Wednesday, March 13, 2013

My first Rosary

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I said my very first Rosary in its entirety Saturday night.  (Yes, we're that crazy on our weekends.)  The weekly sacrifice for the 40 days of Life was to say one as a family so we did that together.  I'd done a decade in my first RCIA class and I have to say I was never really all that interested in making it a habit because it seemed it would take forever.  My dad always talks about his parents having "block Rosary" meetings when he was a kid so I figured it took a pretty long time.  Well we think it took us less than 20 minutes and a lot of that was shuffling of papers to make sure we were doing it right and some discussion over splitting the prayers in half and who should do what half.  So overall it was a good experience.

(Now please stay with me here...)

But here's the thing (I know, I know): I don't understand why the Rosary is made the way it is.  I had always assumed that it was helpful to keeping you on the circuit because there was a bead for each item.  But there's not.  Sometimes it's the space in between that indicates another prayer.  Sometimes it's two prayers on one bead.  I don't mean to be disrespectful since I know that the Rosary was supposed to be given to Saint Dominic by the Blessed Virgin herself, but it is confusing for a convert.  And it's also confusing that there are so many different mysteries and the days they are assigned to seems very arbitrary.  It's easy for me to see how a young Catholic who is not spiritually grounded can begin to feel like things are just too complicated (not just with the Rosary) and can then be attracted to a more simplistic form of Christianity.

Are you still with me?  I hope so.  Because like I said, I don't mean to be sacrilegious or disrespectful or offensive.  When I decided to write about my experience becoming Catholic, I felt like my viewpoint could be helpful to cradle Catholics in understanding Protestants and potentially helping them to avoid the pitfalls of faith-teaching that can lead to a lapsed Catholic child.

Many Catholics and most "converts" assert beauty, ritual, richness, and "depth" as things about the Roman Catholic tradition of Christianity that are most attractive.  But we need to remember that this depth that is so attractive is often not even visible to the individual without a strong spiritual foundation, or whose foundation has been shaken.  The Catholic who strays to the simplistic, evangelical, praise-song singing church across town is probably there because somewhere along the way he got caught up in all the intricacies to Catholicism before he was ready.  Be wary of this with your own children.

I know what I'm talking about because I was a Protestant who thought I needed something more simple.  But once I had a good handle on the simple part, I wanted more depth.  I started out in a liturgical tradition, moved away from it, moved back, and then moved even further into more liturgical traditions, finally landing in the Episcopal church, my last stop before RCIA.  Our priest has referred to all of the "extras" that Catholicism has as golf clubs.  Catholics are playing with more clubs than other traditions.  (The seven sacraments, additional feast days, and other sacramentals.)  Other traditions can still play and win the game, but they just have fewer clubs.  I like this analogy, particularly because it respects other traditions and denominations.
 
What do you think?  Are you a Catholic who likes the extra clubs?  Do you find you use them often?  Are you a Protestant who would like to offer a perspective?  (Be respectful.)

15 comments:

  1. I really enjoy hearing your perspective as you journey to enter the Church...what a great analogy with the golf clubs!

    As a cradle Catholic, I find those "extra clubs" are more tools we have available to us to help us achieve Heaven and become saints (not to of course suggest that other Christian denominations don't have good tools also...) Thanks for your perspective! :)

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    1. Thanks, Patty! I really liked the analogy too because I was always looking for a way to explain Catholicism to other Protestants, but I felt like I never gave an explanation that made things clear enough. I haven't tried it out yet besides on this post, but I have it for the future!

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  2. Last year I lived with 2 Catholic roommates and much to my surprise, neither of them understood how to pray the rosary even though they were raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools their entire lives. This helped me remember that the rosary can seem a bit complicated or confusing, but I found I personally never really got the hang of it until I just started praying it. Once I started on a semi-regular basis it seemed to flow much more naturally & I didn't have to think about the beads vs. the spaces between the beads and I could start using the paper guides less and less.

