Yesterday was the commemoration of “Our Lady of the Rosary.” I was up early and had started to write, my head full of memories associated with this prayer practice, but I was beginning another tradition – a multi-day retreat – and could not find a way to coherently express the meaning of this prayer in the time I had to spend. I saw my father sitting with his rosary that now hangs on my bedstead, the black shine worn off the beads from use. I remembered the day in October of my first high school year when all students and teachers left classrooms and crowded into the halls to pray the rosary at the news of what became “the Cuban missile crisis.” Most consistently in my youth I recall the importance of praying the rosary for “the conversion of Russia” and the stunning day in 1985 when we heard the word glasnost (openness) policy reform on the news of Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union.
The rosary is likely the most universally practiced devotion of the Roman Catholic Church, second only to the liturgy of the Mass. Although it appeared much earlier in history and has been prayed in many forms in many traditions, the impetus for the devotion in modern times for Catholics was the documented apparitions in 1917 of the Blessed Virgin Mary to three children in Fatima, Portugal that has become a site of pilgrimage for people the world over.
As we face each day of the tragedies in the world – especially now with the Covid-19 virus – we recognize the upsurge of prayer in the world, even beyond the boundaries of traditional religions. We now have friends – a married couple – who are working in New York City with the homeless to find ways to help them with basic necessities and a way to “get off the streets.” Recently one of our Sisters has begun furnishing them with rosary beads and a pamphlet on the practice of the rosary, should they wish to pray it. The response has been quite positive.
The world is changing. In many ways it is becoming “smaller” but the challenges seem more urgent. Joining the concomitant resurgence of prayer, no matter what practices we choose, is becoming necessary to the lives of people in every corner of the world. Whatever our chosen form of prayer, we need such a strong refuge.
What do you offer to this global effort?