Monday, July 16, 2012

Keeping Company with Jesus and Mary

Image lifted from Karen's blog.
To my summer reading list, I am adding a book I that arrived last week: The Rosary: keeping company with Jesus and Mary. This is written by Karen Edmisten who blogs over at Karen Edmisten: The Blog with the Shockingly Clever Title.

Karen introduces her book by saying, "I'm not an expert on the rosary, unless expert can be defined as 'an average Catholic who prays the rosary and has found it to be powerful, comforting  and worth talking about.'"

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the loss of our friend and community member, Patrick McKeown. Rachel Balducci, who knew him much better than I did, penned a beautiful piece about Patrick. Rachel writes:

When I was growing up, my friend Susie (Patrick's daughter) was the only person I knew who said a daily rosary. I knew lots of people who said the rosary of course, but no one else came from a family that said it every single day. Seven p.m. sharp. No matter what.

This is the main thing I always remember about Susie’s dad, Uncle Pat . . . he was constant.

Many Catholics -- like the McKeown kids -- grow up praying the rosary. My mother probably did. She attended Catholic schools in the forties and fifties, first grade through college. I attended twelve years of Catholic schools, but this was the height of those experimental, post-Vatican II years.  I prayed the rosary exactly once. I think it was in a religion class on the sacraments. And this class of mostly cradle Catholics had to be taught and tested on how to pray the rosary since few of us grew up with this traditional devotion that must have become passe along with communion rails and Latin.

It would be ten years before I would prayer the rosary again. Then I began working with the Missionaries of Charity. They love the rosary. They pray a long, meditative rosary every morning in front of the blessed sacrament. They scatter a decade here and a decade there as they do their work, ride in the car, meet with shut in folks, run their soup kitchens.

They love to introduce others to the rosary. For many years we had a volunteer -- I think his name was David (?) -- who wasn't Catholic. He'd hop in the van every morning with me and one of the sisters. As soon as the van was in drive, sister would ask which mysteries we wanted to pray. David was always keen to pray the Happy Mysteries. "You mean the Joyful Mysteries," sister would say. "No, the Happy ones," he would tell her. We would point out that there were no Happy Mysteries. David was convinced there should be.

(I should let him know that we now pray the Luminous Mysteries, but still no Happy ones.)

I prayed many a rosary with the Missionaries of Charity, but it typically (not always) felt like I was just getting through it. Hail Mary . . . gosh, it's hot in here . . . full of grace . . .  got to remember to bring the glue sticks to camp today . . . the Lord is with thee . . . wonder if Sister Miriam ever had a boyfriend before she became a nun?

It wasn't always like that, but I struggled (as most of us do).

Lately, though, I have found tremendous solace in quiet. At our parish, Mass opens with an introit, a chant sung by the choir alone. This used to bother me to no end. I have a thing against choirs that perform. One of our neighboring parishes had an accomplished choir that had a penchant for choosing tunes I promise you no one but the choir could follow. Occasionally people would clap for them.

This, too, bothered me to no end. I'm not an expert in liturgy, but it seems to me, Mass calls everyone to participate. It's not a performance.

Back to the introit . . . It no longer bothers me. I see it as a chance to quiet myself after the hurly burly of getting six people in matching shoes, more or less unwrinkled clothing, brushed teeth, etc. all looking presentable and in the pew on time. It's a two minute Whew! And then we sing the opening hymn.

I used to get restless at the pace of Mass. Now I love it. It may well be the single part of my week that doesn't scream faster, faster, faster, hurry, hurry, hurry! In fact, when I go to other churches, I sometimes feel that we're playing a record on the wrong speed. Where's the fire, I want to ask.

Once a month Alleluia Community hosts a quiet prayer meeting. Most of our prayer meetings are full of joyful, lively praise and worship, but once a month, we slow it down, we quiet it down, and we sit in silent meditation. This, too, I now love.

And along with all these shifts -- rather seismic for my personality type -- has come a desire to pray the rosary more frequently. While my mind is no steel trap and is still prone to wander, I find myself in a very different place and much more open to quiet, meditative prayer. With the inspiration of Karen's book and Pat's example, off I go.

Or, I should say, off we go. I read chapter one aloud to the older boys. I was struck by the words of Blessed Bartolo Longo whom Karen quotes:

The Rosary is a teacher of life, a teacher full of gentleness and love, where people beneath the gaze of Mary, almost without noticing, discover they are being slowly educated in preparation for the second life, that which is authentic life, for it is not destined to end in a very few years, but to go on unto eternity.
I'm already inspired.


Karen Edmisten said...

Kelly, what a beautiful post and a beautiful witness! Thanks for sharing your experience with the Rosary, and may it keep on growing!

Kelly said...

Thanks, Karen! And thanks for all you do to share the things you love -- faith, children, learning, books -- with all of us.