Despite being baptized Catholic and receiving first communion, my first memory of a rosary was when my little sister was born. I was eight. A friend of the family gave my sister a large colorful wooden rosary as a baptismal gift. I was fascinated by it. What is it? I asked. I believe I shocked my mother, It’s a rosary! I didn’t know what that meant. A what? A rosary, For praying. I had no idea how praying the rosary was done or why you needed beads for it but I stopped inquiring, I had embarrassed my mother. The rosary hung on my sister’s crib.
I didn’t learn how to pray the rosary until much later, confirmation age. I don’t remember being taught how to pray it, I learned from little booklets. The beads became a great comfort to me. I would finger them as I prayed, their smoothness soothed and their rhythmic clank seemed to croon with forgotten prayers. Yet it was these little rosary booklets that brought the beads- mysteries, to life for me. They informed and anchored my prayer. With a rosary book in hand I was able to overcome distractions and return to the sanctuary of meditating. And the good ones deepened my understanding of the sacred mysteries and my prayer life.
I have always loved the paintings which depict our Blessed Mother reading. I find these images so striking because they successfully portray Mary as a woman of prayer and study, of Meditation and action. They also render her humanity in a way bare feet can’t, Mary read. How beautiful it is to have the written word aid and center our prayer, for what are we meditating on but the Word made flesh.
And isn’t Mary’s heart not a book itself? “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart” Luke 2:19. I’ve always pictured her heart containing tender moments with the infant Jesus, the Christ Child, The God-Man, both the joys and sorrows so close to one another! Rev. E. K. Lynch in his book The Scapular of Carmel describes Mary’s heart as a “living library of every word that came to her from God.” This passage immediately brought to mind the poet’s, Jorge Luis Borge, words, “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” And when I pray the rosary and rest a little, unassuming rosary booklet on my lap, I am looking into Mary’s heart- a book laid bare, I contemplate it all, her Psalter.