Like many individuals brought up through the changes in the Church in the 1960s, the rosary was more than a prayer. It took on a symbolic meaning all its own. Although I was taught the Rosary in Catholic school and given beads at my first Communion, I don’t recall being encouraged to pray the Rosary. Let me make clear no one dissuaded me, but no one talked about its power as well.
Both my parents had rosary beads. I remember my father’s very masculine beads made of dark wood, but never saw him use them. I remember my mother using her beads, especially in the last months of her life. As cancer and heart disease ravaged her body he would privately pray in her deathbed. I remember almost every relative being buried with rosary beads wrapped around their hands. Members of the Holy Name Society would come to wakes and lead a public recitation for the deceased. I learned that the Rosary was for the aged, the dying, and the old. It was part of that generation, not mine.
Cleaning our house preparing for a move we found several sets of beads. I kept one, mostly for sentimental reasons. Little did I know that I would find myself in the hospital two weeks later after a serious fall, surgery, and preparing for physical therapy. Lying in a hospital bed at 3:00 AM awake and anxious about the thousand items that plague a mind trapped in a body with mobility difficulty, something began to happen. The simple recitation of “Hail Mary” ran through my mind. Those powerful words, “Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death Amen” brought a peace to my mind and soul that no painkiller could provide. I used my fingers as beads. I used my long term memory to recall the words of “Hail, Holy Queen” and some of the mysteries.
Since returning home, I have reclaimed the Rosary as part of my daily prayer. Is it because I am part of that generation now? Well there are mornings where the body’s aches and pains could convince me I am part of the aged and old, but I hope it is more just that. I refer to Venerable Fulton Sheen who speaks more eloquently about the rosary’s power:
“The Rosary is the best therapy for these distraught, unhappy, fearful, and frustrated souls, precisely because it involves the simultaneous use of three powers: the physical, the vocal, and the spiritual, and in that order.
The Rosary is the book of the blind, where souls see and there enact the greatest drama of love the world has ever known; it is the book of the simple, which initiates them into mysteries and knowledge more satisfying than the education of other men; it is the book of the aged, whose eyes close upon the shadow of this world, and open on the substance of the next. The power of the Rosary is beyond description."