I got my first string of rosary beads for First Holy Communion. They were, to my imaginative eyes, the most beautiful string of gemstones ever. I felt glamorous as I held them, letting them cascade from one hand to the other with a satisfyingly gentle clatter. I received, at the same time, a far more sensible string of plastic beads: purple and white, and utterly boring. Unlike their shimmering counterparts, these could never be mistaken for treasure. Yet it is these beads that I still own and use. They are discolored now, from years of handling and prayer. My precious gemstones, on the other hand, never saw prayer. They fell apart almost immediately, too delicate to be handled.
Prayer is not meant to be a fragile thing. It should be humble and hearty; not meant for show. As a child, I had focused on the outward appearance of prayer. I strived for perfection, and lost sight of its purpose. Prayer is praise and petition…a conversation with my beloved! And in the passion of these conversations, my body now exposes my thoughts. I sway in joy, and crumple under grief. Rarely can I maintain perfect posture, but I’ve learned to embrace that.
When the rosary returned to me a few years ago. I began to focus on the meaning of the mysteries rather than on the position of my body. This time, I began to let myself delve into the depths of the words. I found myself praying the rosary in times of worry, in times of joy, and in times when nothing else would come to mind. As a confessor once noted, a good way to get into the rhythm of prayer is simply by beginning to pray. I find the rosary is often this bridge. The words come first, and awaken my hidden intentions.
Once a week, I now meet with a small group of moms to pray the rosary. It has become pivotal to my prayer life. We meet in our church after our children have gone to bed. We usually crumple onto the pews in the exhausted slouch of motherhood. We wear our days like clothing, and must summon the energy needed to forgo bedtime for prayer. But we need each other, and we need prayer, even more than we need our sleep.
Before our prayers begin, we pause to recover from the day and to prepare ourselves. We talk to God in private before talking to each other. During these brief conversations, we sigh, we cry, and we laugh. We reconnect with each other and expose those parts of our lives which most need God’s Grace. And then, we pray!
We don’t just pray for ourselves or our families. Each week, we list the many prayer requests which have come to us. There are always so many who need prayer! And we pray for them… we pray tired mom prayers. There are yawns and stretches thrown in with the words – our days are heavy, after all. But there is reverence as we lay our lives at the foot of His cross. There is love. These are raw prayers; unrefined yet sincere.
We pray to God, and we walk closely with his mother Mary who draws us to her son. We are like Mary, after all; mothers raising our children with love. Mothers trying to live for God. Mary is our patron, our example, and our own Mother in Heaven. We ask intercession, for her guidance, and her help. “Mama Mary, pray for us. You who knows what it means to be a mother. Help me to be like you.” And thankfully, she does. She is there for us, and so is her son; with us amid the sighs and the yawns.
It is far easier to meditate on the mysteries of the rosary as an adult. By now, we have suffered agony, and we have known joy. We look at the mysteries through the lens of experience. As mothers, we have shared many experiences with Mary. As adults, we recognize Jesus’s suffering. We have lived, and we have felt, and we understand… to some extent.
As a child, I had expected prayer to be beautiful, as beautiful as my delicate rosary beads. I sought refined poses and flowery words. And prayer can be that. But I now see that prayer can be so much more rugged than expected. It can be tear-stained whispers and crumpled sighs, clutched beads and clenched hands. Raw prayer is beautiful too.
Prayer is not beautiful because of its appearance. It is beautiful because of what it is. We can talk to God! And He’ll listen! What could be better than that? Prayer is such a beautiful gift! Let us share it!