||The Queen of Peace Rosary Makers, Alice and Gene Buechner and Judy Schmudlach, guided students at St. Ann School in Stoughton in making rosaries recently. This special activity happens in the Grade Four classroom each year as the students prepare to celebrate October’s Month of the Rosary. (Contributed photo)
A familiar item in the well-grounded Catholic’s arsenal of prayer, the Rosary has been a tradition in the Church for centuries. The spread of this form of Marian devotion is often attributed to the preaching of St. Dominic in the early 14th century, and, according to tradition, the Rosary was given to him in an apparition. Historians still debate its genesis and often favor a more gradual development.
But whatever its origins, the devotion remains a common practice of Catholics.
In the month of October, the Month of the Holy Rosary, Catholics are called to renew themselves in the healing power of the Rosary. The month offers an opportunity for those less familiar with the Rosary to learn more about the devotion and others to reacquaint themselves with its mysteries. It offers an opportunity to find peace and reconciliation through Mary and her devotion to Christ.
Building a renewal
Though the Rosary has been in the Church for centuries, statistics on its current use can be daunting.
According to the 2008 survey “Sacraments Today: Belief and Practice Among US Catholics” by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University in Washington, only about eight percent of Catholics in the United States pray the Rosary weekly. Another eight percent pray at least once every month, and one in six pray once a year. Nearly half of the 1,007 Catholics surveyed — 48 percent — said they never or rarely pray the Rosary.
The numbers were similar to a CARA study in 2001 that asked the question.
Rosary shrines around the diocese:
• Dodgeville — Paul and Barbara Kramer’s Rosary and Outdoor Stations of the Cross, 4718 Chimney Rock Rd., near Dodgeville. Open to the public; chapel by appointment. Contact 608-288-9992.
• Mineral Point — Mary’s Rosary Garden on the Weisbrook Family Farm. Contact 608-987-2027.
• Princeton — 17-foot-tall roadside Rosary shrine; Ken & Marie Soda’s farm, on County Road J west of Princeton.
• Verona — Outdoor Rosary on St. Andrew Church grounds, 301 N. Main St.
Of course, that’s across the general Catholic population. Of those who attend Mass regularly — at least once every week — 45 percent were likely to carry a Rosary with them and 23 percent reported praying the Rosary weekly. Only 28 percent said they rarely or never prayed the Rosary — as opposed to 82 percent of those who attend Mass a few times a year or less.
The difference can be shown between the generations, as well. The older Catholics are, the more likely they are to pray the rosary. Of the Pre-Vatican II Generation, born before 1943, 73 percent pray the Rosary. The numbers decrease after that: 58 percent of the Vatican II Generation, born between 1943 and 1960; 44 percent of the Post-Vatican II Generation, born 1961 to 1981; and 39 percent of the Millennial Generation (born after 1981).
But there is hope for the future. Indeed, Pope Benedict XVI, who has called the Rosary “a spiritual weapon” against evil and violence, said the practice is experiencing a renewal:
“Today, together we confirm that the Holy Rosary is not a pious practice banished to the past, like prayers of other times thought of with nostalgia,” Pope Benedict XVI said in an address at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in May 2008, where he prayed the rosary with the faithful. “Instead, the Rosary is experiencing a new Springtime. Without a doubt, this is one of the most eloquent signs of love that the young generation nourish for Jesus and his Mother, Mary.”
When prayed in an authentic way — “not mechanical and superficial but profoundly,” he said, the Rosary brings peace and reconciliation.
“It contains within itself the healing power of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, invoked with faith and love at the centre of each ‘Hail Mary,’” the pope said.
Throughout the world this month, many individuals and families are recommitting themselves to the practice of the Rosary.
For some, it might mean dusting off the beads blessed back at their First Communion; for others, it might mean making a commitment to pray a Chaplet once a day. For those already entrenched in the practice, it might mean sharing the love of this Marian devotion with someone who has never tried.
Praying the Rosary can take about 10 to 15 minutes, perhaps a little longer for the less experienced or more leisurely reflection, but still an easy length of time to fit into a daily prayer regimen.
There are many opportunities — especially this month — to get involved. Some parishes host regular group prayer sessions of the Rosary. Group prayer is an easy way to wade into the practice, to learn the rhythms, and to become acquainted with the prayers.
If you are looking for a group to pray with, but there isn’t a local parish Rosary that fits your schedule, check out these options:
• Cable channel EWTN’s daily Rosary at 10:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m., and 8:30 p.m.
• A live stream of the Rosary at www.CatholicTV.com, Mondays through Saturdays at 3 a.m., 10 a.m., and 6:30 p.m.; Sundays at 3 a.m., 9:30 a.m., and 6:30 p.m.
• The daily Rosary on Relevant Radio 1240AM at 8 p.m.
• Various videos on YouTube.com Just type in “Rosary” and select the video that fits your prayer style best.
Setting a regular time to pray the Rosary will help to build the habit and serve as a reminder. Praying with family can also be a good way of spending time with each other and developing a solid family faith life.
Beads and bowling balls
Prayer beads can be purchased inexpensively from most religious goods stores and blessed by a priest or deacon, but even that expense isn’t completely necessary. Counting on prayer beads is standard for praying the Rosary and often allows the person praying to devote more focus to the meditations. But the devotion may be said using any type of counting device, or keeping track of the prayers mentally.
Bowling balls are even an option.
Around the Diocese of Madison, there are several outdoor shrines depicting the Rosary that can be used to pray the devotion. Walking around a large-scale version of the hand-held string of prayer beads or sitting in contemplation of them while surrounded by God’s creation can be a moving experience.
Amid the rolling hills of southwest Wisconsin in Mineral Point, for instance, Mary’s Rosary Garden bears a large Rosary, its beads made out of bowling balls, laid out for meditation. The Marian shrine, located on the farm of Tim and Cathy Wiesbrook in rural Mineral Point, was dedicated in 2008 by Fr. Eric Sternberg. The first outdoor Mass held there was offered May 24 this year, with Fr. Michael Radowiz celebrating and Msgr. George Hastrich and Fr. Bernard Dietelhoff concelebrating.
Public Rosaries are held monthly and open visitation is always welcome by appointment.
However the Rosary is prayed, it is an opportunity, as Pope Benedict XVI said, to, like Mary, put Christ “at the centre of our life, of our time, of our city, through the contemplation and meditation of his holy mysteries of joy, light, sorrow, and glory.”