“To recite the Rosary is nothing other than to contemplate with Mary the face of Christ.”*
In this new year, weight loss and physical fitness are high on my list. But my main goal for 2012 is spiritual: I want to pray the daily rosary. And surprisingly, it was an exercise program that brought it about.
My metabolism took a nosedive sometime after forty. During my last pregnancy my weight reached a record high, and when baby was born the extra pounds didn’t magically disappear. I could feel my youth slipping into flabby, sedentary middle-age. I decided to check out P90X—an extreme video exercise program. Use it for ninety days and you will be thin(ner) and fit(ter). My sister-in-law did it last year, and she is older than I am. Why not me? I began researching it, and was finally sold when I read Danielle Bean’s review on the Faith & Family Magazine blog. Danielle has eight kids, and is a regular mom—just like me. If she can do it, I can do it, too! I made the radical decision to buy P90X and go for it. I needed to be challenged!
After making all my P90X plans—I would have to get up early six days each week to fit in the required “hour of power”—I was suddenly reminded that I did not make nearly this much effort toward a prayer life. My conscience convicted me; I realized that my spiritual life was pretty flabby, too, and needed to be challenged as much at least as my body. God would have to come first, and a quick morning offering would not do. I knew it had to be the rosary. This is the story of why.
I have had a love-hate relationship with the rosary since I was became a Catholic twenty years ago. Perhaps ‘hate’ is too strong; I never truly ‘hated’ the rosary. I have dismissed it as a useless waste of time, spurned it as unengaging, and pooh-poohed it as mind-numbingly repetitive. It just wasn’t my thing, and coming from a Protestant background certainly didn’t help. I genuinely wanted to be open to the Holy Spirit’s direction, but the rosary? Not that, surely.
Dutifully, I endured rosaries at funerals, with home school groups, and with old ladies before Mass. I recited the prayers and tried to meditate on the mysteries, but it always left me unimpressed, and quite frankly, grumpy. It took so much time, and when I was with a group of people I wanted to talk, not pray—at least not for twenty minutes. All my cradle Catholic friends seemed to accept it at face value. Maybe you had to grow up with it to appreciate it, I reasoned.
Yet during all this time, I did honestly try to pray it and like it. I wanted my children to grow up with the rosary so that they, at least, would esteem it. So in our family we prayed the rosary—not all the time, and not always all at once, but during Lent we made a special effort and at other times we said a decade or two. We had a basket full of rosaries, a different color for each child. We had little rosary books that they loved to thumb through as we prayed. One son, in particular, always took great delight in his complete knowledge of the mysteries and their assorted fruits. This pleased me, for their sake. I was doing what a Catholic mother should, even if I saw no fruits myself.
Then, six years ago, we moved to a rural area. Once every week or two, I found myself making a half-hour trek to town for groceries. The long drive gave me a wonderful break from the kids and was a perfect time for spiritual refreshment and adult ‘interaction’ via the local Catholic radio station. Or so I thought.
I’m not sure when or how it happened, but God sent me a notice about my drive time: pray the rosary. I wasn’t too happy about it; after all, this was MY time. I was listening to inspirational, educational Catholic programming. Wasn’t that enough? But the message was clear. And each time I settled deliciously into my seat, snapped my seatbelt into place, and reached for the radio button, God was good enough to put an angel on my shoulder to faithfully whisper “Rosary!” in my ear. How annoying. I obeyed, but grudgingly and without goodwill. Bah, I thought. Who needs it?
Actually, that might be where I opened myself up. Who needs it? Just about anybody who’s anybody, apparently. The list of people who have had undying devotion to the rosary reads like a “Who’s Who” of our Catholic faith. Of all of these, the one who really convicted me most was Blessed John Paul II—the hero of my faith. But after all, he was the Pope. Popes have to pray the rosary, don’t they? It’s kind of like…their job…isn’t it? Still, every time I thought of the Holy Father’s love of the rosary, I had to admit that if he felt so strongly about its importance, it was probably something worth my attention. Holy Father, pray for me, I begged.
Everywhere I turned, I was faced with reminders that so many people whom I admired were people who prayed the rosary with fervor. And not only did they pray it, but they exhorted everyone else to pray it as well! What’s with these people? I wondered. I don’t get it. But even if I didn’t get it, I could no longer run from it. I could no longer pretend that it was meaningless or ineffective. I suddenly knew that the rosary was important. I didn’t understand why; I still don’t and perhaps never will. All I know is that I’m called to pray it.
Which brings me back to P90X. I have been praying the rosary for a while now, when I’m driving or if I take a long walk—whenever I have quiet time alone, God sends my angel friend to give me the nudge. But I’ve never made a firm commitment to work at it, daily, as part of my spiritual routine—until now. If I could commit to P90X, I could commit to saying the rosary. In fact, it was the least I could do. A brief warm-up with the Apostle’s Creed, followed by five grueling sets of ten Hail Mary’s, then a cool down with the Hail Holy Queen. My whole life will be measured in reps, it seems.
My wise uncle recently told me that the secret to exercise is dedication and consistency. He reflected, “That might be the secret to a lot of other things, too.” He went on to mention the Hebrew word emunah, which he’d researched for a Bible study. Emunah is translated as “faithfulness”–acting with firmness towards God’s will–or as he explained it, “a faith that is persistent.” Dedication. Consistency. Persistence. It looks like working out with P90X and praying the rosary have a lot more in common than I thought.
I look forward to a year of flexing my muscles, both physical and spiritual, in ways I never anticipated. I’m ready to “Bring it!” Won’t you join me?
“Simple yet profound, it still remains, at the dawn of this third millennium, a prayer of great significance, destined to bring forth a harvest of holiness.”*
*Rosarium Virginis Mariae, Apostolic Letter of John Paul II