Recently I have taken up a completely different way of praying the Rosary from the method I have used up to now. It has made at least two major changes in my life, both to the good:
a) Contrary to my so far irregular saying of the Rosary I have actually succeeded in saying it at least once a day and often twice and sometimes three times. I have kept this up for over a month now. What’s more, I look forward to saying it instead of regarding it as a chore.
b) The effect on my spiritual life has been astonishing. Sins which I thought were with me for life have simply gone away, my focus on what is good and right has improved immensely, and my strength in the face of some very trying and life-threatening circumstances has surprised no one more than myself.
I have been doing a lot of weight training and running recently, and it struck me that with physical exercise improvement comes not from how good you feeling or how sincere you are while you are training, but from the fact that you do them. What if the same were true with prayer? Spiritual muscle comes from doing spiritual exercise, not from thinking about doing it or feeling good about doing it.
Far from being a spiritual weapon, the Rosary the way I had been praying it was more like waving some pretty flowers around in the hope they might scare off the enemy.
So I decided to go back to basics with the Rosary. This is what I did.
I threw out all the accumulations which have attached themselves over the centuries - all the voluntary extras. The compulsory parts of the Rosary are fifteen mysteries, each consisting of one decade of one Our Father and ten Hail Mary’s. All fifteen mysteries can be said together or they can be split into three sets of five. And that’s it.
Out went the Gloria, the Luminous Mysteries, the Fatima Prayer, the Apostle’s Creed, the Hail Heavenly Queen and everything else.
“Everything else” includes intentions. I don’t pray the Rosary with intentions. Instead I see it as affecting all my life and everything I am involved with or engaged in. If you like, my life is the intention.
I started saying the Rosary as fast as I could, on the basis that it takes more concentration not less to do something fast. Experience showed that to be true - no more was I drifting off to sleep or forgetting where I’d got to. I found myself using as much concentration as a runner running a race. I aimed to say the words as fast as I could without slurring them.
I was also influenced by the advice given by the Orthodox to those saying the Jesus Prayer. They advise against using one’s imagination. Instead they tell one to concentrate on the words.
But how could I meditate on the mysteries without using my imagination? The mysteries are an essential part of the Rosary. The answer was to use a method recommended by St Louis de Montfort in The Secret of the Rosary. He called it:
A SHORTER WAY
OF COMMEMORATING THE LIFE, DEATH AND GLORY OF JESUS AND MARY IN THE MOST HOLY ROSARY, AND A WAY TO CURB OUR IMAGINATION AND TO LESSEN DISTRACTIONS
In this meothod of St Louis a word or short phrase is added to the Hail Mary after the word “Jesus”. It varies according to which decade you are saying.
born in poverty
Saint among saints
in His agony
crowned with thorns
carrrying His Cross
risen from the dead
ascending to heaven
filling Thee with the Holy Spirit
raising Thee up
So, if you were saying the first decade of the Glorious mysteries, each Hail Mary of the decade would go as follows:
Hail Mary, full of Grace. The Lord be with Thee. Blessed art Thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus, risen from the dead.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and in the hour of our death. Amen.
The result of praying the Rosary as fast as possible with clear diction while inserting this short variable addition within each Hail Mary is a very high degree of concentration, quite unlike the diffuse and meandering prayer which I’d been used to.
I decided to stick to the traditional arrangement for the 15 decade Rosary of saying the Joyful Mysteries on Monday and Thursday, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday and Friday, and the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday and Saturday. On Sunday the Joyful Mysteries are said from Advent to Lent, the Sorrowful Mysteries during Lent and the Glorious Mysteries from Easter unti Advent.
In the event that I was able to say the Rosary more than once during a day, I would repeat the mysteries for the day.
I’m not suggesting for a moment that this is the only way to pray the Rosary, but I’ve found that it’s not just transformed my prayer life but seems to be in the process of transforming all my life. Why not try it?