I Don’t Like the Rosary–6 Reasons I Pray It Anyway

A few months ago I went to confession at a conference where I was speaking and made the mistake of wearing my nametag into the confessional. Now, I’m not terribly concerned that Father would connect my name with my sins–it’s not like there’s anything he could do about it if he did. But my nametag identified me as a speaker at the conference, which evidently gave him the idea that I was serious about holiness because he gave me a rosary for my penance.

You read that right. A whole rosary.

I wanted to be like, “Sorry, did you mean three Hail Marys?” Because you know it’s always three Hail Marys.1 But I figured I’d show off instead.

“Do you mean in addition to the one I’m already praying today?” See, Father? I’m so holy. I shouldn’t have to do a hard penance.

“Yes.” Well, shoot. “Do you pray a rosary every day?”

“Yes, Father.” Now you get it. I’m really awesome.

But instead of congratulating me, he started talking about how I should really pray three rosaries a day. THREE! Ain’t nobody got time for that! As he talked, I sat there stewing. I can’t pray more rosaries. I barely have time for what I’m doing already. I’d have to cut out mental prayer or spiritual reading and I know that’s a terrible idea. Really, I’m too pious for any more rosaries.

Moral of the story: I’m arrogant.

But there’s a confession in there, too: I don’t like praying the rosary.2

If you’re a Catholic of my variety, you’re not really supposed to say this. We love Mass and we love Mary and we absolutely love the rosary. But I don’t.

Sometimes I tell people this and they beg me to try again. Believe me, it’s not for lack of trying. I’ve prayed the rosary daily since I was 16–three times a day in college.3 That’s something like 5000 rosaries. I’ve prayed the rosary with music, with extemporaneous meditations, with Bible passages. I’ve prayed in several languages, alone and with thousands of people. I’ve prayed in fits and starts throughout the day and start to finish in one shot, while walking and driving and kneeling and sitting. I’ve read books about the rosary, taught others to pray the rosary, given talks on the merits of the rosary. I just don’t like praying it.

Here’s the thing: I don’t like sushi, I don’t like The Phantom of the Opera, and (if we’re being quite honest) I’ve never much cared for Hopkins. I know that sushi is wonderful, that Phantom is beautiful, and that Hopkins will take your breath away. I know these things are good. I just don’t like them. Perhaps if I try and try and try again I’ll find that I do. And perhaps not. But my opinion isn’t a judgment against them, just a personal preference. It’s the same with the rosary–I know it’s good, I just don’t enjoy it.

I haven't read the whole thing, but what I read was awesome.

I haven’t read the whole thing, but what I read was awesome.

I know that I’m bad at praying the rosary. I know that if I were really meditating on the mysteries I’d begin to see the value of the prayer. I also know that not all prayers work for all temperaments. One of the many gifts of the Catholic Church is that there are as many ways to be a Catholic as there are to be a person. You don’t have to love adoration or weekly confession or Taize or lectio divina or 40 Days for Life or immigration reform or Latin or Matt Maher. There are so many ways to pray, so many spiritualities, so many acts of piety to choose from. Not everybody’s going to love the rosary. I even read a book recently4 that said people with my temperament will almost always struggle with the rosary. I felt absolutely vindicated.

You’d think I’d give up. But I’m not going to. Largely, it’s because I felt absolutely convicted that God was calling me to pray the rosary and I haven’t yet felt released from that call. But I don’t think mine is an unusual situation. I think a lot of us don’t enjoy the rosary. And I think most of us should be praying it anyway. Every day. Here’s why:

6 reasons rosary

Rosary Sheen1. It’s objectively a good way to pray. The rosary is a scriptural prayer. It’s shot through with the words of Scripture and built around the mysteries of Scripture. It was given to us by Our Lady,5 who keeps returning to encourage us to pray this miracle-working prayer. When you recite a prayer written by a modern author, sing a hymn, or read a book about God, it might not be fantastic. The rosary always is.

2. You need your mother. Ever call your mom when you didn’t have anything to talk about? And maybe she didn’t either. But you talked for a little while anyway, because talking to your mom is important. Whether you enjoy the rosary or not, it keeps you connected to the mother of Jesus and your mother. And when you’re connected to Mary, she keeps drawing you closer and closer to Jesus. Praying the rosary daily keeps you in check.