    For this reason, when my husband was going through RCIA the first form of traditional prayer I helped him learn was the rosary. Once he got the swing of it he found sooo many of the other prayers, chaplets, etc. to be so easy/simple to catch on to (i.e. once you have prayed the rosary, something like the chaplet of Divine Mercy is incredibly easy).

    I think you make an excellent point about how all of these sacramentals and tools can seem totally overwhelming, even for cradle Catholics! But I've found if I focus on learning and using just one at a time then I find myself ready to delve further into the depths and richness of other tools Catholicism gives us to help us on our path to heaven. I still sometimes have to take a step back because I discover several new prayers or devotions I love and want to try - but it's too much at one time.

    I think it's wonderful, though, to be part of a church with SO much history, tradition, and endless resources to aid me on my journey. I take comfort in knowing I don't have to use ALL of these tools to get to heaven...but they are there for me if/when I need them.

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    1. Thanks, Stephanie! I agree--even just after doing it one time I felt so much more comfortable with it and now I feel totally differently. I also agree that having all the tools can be wonderful. I've told friends before who think that Catholics have too many "rules" that a lot of these "rules" were more like guidelines given to early Christians on how to be a Christian because hey, it was new! And people were uneducated and illiterate--they needed help.

      I think it's nice to know what's available, but also to know that most things are optional. If it helps you, if it points you to Christ, then it is a good thing. If it points you anywhere else, it's not. That's the test.

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  3. Kelley, I really didn't pray the rosary much until I married my husband, but he grew up saying it everyday. I've really grown to love it! Once you get in the hang of it, it's very automatic and you can use the time you are praying it to really meditate on the mysteries or any other faith questions you're exploring. For us, it usually takes around 15 minutes.

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    1. You're right, Mandi--I realized it really is about getting the hang of it. I sorta thought I would just always be one of those people where my rosaries were decoration (I usually hang them on the knob of a door we don't use much), but I think I'll be using them now.

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  4. I'm a Protestant but I do pray the Rosary (it helps me calm down when I need it). Mandi is right -- once you get the prayers down, you can focus on the mysteries. I also have friends who say the prayers and skip the mysteries -- it's about what works for you.

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    1. Very cool, Jen. There's not a lot of Protestants who use the rosary. I know that there is a Lutheran version and plenty of Protestants make their own version of prayer beads, but most find the practice very foreign. What tradition are you and how did you start using it?

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  5. Oh, I love that you blogged about this! I find that when I pray the Rosary more regularly, I can get into more of a rhythm with the prayers and my meditations are more vivid somehow. I am partial to the Joyful Mysteries, so often I say those. Of course, usually I say the Rosary when I'm driving or waiting in the doctor's office or something, so I rarely have the actual beads. But I never thought about how hard it might be to learn if you hadn't grown up with that. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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    1. Thanks for the feedback, Rita! I'm glad that my thoughts are making you think :-)

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  7. I'm a cradle catholic and also never really got into the rosary. I feel the same way I remember learning it and t thinking omg this is sooo complicated which bead am I on? Which space am I on? Did I say 9 or 11 hailmarys that decade? What is the mystery for the day? The list goes on!

    Honestly I do much better listening to the rosary on youtube or using spotify rosary playings. I also do much better using the rosary apps on my phone or ipad b/c it automatically updates to the day of mysteries we should be praying that day and it will show me the bead we are on and the prayer we should be saying.

    I know everyone has their methods this is what has worked for me.

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    1. Thanks, Beth Anne! I actually listened to an entire rosary on the radio once when I was driving through an area that only picked up one station :-) I felt quite holy 0:-) Those sound like good ideas--do you have a rosary app that you would recommend?

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  8. Kelley, Can I just tell you that I love your posts? I love the fire and desire you have to live fully the faith you have been inspired to love. Praise be God's goodness, that he led you to us.

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    1. Absolutely! You can give me compliments any time you want, Luisa! It's good to hear that you're moved by what I write. Thanks for taking the time to give me feedback :-)

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