A Humble Prayer
In the last blog, we talked about Mary, the Mother of God, as we began this month of the rosary. The rosary is a repetitious form of prayer in which a rhythm is set up to facilitate reflection on the mysteries of our salvation. It is sometimes criticized by other Christians, citing Matthew 6:7, “In praying, do not babble like the pagans who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them.”
Of course, in verse 9, Jesus proceeds to teach the Our Father, the most-repeated prayer of all time, which also occurs six times in the rosary.
To understand this Scripture in context, we start reading at the opening of Matthew 6. There Jesus warns about people who perform religious works for others to see. A great example of this is the good Catholic who is driven to be on the altar, at the mic, standing in the front row, sitting at the front. He rarely can be found in the shadows, engaged in the hidden ministry that is unseen and rarely applauded.
Of all those who serve in public ministry, every parish has a grand-stander or two. In contrast, there are others, such as the ladies who do our parish laundry. Each week, they retrieve the huge quantities of linens we use at the altar and for communion and lovingly wash them, battling lipstick stains and monotonous wrinkles month after month. And after washing, ironing, sorting and folding, they anonymously return the refreshed linens to the appropriate shelves and drawers, available the next day and the next weekend when they are needed. These women certainly do not perform their service for others to see.
It seems that the rosary is like these ladies. The Lord’s Prayer and the Hail Mary are the Word of God, lifted from the Scripture. The one praying goes to God with God’s own words, not his or her own. And the focus is not on the self, but on the wonderful stories of the events of the lives of Jesus and Mary. The pray-er is hidden in the shadows!
This is not a vain repetition, a babbling hoping to be heard. The rosary becomes a prayer of profound humility and liberation. We can step away from our own burdens and preoccupations and enter into the beauty and the peace that is God’s Word, which is the life of his beloved Son. And in all of this, we stand in the shadows, gazing with unveiled faces at the glory of God (II Corinthians 3:18).
Just as Mary always pointed toward Jesus, the humility of the rosary brings us to focus not on ourselves, but on the Beloved.