Rosary de Sales3. You’re in good company. The rosary has been prayed by countless Saints–I’d hazard a guess at nearly every Saint since it was introduced to the world. It’s a great equalizer, prayed by popes and peasants, geniuses and fools. Any given day, there are millions of people throughout the world praying the rosary. If it’s made saints of sinners for nearly a thousand years, who are you to refuse?

4. It consecrates a busy day. I’ve found that I struggle most when I try to sit down and pray a rosary all the way through. It just makes my mind wander more. Instead, I pray a decade as I drive to the store, half a decade while I’m waiting for the microwave. It seemed like cheating at first, until I realized: every time I have a free second, my automatic inclination is to pray. I’m squeezing the rosary in wherever I can which means my default action is prayer. Back in college (when I prayed three rosaries and still had time for naps) I used to pray the rosary to help myself fall asleep in the middle of the day. I did this so often that when I woke in the night, I found that I was praying Hail Marys. Maybe it’s better to set time aside for a full rosary, but when you’re fitting it in as best you can, it transforms your whole life.

Rosary Josemaria5. Sometimes mindless prayer is the best you can do. The rosary shouldn’t be mindless. It should be wrapped up in the mysteries of Christ’s life. But there are times when you can’t meditate. When God seems far, reading the Bible can be nothing but frustrating. Praise music rings hollow. There’s no time for the Liturgy of the Hours and you wouldn’t be able to mean it even if you tried. But the rosary you can do. Even when doubts are creeping in and you feel abandoned, you can cling to Mary’s apron string and murmur those words. Even when you’re so distracted by contractions or mile 24 of your marathon that you can’t think, you can repeat the prayers you’ve said so many times. Maybe you can’t call the images of the mysteries to mind, but you can keep saying the words–day in and day out–until they mean something again. If you’ve committed to a daily rosary, perhaps only stubbornness will keep you praying. But God can work in stubbornness to draw you back to him. Promise God a daily rosary in time of consolation and it will sustain you through desolation until you’re feeling his love again.

Devotion by Luke Fildes

Devotion by Luke Fildes

6. It’s something to cling to in a crisis. When all is well, the rosary is something I do out of duty. When my life comes crashing down around me, though, I run for my Momma. After a dreaded phone call, after a breakup, while racing to a survivor’s side, my hand reaches automatically for my rosary. Even while I’m struggling to see God working in my pain, I’m being drawn back to him by my Mother. When I’m lost, I’m already found because I go home to Mary before I even know what I’m about. Because the rosary is the rhythm of my life, it’s what I fall back on even when I’m not feeling it. Not song lyrics, not video games, not even phone calls to friends. It’s not even a decision because the commitment I’ve made makes it automatic. And that automatic turning to the rosary has gotten me through more than I ever would have imagined when I first picked one up 15 years ago.

 

I don’t know that I’ll ever like the rosary. Maybe one day I’ll be holy enough that I won’t spend the whole time distracted. Or maybe even at my holiest it still won’t fit my personality. No matter. I’ll pray it either way, not because of what it does for me but because of what it does to me, even when I don’t notice it.

Will you join me?

  1. Note to priests: it wouldn’t hurt if you switched it up some. []
  2. Pause for the reader to freak out, except that I already put it in the title, so maybe it’s no surprise. []
  3. Take that, rosary-loving priest! I mean…uh…bless me, Father, for I have sinned…. []
  4. Well, skimmed a book and then lent it to someone who forgot to give it back to me. Story of my life. []
  5. Or at least by Saint Dominic, if you want to call the story of the rosary a legend. []

About Meg

I'm a Catholic, madly in love with the Lord, His Word, His Bride the Church, and especially His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist. I'm committed to the Church not because I was raised this way but because the Lord has drawn my heart and convicted my reason. After 2 degrees in theology and 5 years in the classroom, I quit my 9-5 to follow Christ more literally. Since May of 2012, I've been a hobo for Christ; I live out of my car and travel the country speaking to youth and adults, giving retreats, blogging, and trying to rock the world for Jesus.
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28 Responses to I Don’t Like the Rosary–6 Reasons I Pray It Anyway

  1. Chris says:

    It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who prays the rosary in my sleep.

