On a beautiful crisp morning, my family and I were heading to the Marian shrine to Our Lady of Good Help in northern Wisconsin. It was Saturday, there was a wide-open expressway in front of us, and we had about an hour and a half to go. Both kids were strapped in their car seats (read: contained and not able to destroy our plans quite as easily.)
“Hey! Let’s say a rosary on our way up! That’s a good way to prepare for the shrine,” I suggested cheerily, turning down the music.
My husband looked at me like I had suggested he pull over and take a few shots of whiskey. “No! I can’t do that! I’m DRIVING!”
Uh yeah, I know. I did not suggest doing a short Lectio Divina in which you lie on the floor to be more prayerful. It’s a rosary. You SAY the words.
See, my husband and I say the rosary in completely different ways, and they are all equally valid. My husband must contemplate the mysteries as he prays the rosary. He goes through the gospel, many times with his eyes closed, and can even be moved to tears by considering Christ’s journey through Mary’s loving eyes.
That is beautiful. He gets to do this because he prays the rosary on his own or with me, either after the kids are asleep and we are sitting quietly in our living room, or in his office with a closed door and a chair.
(I am not suggesting he does not work hard for us. Just that he literally gets to go to the bathroom by himself and that really annoys me sometimes.)
(But I digress.)
I love saying the rosary. It is my favorite prayer. I love contemplating the mysteries, too. I love reading reflections after every decade. That is great, but it rarely happens to me. Rosaries for me usually happen while I am folding laundry, or cleaning the house, driving to the grocery store, or even lying in bed at night awake with anxiety-induced insomnia. When I feel that familiar panic creep up my chest and my breathing start to quicken and my thoughts start to race I know that the only thing that will help is starting a rosary. 17 minutes later, I have mostly calmed down and often fall asleep, calmed by my Heavenly Mother and thankful to my earthly parents that they gave me this gift.
In none of those situations do I spend serious time contemplating the mysteries of the rosary. In most of them, I don’t even use the beads. God gave us ten fingers for a reason!
How I talk to the Blessed Mother
I am simply calling out to Mary, talking to my mother. I’m telling her I’m here and want to be connected. I want to do something better than folding the laundry, to sanctify whatever humdrum household thing I’m doing. I strive to model to my children that one’s whole life can be a prayer.
As I wash the dishes and speak the words that the Angel Gabriel said, sometimes I’ll say it in Latin to practice my skills and shock my children’s ears into understanding that something is different and they should pay attention. Other times, I’ll say it quickly on our way to lessons or the store, to remind myself and them that God is present in every aspect of our lives, even the ones that aren’t at home or Church. There are times when I will say it with my whole family; in between admonishments and getting crayons for my son and showing my daughter where to find the words to the Creed and anything else that comes up. At night, I will pray it with my husband, barely even hearing the words because I’m so tired from the day of tasks and errands and just constant neediness from someone, always someone but knowing that I am so lucky to have a faithful man as a husband and wanting to be close to him in a way that nothing other than prayer can bring us. And in bed at night I’ll just mouth the words silently to myself, allowing my husband to sleep next to me.
In many of these situations, the prayers become almost a sacred incantation. Even if I am not contemplating the mystery, I am acknowledging the mystery of the Incarnation and the Mother of God, and my dependence on Him and through her intercession.
Someday I’ll be able to contemplate. Someday I will read and reflect and hopefully discuss the mysteries with my children and grandchildren.
For now, I’m just talking to my mother.
About Kathleen Kirchner
Kathleen is a cradle Catholic, but on a journey to greater understanding and reverence. Formerly a historian specializing in Vatican foreign policy and Jewish-Catholic relations, now she homeschools her two young children and tries to get them interested in...anything other than Netflix. Married to Matt, her engineer and personal Geek Squad for five years and counting. If it's not the school day, you can usually find her playing with makeup, reading a book, or napping. You can read her personal blog at www.pencilsandeyelashes.com