“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Lk 1:42).
There is a funny story about an elderly woman doing a rosary, unaware that a painter is on a scaffold above her repairing the church ceiling. As she says her prayer the mischievous painter whispers, “This is Jesus speaking.” The old woman ignores him until finally the painter, thinking the woman is deaf, shouts loudly, “Hello! This is Jesus!” The old lady raises her eyes to the crucifix and answers, “Just a moment my Lord, I’m talking to your mother.”
For several years now I have done a nightly rosary, but I’ve never had a simliar interruption. For those who may not have undertaken a full rosary, I can say that it is a very powerful and rigorous practice. The rosary is divided into four mysteries, comprising five decades each. Prayed in sequence through the week, they offer a magnificent encapsulation of the story of Jesus and Mary.
The Joyful Mysteries tell of the Annunciation through the birth of Jesus, his presentation at and the finding of Jesus in the temple. The Luminous Mysteries tell the story of the revealing of Christ to the world, from his baptism in the River Jordan, to the Wedding at Cana through to the Last Supper. The Sorrowful Mysteries narrate the passion, from the agony of our Lord in the garden through to his trial and carrying of the cross to Calvary, to his crucifixion. And the Glorious Mysteries tell of his resurrection and ascension into heaven, the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and finally the assumption of Mary into heaven and her coronation as queen of heaven and earth.
For me the nightly rosary was a way to ground myself at a difficult time, and while it has proven spiritually heartening, I must admit it was a practice that at times was challenging to maintain given the realities of life. If I was ill or returning from a long evening of work, it might be after midnight before I could turn to the rosary, an undertaking that can take up to 30 minutes.
Until one day I read an account of a woman whose mother urged her to say the Hail Mary as she baked! I loved that story. It reminded me of Salman Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children where one of the characters baked her emotions into whatever she prepared. Hence, if she were crying when she cooked, those who ate her food became sad. If she baked euphorically, those who sampled her cuisine felt uplifted. I couldn’t help but think the same would happen if you prayed while cooking. And since my own culinary ability is at best rudimentary, I decided to build the rosary into my daylight hours instead: the decades recited during the ride to and from work (guaranteed to eliminate road rage); while exercising (rather rare, I’m afraid); or while doing household chores (rarer still). And often, on a Sunday, I arrive early at church and complete the rosary before the mass begins. There are still times when it is late at night before I can say the rosary. But most of the time the rosary is part of the fabric of my day: reassuring, tempering, enlightening. How can you go wrong when 53 Hail Marys, six Our Fathers and a handful of other awesome prayers are part of your day?
Turcotte is president of St. Mary’s University in Calgary.