  2. Melissa H-K says:

    But what if I lose track of how many Hail Marys it’s been just about every time? Or forget which numbers are between one and ten? (It’s happened, especially in the past year.) Or have no idea which mysteries are which and am on the riding mower, where there is no way to find the mysteries, because I have a dumbphone and am probably mowing where there is no wifi anyway? Or basically am too stupid and not Catholic enough to pray the rosary?

    Why do I get the feeling you’re going to tell me to pray it anyway?

    • Andi says:

      God does not count how many hail Mary’s you say, He’s not a bean counter saying “wait you missed one there, and said too many there, Nope it does not count” making the effort is what Matters. I have a smart phone, so I have an app to help, but I often “zone out” or even let my mind wander when praying the rosary…it gets easier with time to stay on track.

      • Melissa H-K says:

        I kind of knew that, but I also kind of feel inferior to cradle Catholics who grew up with the rosary. They seem to love it, and I have a hard time getting into it. Meg didn’t grow up with it, either.

        • Andi says:

          Many cradle Catholics feel inferior to converts. I am a revert, actually. The rosary is a wonderful prayer, but many struggle with it. The beauty of it is the graces that come with devotion to it…and who could not use more grace in their lives?
          It took me a while to learn to love it when I returned to the Church,,, you might want to read some of Father Donald Calloway’s books on Marian devotio, to help you out.

    • Tom says:

      Praying in general is not supposed to be fun. Society today tries to make us think that we should only do things that satisfy our every desire and modernize every aspect of our lives away from God, like that of Epicurus’ ancient philosophical thought. However, prayer is not subject to that. Prayer is “wasting time with God.” When we do it to expect a result, especially an immediate result, we will be surely disappointed in the fact that prayer doesn’t work that way. You might not feel like praying or you might not like to pray but that is exactly what the Evil One wants you to feel. The very act of praying is an interior disposition of love of God and desire for communion with Him. We should want to pray because we should want to be in the presence of God; which follows then, that your whole day should be a prayer because you want to be in the presence of God at all times and not blinded by worldly desires. We should also like to pray for the same reason, because we long for the love of God and from that we respond to God’s grace by a giving of our time. Now what form of prayer that might be is going to be different for each person but it should constantly improve as we advance in the spiritual world. Therefore, if we truly want to pray, which we are called to by the imitation of Jesus who prayed constantly to the Father, we would equip ourselves with every opportunity, disposition and knowledge necessary to pray (i.e. knowing the mysteries of the rosary, etc.) There is simply no excuse one could make for God for not knowing how to pray, especially the rosary, for the reason you do not pray. In my opinion one should not dislike the rosary because the rosary contains all of the mysteries of Jesus and Mary, and therefore it contains the fullness of the Gospel. There have been multiple accounts of the saints who were being attacked by the Evil One and their only saving grace was that of the rosary because the devil hates the rosary. One’s dislike for the rosary and also negligence towards praying it imitates the fallen angels in the pits of hell. Stay close to your Mother. She will guide you to Jesus for she is the Mediatrix of All Grace.

      • John says:

        Thank you Tom. Drawing closer to Jesus and the fact that Satan hates it are motivating factors for praying the rosary daily.
        God Bless all.

  3. Sherry Antonetti says:

    Sometimes I pray it with ease and other times not at all. I struggle. The easiest way for me to pray it is to petition before each Hail Mary, so that I’m praying for someone or in some cases, for something. It makes the Rosary more intentional for me, more mindful. It works great if I’m praying it with the kids.

  4. oh Meg — I love this post! and I can relate so much to what you say about the rosary AND about why you still pray it 🙂 Also, the book on Prayer and Temerament is great! keep reading / skimming it. Thanks for being genuine and true!
    maria scaperlanda recently posted…Being present and in awe: welcome Santiago!My Profile

  5. Susie says:

    This post made my day! I started praying the rosary daily in 1994 when I was hit with horrible knowledge and betrayal. I won’t bore you with the details but as a busy mother with a challenging job, I, like you, fit my rosary in where I could. Half on my drive to work. Half on my way home. Now, 20 years later, I at least start it during my morning run, finish it in my car going to work. I figured praying the rosary this way was better than nothing and a great way to start the day, but it’s so nice to know that I’m in good company.

