The following are brief introductions to the five Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. During a week of summer camp, I presented five talks, each based on one of these mysteries. Though they were created for camp, I have found them useful for my own prayer. Reading them before each mystery of the Rosary helps focus my mind and heart on just one or two items for meditation. (For more on Rosary meditation see my blog Making the Rosary More Meaningful).
They could also be used outside of the Rosary to simply meditate on a specific story of the Gospel. I hope they are a blessing!
The Church recommends we pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Mondays and Saturdays. I hope that these reflections will draw you deeper into the hearts of Jesus and Mary. When we meditate on the Scriptures, the deepest parts of our hearts begin to surface. Do not be afraid to let this happen and converse with your God about even the most secret parts of you.
1st Joyful Mystery: The Annunciation of the Angel Gabriel to Mary
I beg for the grace "no" to my fears and "yes" to the great things God has in store for me. In this mystery, Mary was "greatly troubled at the saying [of the angel,] and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be." Holy Spirit, help me to ponder what is going on in Mary's heart as she wrestles with her fears and seeks the courage to say "yes," ("fiat"), to God: "let it be done to me according to Your Word."
2nd Joyful Mystery: The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth
I beg for the grace to live in the present moment and to experience God here with me no matter where I'm at physically, mentally, or spiritually. In this mystery, Elizabeth's child leapt in her womb and she is "filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry" blessings upon her cousin, Mary, and the fruit of her womb, Jesus. Holy Spirit, help me to ponder what the encounter and conversation between Mary and Elizabeth would have been like as they share their joys and struggles with each other in the midst of miracle pregnancies and the chaos of life.
3rd Joyful Mystery: The Nativity, the Birth of Jesus Christ, Savior of the World
I beg for the grace to put all of my trust in God who is always faithful to His promises. In this mystery, the angel proclaims to the Shepherds "good news of a great joy" that "to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." The child Jesus is the fulfillment of all God's promises. Holy Spirit, help me to hold the child Jesus in my arms and gaze upon Him with joy and gratitude as my heart is moved with love for Him who has loved me so much.
4th Joyful Mystery: The Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple
I beg for the grace to be open to hearing God's voice by continually offering my treasures to the Lord to do with them what He wills. In this mystery, Joseph and Mary "brought [Jesus] to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord." Holy Spirit, help me to ponder what is going on in the minds and hearts of Joseph and Mary as they offer Jesus, their greatest treasure, to God without knowing what is going to come in the future.
5th Joyful Mystery: The Finding of Jesus in the Temple
I beg for the grace to be willing to daily respond in obedience to God's will which I know leads to true freedom. At the end of this mystery, Jesus "went down with [Joseph and Mary] and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them." Holy Spirit, help me to imagine what life in Nazareth would have been like for Jesus as a [middle schooler / teenager / young adult] and consider how he would have demonstrated obedience to Joseph, Mary, and God in His daily life.
I really wanted to see a whale. How cool would that be?
As we cruised toward our next port, I rose early with high hopes to see something majestic. I sipped my coffee and looked out over the perfectly glassy ocean. It was quiet and calm. And then it happened! I saw it! Amazing!
Then, as if it knew I was watching, it jumped again! Beautiful! Amazing! Rising up out of the still, glassy water, in the calm of the morning, I saw something I'd never seen before. Something that was, before that moment, hidden within the vast depths of the ocean.
The depths of the ocean contain a beautiful, amazing, complex, and sometimes scary world.
It seems that our hearts hold equally beautiful and fear-provoking realities.
We Are Professionals at Avoiding the Depths of Our Hearts
We are brilliant at avoiding, numbing, distracting, masking, and doing every possible thing to not deal with what is in the depths of our hearts.
What if what I see in my heart is something so beautiful I can't handle it? What if that beautiful thing is then taken away from me? Better to not go there and not risk being heartbroken.
What if what arises from my heart is something painful? Better to not deal with it. If I hide it away, it will go away. Right?
Silence and Stillness Let the Important Things Come to the Surface
I realized, just this morning, how long it takes to truly let my heart calm down enough to see what's in there.
I probably waited at least a half hour, just staring at the glassy water outside of our cruise ship, before I saw what I was hoping for. This morning, during my quiet prayer time, it was about the same amount of time.
First ten minutes: Kneel. Try to praise God. Distracted thinking about my to-do list. Praise God again. Ask Him for some things.
Second ten minutes: Sit. Try to focus on my breathing and be attentive to what my mind is on. Ask God to speak and try to listen in the quiet. Still distracted by many things. Surface level. Consider that it might be nice to reflect on some wisdom from the Book of Proverbs in my Bible.
Third ten minutes: Read Chapter 25 of the book of Proverbs because it's the 25th day of the month. Ponder some of the wisdom and talk to God about it. Sit and silence and see if Jesus has anything else to say about it.
Then it happened, about thirty minutes into all of this. I started thinking about something that happened recently. I wasn't happy about a conversation I'd had with a family member. It didn't end well. I knew that it would take humility and vulnerability to reconcile the relationship. I didn't want to deal with it. During this moment, I even felt myself resisting this thought.
