Re-discovering the Rosary

For years, I have kept my favorite rosary underneath my pillow. I hold it and use it at least once a day; and yet, despite its proximity, I haven’t prayed the rosary in a very long time — until this week.

My rosary is one of my favorite possessions. It is one of the few belongings I have that I can never replace. It was given to me a few years ago by a friend whose faith I continue to admire. The white ‘Hail Mary’ beads are made out of an illegal material, found in Beijing, but that is another story. The reddish-pink ‘Our Father’ beads are coral, brought back from Hawaii. The in-between beads are garnet; a red-purple semi-precious stone.

When I received this rosary, it came with these words:

“I hope that when you have a bad night and all seems lost, you can reach under your pillow and find a weapon or even just a shield to grasp until the torrent subsides. I have never known a more powerful thing than my own rosary. May yours help you keep yourself and those you love safe forever.”

Up until now, that is what I have done. I’ve reached under my pillow countless times to simply rub the soft white beads, run my fingers around the coral beads, and trace the shape of the cross as I name my fears or ask God to protect me and my loved ones. I’ve become so familiar with the feel of the rosary, but I haven’t activated the power of the rosary as it was intended originally.

This week, as I described my anxieties and my faith experience to a friend, he recommended the power of praying the rosary. He told me of a few situations when praying the rosary unraveled answers for him in unexpected ways. After our meeting, I considered this advice for some time, wondering a bit why I hadn’t used the rosary in a traditional sense — I had hardly thought of doing so. I finally reached under my pillow for my rosary this week and began to pray until I fell asleep.

The next morning, on my way to work, I passed by the office of the friend who had given me my rosary. He saw me walking by, we waved, and I pulled the rosary out of my purse, held it high for him to see from the street below, and did my best to convey gratitude through a smile.

That same evening, as I was walking in the dark to my bus stop, I passed by Christ Our Hope – the Catholic church hidden in the midst of chaos and city life in downtown Seattle. I walked past the church and then turned around. I walked into the church, dipped my fingers in the baptismal font, took a seat in front of the crucifix on the altar, and picked up my rosary. I sat there for about 35 minutes and I prayed the whole rosary. I looked up at Christ on the cross intermittently, some ‘Hail Mary’s’ were more thoughtful than others, I lost track of time, my mind wandered to those I wanted to help the most, and I ended my time with a final prayer for a friend.

I am just beginning to re-discover the rosary and its power, but reflecting on it as a resource in my faith in the past few days alone has already provided value for my journey. As I’ve thought about the rosary this week, I’ve also come across countless testimonies from people who have relied on its power as a portal to God through Mary and through prayer. These accounts bolster my desire to surrender my human longing for control and give myself more deeply to prayer.