  6. Clare Short says:

    May I make a suggestion… for each decade, just for now, only pray 1 hail Mary, but with your whole heart. it’s quality, not quantity that is important. 🙂
    Clare Short recently posted…Par Marie A Jesus (To Jesus through Mary)My Profile

  7. Maria Marusca says:

    Brilliant Meg, thank you!! 😀

  8. Jamie says:

    I love this. Actually, I love absolutely everything you write but I’m just lame at commenting 🙂 I really really really really hope I can see you next time you’re around!!!
    Jamie recently posted…TwoMy Profile

  9. Bettina says:

    So very grateful to you for writing this post. I used to think there was something wrong with me for not liking to pray the rosary because noone’s ever admitted to not love it. Thank you!

  10. Glad to know I’m not the only one who has trouble loving the Rosary.
    Claire Rebecca recently posted…Where Are The Quiet Ones?My Profile

  11. I’m not good at the rosary, but I do fall back on Hail Marys many times throughout the day. I’d like to make the full rosary more of a part of my day, but the only time I seem to have is right before bed, and then I fall asleep.
    Rabia @TheLiebers recently posted…#TuesdayTen: What Would You do with Two Extra Hours a Day?My Profile

  12. Therese Z says:

    Bless you, I have trouble with it, too. I take comfort with the fact that my patroness Therese of Lisieux didn’t like it much, either.

  13. Joe says:

    I don’t dislike pumping gas into my car, but I do abhor the idea of running out of gas….especially in the winter. I say we are definitely going through winter, so to speak, in the Church. For me the rosary is like that. Saying a daily rosary is like keeping gas in the car.

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  16. Shayaileen says:

    I am really grateful I happened to find this!! I was having trouble keeping my mind on the rosary and not having my mind wander. Found out from someone that if you have pictures representing the different mysteries, it would help you meditate on each decade. I went to Pinterest and made new boards, one for each mystery, and I focus on those pictures as I say the rosary. What a difference! The rosary goes by so quickly that way! Fortunately, the information about some people not liking the rosary, helped me a lot. I was feeling guilty because I would much rather be on my iPad than saying the rosary. Now I’m enjoying saying the rosary and I don’t feel that guilt anymore. THANK YOU!

  17. Evelyn says:

    This makes me feel less guilty. I’ve said to myself so many times that I find the Rosary boring, and feel awful for doing so. And I am a practising Catholic! But recently I made the decision to get back into it, mainly because of this fact:

    “The famous Vatican exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth testified, ‘One day a colleague of mine heard the devil say during an exorcism, “Every Hail Mary is like a blow on my head. If Christians knew how powerful the Rosary was, it would be my end.”

    and this article – https://veneremurcernui.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/scary-story-about-the-power-of-the-rosary/

    Even if you can only slip in a decade a day, or every hour – do it. Yes Meg, I will join you. God bless your work.

  18. Tom says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who struggles with the Rosary.
    I am also quite glad you posted that book about Temperament and prayer.

    I remember that I used to always focus on the art related to the mysteries and
    that really helped me to connect spiritually to the mysteries somehow.

    Anyhow, I’m starting to think that maybe there is a way to really LOVE the rosary as we are supposed to, for every person. I just wish people wouldn’t just put the rosary in a box. As you said yourself, there are many books about different ways to pray the Rosary.

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  20. Sylvia says:

    Thank you Meg for sharing your authentic feelings around praying the rosary. Your commitment is a beautiful expression of your deep love for Jesus and Mary.

  21. Brother luis says:

    I personally believe it could be a spirit of disobedience, I am a chrstain but orginaly Roman Catholic then pentacostal deliver finally were I belong episcaplian denomination. I say the rosary and feel strength when I do and the burning of the holy spirit and even been delivered praying it with my whole heart. I believe it works and for it to be true. I agree all people are different spituaily and phycial, best thig to do in my opinion is to ask God to give you a spirit to pray and that the holy spirit leads you in prayer weather it be the rosary or not. Above all repent and seek God the best you can. He wants us in heaven he not trying to make it difficult but test and trials are part of the sputial
    jourany. Peace be unto you Philos

  22. I Phyllis says:

    Thank you for taking away my guilt. Because I to don’t like saying the Rosary. But say it anyway. The reason I don’t like it is because I can’t seem to consontrate. But will keep saying them just because I love the Blessed Mother

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