In an earlier post, I had written about what I referred to as ‘A Scriptural Rosary’ and I had suggested a means of praying in this way. I had written –
Perhaps one of the simplest methods is just to sit with the Gospels as we pray the Rosary, following the Scriptural texts of the particular Mysteries we are praying. The ‘skill’ (for want of a better word) here is to learn where to place our mental focus. The temptation for many is to think exclusively about the words we are praying – the Our Father, Hail Mary and Gloria, together with the little Fatima prayer. But if we do only this, we never really see the depths of meditation and contemplation which are so abundant in the prayer of the Rosary.
To go that little bit further, we need to place our focus not on the words we are praying vocally, but on the written Word we are casting our eyes upon. It is a little like a song, comprised of both words and music. In the Rosary, the vocal prayers are the ‘words’ but the meditation on the Mysteries are the real ‘music’ of the prayer. We needn’t worry about the words of the prayers – we know these intimately well and so they do not require our concentration or attention. Instead, we need to learn to lose ourselves in the Mystery itself, recounted to us is the Gospel accounts.
Writing in ‘Rosarium Virginis Mariae’, his Apostolic Letter on the Most Holy Rosary, St John Paul touched on something very similar and he described the same principle in this way – “We would .. say that the succession of Hail Mary’s constitutes the warp on which is woven the contemplation of the Mysteries.” (Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n.18).
If we attempt to make use of this suggested method, what precisely are we to meditate on?
I would propose that to begin with, we decide on one Mystery of the Rosary to focus on – just one, almost as a ‘practice run’ at this method, if it is new to us. Before beginning the vocal prayers, find the Gospel account which describes the Mystery you are planning to pray then spend a few moments reading the text, so that you become familiar with it.
Next, start to pray the vocal prayers as normal – except that your focus is not on the recitation of the words of these prayers, but is on the written Word of the Gospel account. So in essence, you are doing two different things, although they dovetail perfectly. Firstly, you are saying the words of prayers you already know very well (and therefore you do not need to deliberately ‘think about’ them); and secondly, you are now actively focussed on the written Word.
In a sense, the vocal prayers have become the soil of the garden, while the Word of the Gospel you are reading has become the seed you are seeking to plant there within that soil.
If you begin this method, start by reading the full passage relating to the Mystery – for the Joyful Mysteries, for example, you will find these in the first few chapters of the Gospel of Saint Luke. The passages are of varying length and there is a lot of detail contained within them. For now, simply read the passage as you pray the vocal prayers – read the full passage.
When you are a little more comfortable in using this method, try praying five decades. Go slowly – prayer is not a race. This means you need to plan to have the necessary time to pray, preferably without interruption if that is possible for you. Practice this method for a while, praying vocally at the same time as reading the Gospel passages. Become familiar with the Scriptural texts and with the method of praying in this way.
After a while, you may find that as you read those Gospel texts during your Rosary, your attention is caught by something within the Gospel passage – it may be a sentence or two, or it may be just a word. Focus on that as your pray the Mystery. The texts contain sufficient detail and depth that you will not run out of material upon which to meditate. Also, focussing on different details or Scriptural phrases as you pray the same Mystery means that you are much less likely to become bored with the Rosary, as it will always offer something new.
This method of praying a Scriptural Rosary takes longer to explain that it does to do – once we understand how to do it (that is, praying vocally and meditating on the Word concurrently), we may find that the method appeals greatly to us. Hopefully, we will find that it opens up to us some of the immense depth of the Rosary, which is the depth of the Gospel itself.