But I did think about it and pray about it. I didn't leave this prayer time feeling super confident in how I was going to approach the situation. It wasn't magically resolved. Still, I recognized the Holy Spirit moving me to deal with something important and giving me the prompting I needed to become a better me.
What would have happened if I just kept distracting myself from this reality in my heart? What if I left my prayer before the my intended amount of time was up (one hour)? How long would it have taken me to admit to myself that I need to resolve this?
Set an Amount of Time for Prayer and Don't Leave Early
If you are already on the Christian journey, you know that silence is essential to hearing the voice of God. On a human level, silence and stillness are essential if we are to recognize what is going on in the depths of our hearts. Often, these things are some of the most important things in life. The things that, when experienced, lead to happiness, belonging, freedom, and fullness of life. They are sometimes beautiful. They are sometimes scary. They are always worth the experience.
When we allow our hearts this time of stillness and silence, it's then that we can truly offer our whole hearts to God. Not just our thoughts or hasty and shallow words, but the depths of what is going on in our lives.
Let us commit to a certain amount of daily silent prayer and NOT LEAVE EARLY!
What if I'm distracted?
The Church recognizes distraction as a real difficulty to prayer:
"The habitual difficulty in prayer is distraction... To set about hunting down distractions would be to fall into their trap, when all that is necessary is to turn back to our heart: for a distraction reveals what we are attached to, and this humble awareness before the Lord should awaken our preferential love for him and lead us resolutely to offer him our heart to be purified" (CCC 2729, emphasis mine).
"All that is necessary" in prayer "is to turn back to our heart" and "offer him our heart to be purified."
So, let us turn back to our heart. Let us wait for that amazing or difficult thing to rise to the surface. Let us offer our heart to God and go out from prayer with Him to live full and meaningful lives.
Praying the Rosary is Hard
Sometimes, I give talks on the power of the Rosary and internally I think: "Am I really convinced about the power of the Rosary?"
The Saints praise the power of a well-prayed Rosary.
The Church echoes the words of the saints.
And yet, for me, it's really hard to pray.
The goal of the rosary is to meditate on the mysteries of Jesus' life.
As I imaginatively ponder the Resurrection of Jesus, my heart is supposed to be moved by the glory of the scene that lay before my mind's eye.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (AKA Important U.S.A. Catholic People) say this:
"The repetition in the Rosary is meant to lead one into restful and contemplative prayer related to each Mystery. The gentle repetition of the words helps us to enter into the silence of our hearts, where Christ's spirit dwells."
Hey, important Catholic people! This is not my experience of the Rosary!
Instead, I get distracted.
I get caught up in focusing on the words I'm saying.
Usually, I forget what bead I'm on multiple times in the course of my 20-minute fight for focus.
Discovering a New Way of Praying the Rosary
Just a few days ago, I had a different experience of the Rosary. Maybe it was the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Maybe not.
I was praying the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary and meditating on the Crucifixion of Jesus. As my fingers passed from bead to bead I began to see a different wound on Christ's body and ponder the pain he felt. Even try to feel the pain he felt...
Bead one - his left hand
Bead two - his right hand
Bead three - his head (crown of thorns)
Bead four - his feet
Bead five - his wounded side
Bead six - the scars on his back from the scourging as the rubbed against the cross
Then it went deeper.
Bead seven - his emotional pain as he knew his Mom had to watch this
Bead eight - his intellectual pain as he battled in his head to remember the goodness of His father
Bead nine - his spiritual pain as he fought to forgive amidst possible temptations to hate his persecutors
Bead ten - the pain he felt at the mockery and betrayal of both loved ones and enemies
This time of prayer flew by versus the typically slow drag of repetitive pious prayers.
I felt near to Christ.
It was a natural progression of meditation that led me deeper and deeper into the story of my Savior.
Make Your Rosary more Meaningful
What I realized was that I had been trying too hard to pray the Rosary and follow this perfect flow of meditation from the beginning of the scene (like the Crucifixion) to the end. I found too much difficulty trying to say the prayers and follow this perfect flow of imagery.
Now I just focus on one thing at a time.
And sometimes, it's not one thing per bead.
Maybe, I pray the Glorious mysteries and as I ponder the Holy Spirit coming to the Apostles at Pentecost, I focus on what it must have been like to suddenly hear all these different languages (Acts 2:8).
Four beads go by.
Then my mind is led (hopefully by the Holy Spirit!) to consider the sound of loud wind that accompanied this story (Acts 2:2). What must that have been like?
A few more beads.
You get the point.
Try it. Especially if you usually avoid praying the Rosary.
Or maybe you pray the Rosary but have never really meditated on it's mysteries.
My challenge to you is to pray just a decade (one set of mysteries, an Our Father and 10 Hail Mary's).
Ask the Holy Spirit's guidance and go for it! Take note of what your mind and heart are led to.
Then, if you want, post below and share any good fruit that came from your experience.
Lastly, offer up your Rosary for ONE SPECIFIC INTENTION.
Something really important. The conversion of a friend or the consolation of someone you know who is suffering.
Then when you're tempted to distraction, the efforts of your refocusing can become a grace for someone in need.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.
A link to the mysteries of the rosary --> www.catholic.org/prayers/mystery.php