Spring Break 2020 trip to visit mom in Philadelphia turned into 158 days (mom counted) and teaching from her house, online for Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles.

“Don’t think so.”

On the bulletin board in my office back at school, I display rosaries from Ghana, Cambodia, Morocco, Italy, and all over the USA. They are made of wood, pearl, seeds, iron, and plastic. None, however, found their way into the bookbag I carried for my short trip. Neither did they find their way into my prayer routines, even as I prepared to mark my 44th year in the Catholic Church. To me, the prayer form seemed antiquated, though I realize how many Catholics have fond and/or difficult memories of gathering to pray the Rosary on a regular, even daily basis. As a young Presbyterian, I said the Apostles Creed and prayed the Our Father each night before bed.

“Amazon and Etsy might have some.”

They do, in many ranges of price and often with generous offers of free shipping. There was, however, no time. I had just agreed to fill in, leading the Rosary for the next day’s virtual gathering of the Office of Black Ministry (OBM) prayer community. Stores were shuttered, neighbors inaccessible, not a Rosary to be found.

“Good afternoon and good morning. Welcome to our Rosary prayer group.”

Participants joined the prayer from the Archdiocese of New York, but several also came from New Orleans, Chicago, and Los Angeles. The group knew me from years being a cantor, liturgical consultant, and workshop leader for OBM. Now we gathered, about 50 strong, three times a week to pray the Rosary at 12:15pm Eastern time as the COVID pandemic raged to deadly effect.

I called in to the prayer line before, but never as a leader. I knew most of the words, but certainly not by heart or always in the correct order. Luckily, there are good website directions from many sources and an OBM Rosary partner with whom to share the leadership. PRAISE GOD this is a conference call!!! No one could see me shuttling between websites and hymnals or counting on my fingers and toes while balancing the laptop with my phone and chanting.

“Salve Regina. Mater misericordia. misericordiæ, vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve.”

After leading that first time, I needed a nap! The stress eventually gave way to appreciation for an older prayer form, immediately available to new and seasoned participants alike. We prayed for family, friends, and our community some at the very hour of their deaths.

I still join the group before or between classes, and when possible, leading from time to time.  Yes, I still double check the mysteries as well as the various opening and closing prayers. For me, and so many others, the Rosary will always be connected to this time of pandemic and the many people who became ancestors much too soon. I wonder if next generations will also find their way or be pulled into these prayers… perhaps not by memories, but by their own challenging needs and realities.

“Have a good afternoon. Have a good morning. Be well and please stay safe!”

 

3 comments

  1. The Benedictines of St Michael’s Abbey in Farnborough, Hampshire, UK, make the most durable wood/metal chained rosary I’ve yet encountered. Excellent craft.

    Carry two rosaries in a small rosary bag. You never know when you might chance upon an encounter in distress where the most welcome thing for someone else is to pray the rosary together.

    I remember the first time my late mother had the fairly-typical-in-late-old-age experience of a chronic UTI that went to the brain with resultant delirium and then (plausible) delusions (of course, there were more episodes to follow; a common occurrence when elderly people deny themselves hydration in order to have fewer bladder-interruptions in sleep). The one single thing that brought her into some state of contented focus was: praying the rosary together (she couldn’t handle the beads at that point, but another family member could). It was then and there that I had my epiphany about the value of what was often dismissed as mere “rote prayer”.

    Learn it, pray it, live it. It can work on you if you work it – and let it. It’s not magick. It’s just one of many keys that can unlock a portal to a dimension of prayer that is percolative.

  2. I loved this post. I grew up Catholic, but the full rosary schtick (the mysteries, ancillary prayers, etc.) was always in the hands of somebody else and we just said our Hail Marys, Our Fathers, Glory Be’s, and the creed. When I got to divinity school an earnest Methodist fellow student wanted me to pray the rosary with her. I tried to put her off, but she was sure this would be a mystical experience because it was my tradition, and thus “the real thing.” For the honor of the team I shared what little I knew (this was before the internet so no way to cram) and we prayed a decade or two together. I hope God was praised, but I was stressed! It wasn’t, shall we say, a mystical experience. “On demand” rosary!

    I like praying the rosary today. There’s comfort in knowing it’s there, and in times of stress it quiets the mind. But I like it as a private devotion, at my own pace, no pressure, and no witnesses!

    My Methodist friend (a dear woman) became Jewish shortly thereafter. I guess she was searching, and I am sure I failed her. But it remains a warm memory, nevertheless.

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