How to say the Rosaries worthily
It is not so much the length of a prayer as the fervour with which it is said which pleases God and touches his heart. A single Hail Mary said properly is worth more than a hundred and fifty said badly.
Attention to the Rosary
In order to pray well, it is not enough to give expression to our petitions by means of that most excellent of all prayers, the Rosary, but we must also pray with great attention, for God listens more to the voice of the heart than that of the mouth. To be guilty of wilful distractions during prayer would show a great lack of respect and reverence; it would make our Rosaries unfruitful and make us guilty of sin.
How can we expect God to listen to us if we ourselves do not pay attention to what we are saying?
Of course, you cannot say your Rosary without having a few involuntary distractions; it is even difficult to say a Hail Mary without your imagination troubling you a little, for it is never still; but you can say it without voluntary distractions, and you must take all sorts of precautions to lessen involuntary distractions and to control your imagination.
To do this, put yourself in the presence of God and imagine that God and his Blessed Mother are watching you, and that your guardian angel is at your right hand, taking your Hail Marys, if they are well said, and using them like roses to make crowns for Jesus and Mary. But remember that at your left hand is the devil, ready to pounce on every Hail Mary that comes his way and to write it down in his book of death, if they are not said with attention, devotion, and reverence. Above all, do not fail to offer up each decade in honour of one of the mysteries, and try to form a picture in your mind of Jesus and Mary in connection with that mystery.
When the Rosary is well said, it gives Jesus and Mary more glory and is more meritorious for the soul than any other prayer. But it is also the hardest prayer to say well and to persevere in, owing especially to the distractions which almost inevitably attend the constant repetition of the same words.
When we say the Little Office of Our Lady, or the Seven Penitential Psalms, or any prayers other than the Rosaries, the variety of words and expressions keeps us alert, prevents our imagination from wandering, and so makes it easier for us to say them well. On the contrary, because of the constant repetition of the Our Father and Hail Mary in the same unvarying form, it is difficult, while saying the Rosary, not to become wearied and inclined to sleep, or to turn to other prayers that are more refreshing and less tedious. This shows that one needs much greater devotion to persevere in saying the Rosary than in saying any other prayer, even the psalter of David.
Our imagination, which is hardly still a minute, makes our task harder, and then of course there is the devil who never tires of trying to distract us and keep us from praying. To what ends does not the evil one go against us while we are engaged in saying our Rosary against him.
Being human, we easily become tired and slipshod, but the devil makes these difficulties worse when we are saying the Rosary. Before we even begin, he makes us feel bored, distracted, or exhausted; and when we have started praying, he oppresses us from all sides, and when after much difficulty and many distractions, we have finished, he whispers to us, "What you have just said is worthless. It is useless for you to say the Rosary. You had better get on with other things. It is only a waste of time to pray without paying attention to what you are saying; half-an-hour's meditation or some spiritual reading would be much better. Tomorrow, when you are not feeling so sluggish, you'll pray better; leave the rest of your Rosary till then." By tricks of this kind the devil gets us to give up the Rosary altogether or to say it less often, and we keep putting it off or change to some other devotion.
Dear friend of the Rosary Confraternity, do not listen to the devil, but be of good heart, even if your imagination has been bothering you throughout your Rosary, filling your mind with all kinds of distracting thoughts, so long as you tried your best to get rid of them as soon as you noticed them. Always remember that the best Rosary is the one with the most merit, and there is more merit in praying when it is hard than when it is easy. Prayer is all the harder when it is, naturally speaking, distasteful to the soul and is filled with those annoying little ants and flies running about in your imagination, against your will, and scarcely allowing you the time to enjoy a little peace and appreciate the beauty of what you are saying.
Even if you have to fight distractions all through your whole Rosary, be sure to fight well, arms in hand: that is to say, do not stop saying your Rosary even if it is difficult to say and you have no sensible devotion. It is a terrible battle, but one that is profitable to the faithful soul. If you put down your arms, that is, if you give up the Rosaries, you will be admitting defeat and then the devil, having got what he wanted, will leave you in peace, and on the day of judgment will taunt you because of your faithlessness and lack of courage. He who is faithful in rejecting the smallest distractions when he says even the smallest prayer, will also be faithful in great things. Nothing is more certain, since the Holy Spirit has told us so.
How to say the Rosary
After you have invoked the Holy Spirit, in order to say your Rosary well, place yourself for a moment in the presence of God and make the offering of the decades.
Before beginning a decade, pause for a moment or two, depending on how much time you have, and contemplate the mystery that you are about to honour in that decade. Always be sure to ask, by this mystery and through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, for one of the virtues that shines forth most in this mystery or one of which you are in particular need.
Take great care to avoid the two pitfalls that most people fall into during the Rosary. The first is the danger of not asking for any graces at all, so that if some good people were asked their Rosary intention they would not know what to say. So, whenever you say your Rosary, be sure to ask for some special grace or virtue, or strength to overcome some sin.
The second fault commonly committed in saying the Rosary is to have no intention other than that of getting it over with as quickly as possible. This is because so many look upon the Rosary as a burden, which weighs heavily upon them when it has not been said, especially when we have promised to say it regularly or have been told to say it as a penance more or less against our will.
