As the month dedicated to the Most Holy Rosary, October is one of my favorite…
The power of the Living Rosary
Since I was a child, my family prayed the Rosary together regularly. Like most children, I found it challenging to pay attention to the constant repetition of prayers when 15 minutes seemed like an eternity! My parents tried to keep our attention, and so sometimes they had us kneel or stand to lead one Hail Mary a decade, an embryonic form of the Living Rosary. That experience shaped my life and my relationship with Mary since the Rosary itself is much more than repetitive prayer; it is latent with grace that formed me body and soul.
After entering religious life, I experienced a beautiful practice in the convent: praying the Rosary every evening during the month of May while walking around the outside of our large property. The kinesthetic movement while praying focused me on the mysteries we were reflecting on and attuned me to the beauty of the natural world. It was reflective of the traditional Rosary processions that created the union of body and soul in prayer.
As human beings, we are both material and spiritual. That means our spiritual lives work in conjunction with our physical existence. We can’t separate them. This is what it essentially means to be human. When the whole person — mind, body and spirit — is connected, we are most in union with God. Every mystic of the Church would attest to this. We are not mystics when we try to separate ourselves body from soul, but instead when we are most unified. Therefore, our prayer needs our bodies to be connected to the prayer as well.
I teach the first-year confirmation class in a local parish. For the last class, I decided that a Living Rosary and a May crowning of the statue of Mary would speak more directly to them than anything I say about the power of Mary in their lives.
In a Living Rosary, each person stands in the place of a bead of the rosary and leads the prayer when it’s their turn. I needed more people to fill in the beads than just my confirmation class, so I opened it up to all the students in religious education, the parents and the parishioners. With little notice and no practice, people showed up after Sunday Mass in the parish hall where I created a large rosary on the floor with circles of colored craft foam. Each person stood on a bead. With some prompting, everyone quickly entered the rhythm of the Living Rosary experience eager to pray their part aloud while seeing the images of the mysteries projected onto a large screen.
What could have been complete chaos turned out to be a powerful testament to the Rosary coming alive for the participants. It brought people together interceding for the world and kept them captivated, children and adults, for more than 30 minutes! The Rosary concluded with a crowning of the image of Mary as we sang “Immaculate Mary.” People left with a lightness of spirit and a new understanding of unity through prayer.
The Rosary is not just a bunch of prayers said in repetition for the sake of saying prayers, as it may sometimes seem. It is a profound meditation on the life of Christ and his mother. The Living Rosary brings this beautiful prayer to life by involving everyone — body and soul. The Rosary, when prayed together as believers, has proven to be most effective in the life of the Church when faced with grave evils as well as in my own life when I feel overwhelmed by anxieties. The antidote to the world’s problems and our own struggles is the Rosary, and perhaps the Living Rosary can be a way to unite us together physically and spiritually even amid our differences.
Sister Nancy Usselmann, FSP, is director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies in Los Angeles. She is a media literacy educator, writer, film reviewer, speaker and author of a theology of popular culture, “A Sacred Look: Becoming Cultural Mystics.”