So, a funny thing happened when I logged into my blog this evening… I had all sorts of comments from individuals who found my blog! I had no idea that anyone was actually reading it! So to all of you out there who found me: Thank you! Okay, on to my blog post…
I became overwhelmed with life again recently. Two children, a full time job, and studying to become catholic has left me little time for the writing I enjoy so much. So, I let my blog go for a bit to focus on other priorities (I actually refer to it as “triage” my other priorities, but you get the point). In the midst of all the chaos that my life has entailed lately, I’ve found a wonderful tool to help me relax my mind and “unplug” from the world around me… praying the Rosary.
I’m sure everyone can relate to a typical day in my life. I’m awake early to try to beat traffic to the office, which I never successfully do. So, after an hour-long commute (where I ponder if walking would actually get me there quicker), I walk into the office to be bombarded with a whole bunch of problems to sort though. After a day of emails, phone calls, meetings, and texts, I sit in traffic for another hour pondering why I decided to live so far from the city. Once I walk in the door I’m treated with a rock star welcome of two small children screaming in excitement and pulling at my clothes while trying to pull away to give my husband a hug. Three chaos filled hours later all in my house are fed and in bed and I spend an hour either reading, doing laundry, or passed out in front of my computer. With all of this noise, stress, and traffic (because traffic is a stressor in its own category), I find it very hard to relax. Even when I have time to relax, my mind is constantly running through my to-do list. I’m not able to disconnect from the world around me because I’m constantly needed. As a result, I begin to burn out.
Occasionally, life overwhelms me and I feel a little like everything I do is a delicate house of cards and when it blows over, I won’t be able to recover. In all the stress of life, I forgot one very important thing. We are always able to recover. Is it going to be pretty? Maybe not. Are we going to be perfect? Nope. But we will recover. And I forgot…again.
So one Friday afternoon, when I was off from work (which often means working from home), I decided to pray. I had recently bought “Praying the Rosary with Pope Francis” to teach myself the Rosary as part of my RCIA (the catholic conversion class for adults). I had looked up praying the Rosary on Google (because, frankly, if it’s not on Google it doesn’t exist in my world) and was still confused. So, being the geek I am, I bought a book. It had been sitting on my desk for a week and I hadn’t touched it, but sitting there that Friday I decided I’d give it a try.
Now, I’d never prayed the Rosary before for a few reasons.
- It seemed like it would take too long (and I’m busy)
- It seemed incredibly redundant (50 Hail Mary prayers… really?!)
- It was really confusing (which mystery do I meditate upon today?)
- Perhaps the most important… I was embarrassed
So I sat on the floor of my study, after pushing a few toys and some Amazon boxes out of the way (have I mentioned I might have been too busy lately) and using my new book, began to pray. I didn’t even own a Rosary, so I used my fingers to count. I realized quickly that reason number 4 above was probably my biggest problem. Because sitting there on the floor of my study with no one around, I was still embarrassed. It felt awkward and uneasy. I didn’t know the words and I kept telling myself that this was a fruitless effort. But what was I embarrassed about? Nobody could see me. Was I embarrassed to talk to God… yeah, perhaps a little. It seemed to be a bit of my past bleeding through. Think about when you go on a strict diet to lose weight. It’s easy to stick with your diet when there isn’t anything going on in your life. But the second things get stressful, you slip back into old habits. Why? Because of comfort. Old habits make us feel safe and in control, and we slip back into them without even thinking. I was doing the same thing. I shouldn’t have been embarrassed about praying, but my habit of being self-reliant and not thinking God was nearby started seeping through. I realized I need to talk to God the most is when I feel the most overwhelmed.
With that small but impactful revelation in mind, I was determined to give the Rosary an honest try. Then life got in the way… two text messages, four emails, and two phone calls later, I was only about half-way through and very frazzled. I kept forgetting the prayer (seriously after the twentieth Hail Mary I should have it memorized, right?). A very important lesson was learned that day; never pray the Rosary in your study with your cell phone nearby. Seriously, mute the cell phone and bury it in a drawer. I could have picked up praying where I left off, congratulated myself upon completing the rosary, and then scoffed that this silly prayer would never help me connect with God. But that wouldn’t have been fair to me, Mary, or God. So I started over (in the bedroom this time where there wasn’t any technology). What happened next truly convinced me to pray the Rosary regularly. My mind quieted down. With every Hail Mary I stopped thinking about the to-do list, my problems at work, my kid’s homework, and birthday party planning. It was just me, silence, and my thoughts, and I’d like to think the Holy Spirit was with me too. The peace never felt so wonderful.
I got up energized and ready to tackle my problems, instead of groaning about all I had to do. It seemed counter-intuitive to me (and still does, really) but when I feel too busy, I need to stop, take a breath, and pray. The reflection helped me slow my mind down, disconnect from the world, and focus on what matters most… my relationship with God. Of course, the energy only lasted about a day, but that’s the beauty of the Rosary. It’s meant to be prayed daily. I still haven’t made it to daily yet; life still distracts me. But I’ve been celebrating when I am able to (I’m up to a couple of times a week), and I find reciting the Hail Mary during stressful times in my day (yes, I did finally get it memorized) can help clear my mind. It’s not perfect, but it works for me.
So today, I reflected on the reasons why I didn’t pray the Rosary, and here is what I’ve learned.
- “It takes too long”- It needs to. If it were a quick prayer, we could say it while thinking about our grocery lists and paying bills and never focus on clearing our mind and reflecting.
- “It’s redundant” – For me, the pattern helped relax me. I found I could quiet my mind reciting the same prayer over and over. It forces us to focus our attention span during a moment when we can’t focus for more than 2 minutes.
- “It’s confusing” – I believe this is so we won’t lose interest. If I had to pray the same thing over and over, I might honestly fall asleep. By having variety, we have the opportunity to reflect on different areas of faith while also keeping our brain active.
- “I’m embarrassed” – Of what? Other people judging? There’s no harm in going somewhere by yourself until you have it figured out (might even be quieter that way). Of your relationship with God? Guess what, He isn’t embarrassed. Besides, He’s likely getting bombarded with my prayers of “please let the Indian Restaurant still be open” and “please let me have one more pair of clean socks”. You aren’t going to be judged on your fumbled Our Father. And finally, remember, God is love. He cannot be harsh or critical and still love. You’re safe praying, even if you think it’s silly.
I encourage everyone to give the Rosary a try. I know it doesn’t work for all, but it may for some. If you’re struggling with the meditations, I would highly recommend “Praying the Rosary with Pope Francis.” It’s a small book and you can hold it in your hand while you pray. If you don’t know how to pray the rosary, the book will walk you through it, or you can take a look at this website, as it has a good overview as well.
I recommend printing the prayers and the directions out, that way you can walk away from technology for a bit.