In the Marian school of the Rosary
Fr Emilio Crdenas, SM
Spiritual growth of the rosary exercise
The rosary is an evangelical prayer exercise, having various levels of depth. We need a coach who will teach and lead us. So we need a spiritual director or catechist who knows well the method, exercises, variants and possibilities of rosary prayer. The director should be sensitive to the condition and skills of the pupil's soul.
First learn to lift up your spirit
The first skill to acquire is to pray the decades of Hail Mary's in a calm and regular way. The centre of 'Hail Mary' is the word 'JESUS', and that's why before and after it there should be a short pause. Before every decade you say 'Our Father' and in the end 'Glory Be'. You can start with one decade, and gradually add more decades until you reach five in accordance with your progress in prayer. A rosary with beads is very helpful.
Making it automatic
Since the rosary is a prayer of the heart you do not need to involve your whole consciousness and to concentrate on each word. Naturally, you should know and understand words but we repeat words because we want them to work in our souls and even in our subconciousness. You must practice until you make rosary prayer completely automatic. However, you can begin exercises of the next level earlier.
Reflecting on the Mysteries
Make a pause at the beginning of every decade; announce one Mystery devoted to one event in the life of Jesus Christ. Read a passage from the Bible. Reflect on it for a while. This gives depth to your prayer. Keep reflecting and repeating.
Automated way of praying and reflecting
This requires memorizing twenty Mysteries of the rosary, together with some biblical verses for each Mystery. In order to do this you should say a few decades, from one to five. A memorized image of each Mystery will be of great help. You should not get discouraged because of lack of concentration or tiredness. You must endure. You should have a rosary in your pocket.
This is an exercise of great depth, which requires a different method of praying. You should pray very slowly and you should not hurry but reflect on every Mystery of Christ. The words are very important at this stage. Mary leads us to Jesus. At the beginning of every decade it is worth listening to a passage from the Holy Scriptures. At the end of every decade of Hail Mary's we add our own words after 'Jesus', and these words are related to the Mystery we are just contemplating. 'Holy Mary' will be said only at the end of the decade. You should make pauses for silence.
Repeating, variants and progress
First of all, the rosary must be practiced when you are by yourself. Then praying is whispering or only moving your lips. A group helps when you begin learning and when you already know how to pray. However, without personal practise of the rosary you cannot make any progress. Both lack of concentration and reluctance have no a priori negative meaning for a man whose heart is full of prayer. On the contrary, they can be signs of the Holy Spirit who invites you to proceed to a deeper level. You can experience this when you just reach adulthood, when your soul needs personal and creative prayer and repeating gives little satisfaction.