October is the month of the rosary. A meditative prayer that has long been a part of Catholic piety has been for many of us an effective means to diminishing anxiety. Despite the current craze surrounding coloring mandalas or practicing mindfulness, the rosary has been with us since it was revealed to St. Dominic in the 13th century.
Mandalas, originally circular designs containing concentric geometric forms, symbolizing the totality of the universe and/or deities in Hinduism and Buddhism, have been adapted to fill adult coloring books which are more secular in nature than had been the art of painting mandalas early in the aforementioned eastern religions. Coloring these can be both a relaxing and creative exercise, but they cannot draw us closer to Our Lady or to the Son she bore, Jesus Christ, as do the beads that prayerfully thread through our fingers in a cadence which calms the soul.
In praying the rosary, we think about the role of the Blessed Mother in God’s plan of redemption. We contemplate the centricity of Jesus who invites us to participate in the life of God, through his grace.
Mindfulness meditation is the psychological process of bringing our attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, which we can develop through meditation. The positive effect of mindfulness is that this meditation slows our pulse, lowers our blood pressure, provides relief from a life riddled with anxiety.
Mandalas and mindfulness allow its followers to know better the “self,” and to ascend to a level of consciousness wherein the self is void of distractions. Praying the rosary is an act of prayer, which issues from grace, and takes attention away from the “self” so that we might focus on Jesus and his mother, Mary. Many Catholics offer the rosary for the special intentions the Holy Father, for the souls in purgatory [who cannot pray for themselves] or, for a specific intention. Sometimes, the intention,for which we pray, actually happens. Thus from the movement of the beads and the words which we articulate on each there sometimes actually accrues: a physical healing, the discernment to know God’s will, sol ace in bereavement,fortitude to deal with a loved one’s addiction,perseverance in living with a chronic illness,
sustained dignity while unemployed, even diminished anxiety.
We would never pick up these holy beads unless God had first inspired in us the desire to pray with this sacramental. Our cooperation with God’s will, in this case, prompting us to pray the rosary inevitably leads to good things. In the rhythm of repetitive prayer, be it the Our Father, the Ave or Glory Be, our mind is taken off our “self,” we journey through meditation on mysteries of our faith, be these joyful, sorrowful, glorious or luminous. For the 15 or so minutes that we pray the rosary, either individually or in agroup, our minds are drawn to the realm of the supernatural wherein we are free from the constraints of time, matter and the complexities of life in an imperfect world. As we reflect on what we pray, bead by bead, decade after decade, our souls transcend this world and ascend briefly to the world to which we aspire. There, we gaze upon Jesus and Mary who instill in our hearts that they are still very much present in our lives and are committed to the well-being of the Church militant in its present struggles.
Often, the recitation of the rosary is the prayer of choice at a wake service for the repose of the soul of the decedent. At other times, Catholics have been known to offer rosaries as spiritual bouquets to express gratitude to the Blessed Mother for her intercession. Some pray the rosary to implore the assistance of a saint. Still others recite the rosary as a tangible way to thank the Lord Jesus for favors received.
Praying the rosary may not slow down our pulse, or lower our blood pressure or rid us of anxiety but, who knows, it may just get us or someone else one step closer to Heaven. This is something neither the mandalas nor mindfulness would ever claim to do.
Father Comandini is managing editor of “The Catholic Spirit”