Hiding Behind the Rosary

There was once a time I could pray four rosaries a day. And by that I mean I’d go through all Joyful mysteries in the morning, Luminous mysteries at noon, Sorrowful mysteries during the hour of mercy (with the bonus of the Divine Mercy chaplet within the same hour) and finally the Glorious mysteries just before bed. I’ll tell you now, life was great during those two months. Then something happened…

My life took a drastic turn in the space of a week, and I was plunged into a deep depression that I’m only just recovering from. For some people, turbulent times bring them closer to God. I thought I was part of this group, but I discovered quite quickly that I’m on the opposite end of this spectrum. Instead of doing the good Christian thing and crying out to the Lord for help, I imploded.

My arms felt too heavy to lift towards my forehead for the sign of the cross. My heart felt too hollow to harbour a prayer. My mind relentlessly recalled all the times in my life when I’d felt alone, and then it amplified those moments until the entire world looked to me like a solid mass of suffocating darkness that I had been dumped into. And speaking of Mass, I still carried out my Catholic obligation of attending Sunday Mass; however, everything within me was giving God the silent treatment.

Weeks turned into months and life didn’t look like it would let up any time soon. In time, I learnt to live with the darkness, the hollowness, the numbness. I asked myself if that’s what it meant to be an adult. I found myself wondering just how genuine the smiles people offered up were. Was it just me suffering? Surely not. Sometimes I’d get the courage to pick up my beautiful wooden rosary and pray, but it wasn’t the same. So I stopped altogether.

Obviously, that didn’t help the situation. If anything, stopping my daily rosary routine only aggravated things. I just gave up praying. Just like that. If I couldn’t do the rosary then I couldn’t pray at all (which is very silly if you ask me). Soon enough, not praying started making me feel a little bit nihilistic. Nothing made sense, all my efforts were pointless, largely because at that point, everything in my life felt meaningless. Just imagine this situation: you take the biggest risk of your life only to get the rug pulled out from beneath your feet. That’s what this all felt like. So God and I were not on speaking terms.

A friend of mine kept checking in to see how I was doing. I kept telling him time and again that I couldn’t pray, that my life was a mess, that I was stressed. Then one day he said, “Start...try. U could even just talk to God out loud right now. No Hail Mary. No rosary. Just...talk.” Of course, reading that, you’ll understand that this friend of mine isn’t Catholic. I’d be lying if I said those texts didn’t make me feel some type of way. But in a weird way, I feel like that’s exactly what God needed me to hear. Let me explain…

The rosary is a very powerful weapon against evil. Done right, it is such an impenetrable shield from the powers of the devil. The problem for me was I wasn’t doing it right anymore. I had gone from meditating on each mystery on the life of Jesus and His mom with the reverence of one who genuinely wanted to be transformed by this experience, to chanting the words in a way that rendered the prayer both meaningless and burdensome. In short, I had single-handedly taken the heart out of the rosary and out of prayer itself. I hid behind the words of the rosary not in the way it was meant to be, but as one who didn’t want to take responsibility for anything. Looking back, I think I was using the rosary as leverage against God. Subconsciously, I was telling God, “Because I’ve been praying this rosary daily for so long, You have no choice but to give me what I want. If you don’t, then You’re a liar.”

This whole experience was both humbling and heartwarming in equal measure. In calling me out on my hypocrisy and insincerity, my dear friend ironically reminded me what the rosary should really be. A prayer from the heart, a walk with God, a sincere conversation between the Father and His child. Until I learned how to do that, I decided not to even attempt praying the rosary.

Instead, I’ve been using my own words to pray. I spend most of my prayer time in thanksgiving for my loving family and my caring friends, for the people who’ve gone out of their way to help me when I needed it most, and (sometimes) for the deeply troubling trials I’ve had to endure this year. I feel drawn to the rosary once more, but I don’t think I’m ready yet. So I’m waiting, praying, hoping, longing…

My wish for you (if you’re Catholic) is you don’t fall into the same trap I did and use the rosary as some kind of leverage against God, and that you don’t hide behind this powerful prayer in order to mask whatever it is that’s troubling you. Instead, I earnestly desire that as you and I “meditate on these mysteries of the most Holy Rosary, we may imitate what they contain, and obtain what they promise through the same Christ our Lord.”

Finally, to my non-Catholic fam, your insights are valuable, and when shared lovingly as my friend in this story did, they can make all the difference in the world. Thank you. Pray for me, and I’ll pray for you.

18 December 2019