Unlike most people of my generation, as a child the Rosary was still part of our family life. We knelt at our chairs in the kitchen each night and recited it together. By the early seventies, as we grew older, activities at night demanded our time and attention and the family Rosary gradually faded into oblivion. But the example of my parents and grandparents who always prayed the Rosary daily remained. My dad always had his beads in his pocket and prayed the rosary on the bus each morning as he travelled to work. Mammy, though she told me she found it impossible not to be distracted during it, remained faithful to it until her death. In the summer months when we all attended daily mass at ten in the morning we would have to wait for ages after Mass had ended while she prayed the rosary. So what I learned in my home was the besides morning and night prayers and daily Mass if you wanted to pray you said the Rosary.
My grandparents I think influenced me most. They lived around the corner from us and each night during the two years before Leaving Cert I would go round to them after tea and study in their front room. When finished I would spend some time with them before my grandfather walked me back home. I can remember being very taken by the way they would move seamlessly from watching TV, on the sofa together, to saying the Rosary each night. They didn’t even change positions. Night after night,
The rosary was as much part of their routine as washing the dishes or brushing their teeth. It wouldn’t occur to them to go to bed without praying. It was what happened next. Part of their daily routine, yes, and yet there was nothing routine about it. This was a time of deep communion with God whom they loved and trusted and a time of deep communion with each other. Their devotion was palpable. Yes, they sat in the same place but the moment they took out their beads they moved to a different sphere and drew me in with them. Some years later I read Gerald Manley Hopkins poem The Virgin Mary compared to the air we breathe and immediately associated it with the atmosphere in my grandparents home. “Wild air, world mothering air nestling me everywhere…….mother of each new grace that doth now reach our race…..”I have never forgotten that time of prayer. Something both essential and taken for granted; something as unthinkable to live without as food; interwoven into their daily life, not apart from it. Not something special but something natural and normal and yet it was truly special for it revealed to me how daily faithfulness to the recitation of the Rosary could lead to deep union with God in Contemplative prayer.
I’m sure in earlier years, concerns and anxieties were the focus of their prayer as they joined together united in intercession for all the many and varied needs of their children and grand children. But what I bore witness to and was privileged to be drawn into was a restful, peaceful prayer. Having Journey with Jesus and Mary through the joyful and sorrowful seasons of life, now in the gift of his peace they were getting a taste of the glory that is to come. Their prayer together, like their life together had gained depth. In quiet trust without any reserve, they were ending their day with the One they loved. It came naturally to me to do as they did, mammy and daddy, gran and granda, when I wanted to pray.
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