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Rosary beads lead to deeper faith, lessons learned

By Steve Stricker

My hero mom, “Gert,” taught me many things, the most important perhaps was faith: to attend Mass on Sunday, daily if I could like her, and to pray the Rosary every day.

On March 18, 2020, when our Bishop suspended Mass and locked our church because of the pandemic, my life was turned upside down. Attending Mass daily and on Sunday was my rock in an unstable frightening and different world, and although Fr. Joe streamed Mass live on Facebook, it wasn’t the same. Thankfully, I had the Rosary to anchor me.

“To pray the Rosary is to hand over our burdens to the merciful hearts of Christ and His mother.” –  Pope St. John Paul, II

The Rosary is a powerful, visual prayer which gives insight into the life of the Holy Family – Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Holy Spirit, God, and the suffering of our Lord incarnate who willingly endured suffering and death to save us.

Catholic tradition holds that in a vision to St. Dominic (1221) the Blessed Virgin Mary inspired him to devise the Rosary as we know it,  and Alanus de Rupe, a 15th-century Dominican friar, was visited by Mary who gave 15 promises to Christians who prayed the Rosary to include the assurance of receiving the sacraments at the time of death, never being conquered by misfortune, and her own special protection.

Over the centuries, some changes were made to the Rosary but during the 16th century the form that we use today was established, i.e., five-decades, with 10 Hail Mary’s per decade, based on three sets of mysteries – Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious. The Luminous mystery was added by Pope St. John Paul II (my hero) in 2002.  This mystery helps bridge the gap between Jesus being found in the Temple at age 12 and beginning his ministry by being baptized in the Jordan by cousin John around age 30, and subsequent passion and crucifixion at age 33.

When saying my Rosary every day at church or home, I deeply and peacefully reflect on the Mystery for that day (Monday Joyful, Tuesday Sorrowful, Wednesday Glorious, Thursday Luminous, Friday Sorrowful, Saturday Joyful, and Sunday Glorious) as if I was there, a spectator.

While meditating on each mystery, our Lord “reveals” through grace, details that I couldn’t obtain any other way.  Not only am I focused on what is happening in each Mystery, but also on what is going on “behind the scenes.”

For example, in the Joyful mysteries there are five decades (Annunciation, Visitation, Birth of Jesus, Presentation in the Temple, and Finding our Lord in the Temple).  Just in the Annunciation, imagine Mary’s shock when angel Gabriel suddenly appears out of thin air and “announces” that she has been chosen by God to be the mother of God (Jesus) and Mary with her “fiat” or yes, is conceived by the Holy Spirit!

First consider, Mary (14) Joseph (21) and imagine Mary explaining Gabriel to Joseph before they were even living together. How did they get together, become engaged, families and friends, how was the wedding, what did their house in Nazareth look like, where did they get food, cook, how did they get along, weather, what was a “normal” day like?

And, I think of baby Jesus asleep on Joseph’s lap (imagine it), and as a tool guy wonder what tools he used as a carpenter, what kind of furniture did he make, how did he problem solve, where did he get his tools, wood etc?  All this with Jesus tottering about in the shop, Joseph teaching him … perhaps Mary helping or sitting with them, knitting, chatting … smiling, and they had a donkey – other pets?

The Rosary itself is important to this prayer as to how it looks and feels, and I have my mom’s, dad’s, and others meaningful to me like the one I use now brought to me from the Vatican Gift Shop in Rome by son, Stephen.

Oh, and Mary said: “GO REBELS, BEAT ARIZONA!!” 

Steve Stricker received his Ph.D. in Counseling from Ole Miss, lives in Oxford, and can be reached at sstricke@olemiss.edu.