I would like to add that the Rosaries ought to be said reverently, that is to say, it ought to be said as much as possible, kneeling, with hands joined, clasping the rosary. However, if you are ill, you can, of course, say it in bed; or if one is travelling it can be said while walking; if, on account of some infirmity, you cannot kneel you can say it standing or sitting. You can even say it while working if your duties do not allow you to leave your job, for work with one's hands is not always incompatible with vocal prayer.
I agree that, since the soul has its limitations and can only do so much, when we are concentrating on manual work we are less attentive to the activities of the spirit, such as prayer. But when we cannot do otherwise, this kind of prayer is not without its value in our Lady's eyes, and she rewards our good- will more than our exterior actions.
I advise you to divide up your Rosaries into three parts and to say each group of five decades at different times of the day. This is much better than saying the whole fifteen decades at once.
If you cannot find the time to say five decades all together, say a decade here and a decade there; you will thus be able, in spite of your work and the calls upon your time, to complete the whole Rosary before going to bed.
Of all the ways of saying the holy Rosary, the most glorious to God, most salutary to our souls, and the most terrible to the devil is that of saying or chanting the Rosary publicly in two choirs.
Our Lord expressly recommended this practice to his apostles and disciples, and promised that whenever there would be at least two or three gathered in his name he would be there in the midst of them. What a wonderful thing to have Jesus Christ in our midst! And all we have to do to have him with us is to come together to say the Rosaries.
This way of praying is of the greatest benefit to us:
1) because our minds are usually more alert during public prayer than when we pray alone;
2) when we pray in common, the prayer of each one belongs to the whole group and make all together but one prayer, so that if one person is not praying well, someone else in the same gathering who is praying better makes up for his deficiency.
3) One who says his Rosary alone only gains the merit of one Rosary; but if he says it with thirty other people he gains the merit of thirty Rosaries. This is the law of public prayer. How profitable, how advantageous this is!
Finally, when the Rosary is said in common, it is far more formidable to the devil, because in this public prayer it is an army that is attacking him. He can often overcome the prayer of an individual, but if it is joined to that of others, the devil has much more trouble in getting the best of it. It is easy to break a single stick; but if you join it to others to make a bundle, it cannot be broken.
Faith, humility, and confidence in the Rosary
The Rosaries should be said with faith, for our Blessed Lord said, "Believe that you will receive and it will be granted." If you believe that you will receive what you ask from God, he will grant your petitions. He will say to you, "As you have believed, so be it done to you." "If anyone needs wisdom, let him ask God with faith, and without hesitating, and - through his Rosary - it will be given him."
Thirdly, we must pray with humility, like the publican; he was kneeling on the ground, on two knees, not on one knee as proud and worldly people do, or one knee on the bench. He was at the back of the church and not in the sanctuary as the Pharisee was; his eyes were cast down, for he dared not look up to heaven; he did not hold his head up and look about him like the Pharisee; he beat his breast, confessing himself a sinner and asking for forgiveness: "Be merciful to me, a sinner," and not like the Pharisee who boasted of his good works, who despised others in their prayers.
Even if you suffer from dryness of soul, distaste for prayer and interior discouragement, never give up the least part of your Rosary; this would be a sign of pride and infidelity; but like a brave champion of Jesus and Mary, say your Our Fathers and Hail Marys in your dryness, without seeing, feeling, or appreciating, and concentrating as best you can on the mysteries. You ought not to look for sweets or jam to eat with your daily bread, as children do; but to imitate Jesus more perfectly in his agony you could say your Rosary more slowly sometimes when you find it particularly hard to say: "Being in agony, he prayed the longer," so that what was said of our Lord when he was in his agony of prayer may be said of you: he prayed all the longer.
Pray with great confidence, with confidence based on the goodness and infinite generosity of God and on the promises of Jesus Christ. God is the spring of living water which flows unceasingly into the hearts of those who pray.
We please our Lord when we ask him for graces, and if we do not ask he makes a loving complaint, "Until now you have not asked anything.... Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you."
Furthermore, to give us more confidence in praying to him, he has bound himself by a promise: that his eternal Father would grant everything we ask in his name.
As a fifth point, I must add perseverance and prayer. Only he who perseveres in asking, seeking, and knocking, will receive, will find and will enter. It is not enough to ask God for certain graces for a month, a year, ten or twenty years; we must never tire of asking. We must keep on asking until the very moment of death, and even in this prayer, which shows our confidence in God, we must join the thought of death to that of perseverance and say, "Although he should kill me, I will trust in him," will trust him to give me what I ask.
God's munificence, on the other hand, is shown by his making us seek and ask, over a long period of time, for the graces which he wishes to bestow, and the more precious the grace, the longer he takes to grant it:
1) in order to increase the grace still more;
2) in order that the recipient may more deeply appreciate it;
3) in order that the one who receives it may guard against losing it; for people do not appreciate very much what they obtain quickly and at little cost.
Finally, my dear brothers and sisters, the daily Rosary has so many enemies that I look upon the grace of persevering in it until death as one of the greatest favours God can give us. Persevere in it and your fidelity will be rewarded with the wonderful crown which is prepared for you in heaven: "Be faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life."