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More Important Than Potty Training

Boy & Girl PrayingThe year was 1966.  I was nine years old and in fourth grade at St. Mark’s grade school.  One day in class the teacher asked if anyone could recite all of the mysteries of the Rosary.  Two students raised their hands – one of the girls in class… and me.  The teacher asked me to stand up and recite, out loud, half of the mysteries, and then asked the girl to recite the rest of them.

When I got home from school I proudly announced to my mom that I was only one of two students in class who knew the mysteries of the Rosary.  I expected her to congratulate me, but instead she was upset and expressed disbelief that none of the other students knew the mysteries. 

“Why haven’t their parents taught them how to pray the rosary?  A good Catholic education should include memorization of the mysteries of the Rosary.  It’s not difficult to teach a child how to pray the Rosary.”

The reason the other girl and I were the only ones who had the mysteries memorized was because we were the only students in class whose families prayed the Rosary together every day.

That was one thing my mom insisted that we do together as a family every evening after supper.  She constantly reminded us of Fr. Patrick Peyton’s well known motto: “The family that prays together stays together.”

While I was growing up, Fr. Patrick Payton was known worldwide as The Rosary Priest.  After being diagnosed with tuberculosis when he was a seminarian, he made a vow to the Blessed Virgin Mary that if she cured him of the disease, he would dedicate his life to teaching others about the Rosary.  The vow was made after his doctors told him they couldn’t do anything for him and his only option was to pray.  He was subsequently cured of the disease and over the course of his life influenced millions of people by getting his message out to them through publications, radio, television, films, audio cassettes, and video tapes.  Fr. Payton died in 1992 at the age of 83.

To mom, teaching her children how to pray the Rosary was more important than potty training.  The truth of the matter is that all of her children knew how to pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Doxology (“Glory Be”) before they were fully potty trained.  And we all had the mysteries of the Rosary memorized by the time we were seven years old.

The primary concern of my mom that day when I came home from school was not that my fellow students didn’t have the mysteries memorized, but that they didn’t know what the Rosary was, why it was important, or how to actually pray it.

If you walked into a Catholic grade school today, how many students would know what the Rosary is and how to pray it from beginning to end?

If you walked into a Catholic Church next Sunday, how many adults would know what the Rosary is and how to pray it from beginning to end?

Do you know how to pray a Rosary from beginning to end?  Could you recite the mysteries to me, in order?

Unfortunately most Catholics today believe that the Rosary is nothing more than an out-dated ritual for old people.  They see no value in repeating the same prayer over and over again.  (“Hail Mary full of grace the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among woman and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death, Amen.”  Then again, “Hail Mary full of grace…”)

So what’s the use in reciting the Hail Mary over and over again?  Why even bother?  Here are just a few of the reasons:

  1. First, the Rosary is a prayer that any person who has the ability to think can learn, regardless of age, occupation, status, education, or financial ability.  So it is truly a prayer for all of humanity.
  2. Second, it is a prayer that requires a certain degree of humility and an acknowledgement that we really aren’t as sophisticated as we think we are.  People who are filled with pride don’t pray the Rosary.  It’s too simple a prayer.  Too repetitive.  Too trivial.  They don’t need it.  They have too many more important things to do with their time.
  3. Third, praying the rosary reduces us to being viewed as children in the eyes of God – children who are turning to their spiritual mother for love, guidance, protection, and support.  It was our Lord Himself who said that we must be like children in order to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Over the centuries numerous popes and saints have said that, after the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours (the prayers priests are required to recite every day), the Rosary is the greatest prayer in the Catholic Church.

The word Rosary literally means “a crown of roses” that is given to the Blessed Mother as a spiritual bouquet.

What most Catholics don’t know is that the secret to praying a Rosary in the correct way is to meditate on the mysteries while praying the Hail Mary’s.  As a general rule, depending on the day of the week, on Mondays and Saturdays we are asked to meditate on the Joyful Mysteries while praying the Rosary; on Tuesdays and Fridays, the Sorrowful Mysteries; on Wednesdays and Sundays, the Glorious Mysteries; and on Thursdays, the Luminous Mysteries.

Now here’s the true benefit of praying the Rosary that most Catholics are unaware of: Over a period of four days – Monday through Thursday – a person who has prayed the Rosary has meditated on the most significant events of the entire life of Jesus, from the moment He was conceived in His mother’s womb by the Holy Spirit, through His childhood, His public life, His suffering and death, His resurrection and ascension into Heaven, and the crowning of His mother as Queen of Heaven and earth.

The Rosary serves as a comprehensive review (and reenactment in our imaginations) of the most important events of the New Testament of the Holy Bible.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen had this to say about the Rosary:

The Rosary is the book of the blind, where souls see and there enact the greatest drama of love the world has ever known; it is the book of the simple, which initiates them into the mysteries and knowledge more satisfying than the education of other men; it is the book of the aged, whose eyes close upon the shadow of this world, and open on the substance of the next.  The power of the Rosary is beyond description.

You’re never too old to learn this great prayer.  The question is: Are you willing to open up your mind and your heart and then make the commitment to incorporate this powerful prayer into your life?

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to need as much help as I can get when I pass from this world into eternity.  I figure there’s no other human being in a better position to help me than the Mother of God.  With her at my side how can I lose?

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