I remember, as a very little child, watching my mother praying her Rosary. I was fascinated by the beads – what were they and what were they for? How did you pray the Rosary? I wanted beads of my own and, as best I can remember, I was finally given my first Rosary around the time I made my First Holy Communion – a little set of pale blue beads, now long gone. For a long time, I didn’t really understand the Rosary – I knew what to do with the beads, what prayers to say, but I don’t expect I did it particularly well to begin with. A slightly better understanding would come later on.
My Aunt Margaret, my mother’s sister, would sometimes go off on what she called “evening retreats” – often to the nearby Craighead Retreat Centre and sometimes to a convent a little further away. To begin with, I don’t suppose I had an especially clear understanding of what these were and what they involved, only that they involved prayer. From time to time, she would return from these evenings and would give me a Rosary she had bought for me – on one occasion, a set of blue glass beads, and then a few years later, a set of clear glass beads. I had become a member of the junior Legion Of Mary at high school, and we prayed the Rosary at each weekly meeting. It was also my practice to pray the beads every evening alone at home, at the little altar I had in my bedroom.
There was just something about the Rosary which I could not shake and neither could I ignore it; it seemed to pull me in a way I couldn’t explain. The Legion had also taught me about Our Lady’s appearances at Fatima, which I had not known about beforehand, and I was astonished at the visions themselves and at the prominence of the Rosary amidst all that happened there in 1917. I had the very clear awareness that there was something incredibly special and important about the Rosary.
Throughout all this time, I had been reading a number of books about the Rosary. These were generally little books of pious mediations to help in the praying of the Rosary, written by a variety of authors. Finally, I discovered one book which had an immediate and enormous effect on me – ‘The Secret Of The Rosary’, written by Saint Louis de Montfort. And this book changed everything. I began to see the Rosary in a very new and powerful way – as a deep ocean of prayer and meditation, whose depths we would never encompass, and with a spiritual beauty all it’s own.
Since then, I have read many more books about the prayer of the Rosary – stories about the effects it has had in the lives of many and the place it holds in those lives, and numerous meditations on the Mysteries of the Rosary.
But above all else – and most importantly of all – I still pray the Rosary every day at my little altar, a grace for which I thank God and the Blessed Virgin.
The Rosary is not repetitive, nor is it boring; and neither is it that babbling which the Lord warns us against. Rather, it is like walking in a cool and very tranquil garden on a day when the heat of the sun is bearing down. But to better enjoy that garden and to maintain it’s beauty, we need to till the soil, pull out the weeds and water the lawn, so the flowers and roses can grow, blossom and release their exquisite fragrance. Coming out of the garden, some of that fragrance lingers with us. In other words, we get out of the Rosary what we put into it.
Gardeners know all too well that it is one thing to tell someone how beautiful a garden can be – and quite another to get them to do the work to create such a garden; but the gardener also knows through experience what rewards such a garden can offer.
Looking back across the years and the decades, I am eternally grateful to those very special ‘gardeners’ in my spiritual life – my mother and my Aunt Margaret, in particular – who taught me to till, to sow and to reap.
What a gift they gave me.