The rosary is very ancient and many different traditions use a version of it. One of the nicest books I ever read about the rosary was by a methodist - who called his work Five for Sorrow, Fifteen for Joy. The rosary  is, of course first and foremost a meditation tool but it may be used for many other perfectly wonderful things. These are some notes of ongoing reflection. I hope to add to them from time to time..


Good Intentions:

Personally I began by using the Rosary to keep my mind on those for whom I wished to pray, that is as a tool of intercession, before I ever used it for intellectual contemplation of the mysteries themselves. Many protestant traditions seem to have lost the notion of 'Intention'. Which is a very great pity since the idea of doing one thing in order for something else - completely unrelated - is not only magical it is behaviour akin to that of God Himself. For in what way is our dear Lord related to our sins? What have they to do with him? Except that he gave his life in order to take away their power to rule us. That is, his Whole life, including his Birth, Death and Resurrection. 

This has a great and deep advantage for us, practically speaking. I cannot twist my mind or my feelings to love and forgive someone, let's say. But I can offer a few moment's genuine prayer for their well being. If that is too hard I will light a candle. Not that God needs reminding, but rather that I do. Let this candle be for my enemy's greatest good, no matter what I feel or think. I will stare at it, and pray no word about him lest I spend more of my life rehearsing the treadmill of my rage. I will pray Our Father till I stop thinking of the enemy at all and offer the lot 'for the good of'.  There is another advantage to this method of prayer. It means we have to take our cotton pickin' hands off. We're not going to go out there and harangue, badger, nag or beat to death with good works - and we are not going to manipulate the object of our intention. We offer the time and the energy and that's all. Our emotions and our wishes are beside the point. If my mind is slowly caught and brought round to God, then it is not feeding wrong things by dwelling on them, is it? But the love and attention and time are His to do what he likes with. I sometimes think of Our Lord's saying, behold, I stand at the door and knock, and think that this offering of the space of a prayer is just that, holding the door open for him to do what he wishes..

So - to offer a rosary for intention can be done in two ways. The first is simply to tell our Lady that we're offering this meditation on her mysteries for something, and then turn our minds to the events of the mystery. Even so - as we offer the three beads of  faith, hope and love, we can do so thinking of the overall intention of the prayers to come. We remember, by reciting the creed, the context in which the matter or person in our minds lives, which is a world of eternal creative redemptive and inpired action by God himself. We remember as we pray the Lord's prayer that this is one prayer that our Dear lord Jesus always shares with us. It is proper for us to ask him to pray with us for this person or this experience. For why ? When they asked him to teach them how to pray his first word was 'Our'.. 

The second method is extremely simple. Simply keep your attention on the person or the situation for which you are interceeding, and pray an Ave. It may be that you will feel that longer is needed, so continue till it is time to move on to the next person or situation. This means I think, that we are offering a certain amount of time and energy for this person or this happening. 

We're all used to the notion of an Intention for a rosary. Wonderful friends of our family used to pray the rosary for me and a cousin every night of their lives.  I'm sure I owe much of what I am and do to their generosity and love, for they never so much as told me about it till I was an adult. The nature of God's economy is of course that it works equally well to offer one's worship for something and then to proceed with one's mind on the worship and never think another thing about it; as it does to offer both the attention *and* the prayers for a particular person or event. Sometimes where there is a deeply important situation one can dedicate the decade to the situation and use the individual aves for particular people in that situation or even particular groups. As a way of thinking through things it is very useful. 

Touching Faith
As the Rt. Revd Robert King said in an address in 1945, 'What is your intention? This is the keynote of the rosary. . . a rosary becomes a physical means, bear that in mind, a physical means of  concentration. "

Now I frequently use the Ave - and the Salve Regina when I am doing something physical that does not require a great deal of thought. When I am watering the garden for example. There the spirit of the words settles me to stand in one place and begins to show me what I am looking at. The prayer begins to open me to the beauty of the created world, and to thoughts of gentleness and calm. This lifetime habit has lead to some interesting experiences. One day while we were travelling down a long long hill a large fast car roared toward us up the hill on our side of the road. So far as I knew all I did was to take evasive action, but because of the grade of the incline, and the cliff nearby I was severely frightened. We landed at the bottom of the hill in perfect safety but faceing the wrong way. I drove to the correct side of the road and turned off the ignitian. My companion said quietly, "did you know you said six Hail Marys while we were coming down that hill ? "

No, I hadn't. and it seems to me as I look back that was graced at that moment to use the panicking part of myself saying the words and therefore out of the way of the mind and body that had to set about its business. Obviously that was no moment to roll one's eyes up in ones head and have a moment's prayer. Even an arrow prayer was not to be thought of. 

What we touch engages our attention and helps us give time and love to something we might not necessarily think about for long. It is too easy to say "I must pray for Joe' and then immediately do something quite different. Or to say "Dear Lord, look after Mary' and leave our participation at that. Now of course there are quite ordinary christians who will quietly give up a meal as an offering for someone or something else. Even others who will devote quite large parts of their life - their pain in a long illness for example - for God to use, whether in a particular way or even better, in any way he chooses. 

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