So, you’re a fundamentalist, or an ex-fundamentalist, thinking about experimenting with a rosary. You really like to live on the edge there, don’t ya?
At first, you’ll probably be all, “I’m not Catholic, so I’m not allowed to pray the Rosary,” but you’re wrong. Nobody officially told me that or anything. I’m basing that on the fact I prayed the Rosary before I was Catholic, and I wasn’t struck down by some divine force and nobody came to my house dressed as Inquisitors.
Step One: Get a Rosary
If you had any Catholic friends, you could ask one of them to lend you a rosary, but you were taught not to hang out with that type. Luckily, you can order anything online, even something as dangerous as a rosary.
When it comes in the mail, make sure you intercept it before anyone else in your house gets to it. You don’t want to have to answer those kinds of questions.
Open the package and take out the rosary.
It didn’t burn you? That’s a great sign, buddy.
Take a look at the rosary. You’ve always heard it was a way of worshiping Mary, but when you see the crucifix, you’ll be like, “Come on! Jesus is literally right here.”
Of course, that might make you a little uncomfortable since you’re used to Christians you know talking about those Catholics and snipping, “My savior isn’t on the cross anymore. My savior is alive.”
Yes, he’s alive. Catholics know that too. It’s kind of the whole point.
Step Two: Research
You’re holding a rosary in your hands and you realize you have absolutely no idea what to do with it. In the movies, you’ve seen elderly, veiled Catholic women praying desperate prayers in an empty church while clutching a rosary, but you’re pretty sure there are actual prayers that go along with it and not just mumbles with a fake Italian accent.
Let’s go online again.
OK, great. You’ve found a guide to praying the Rosary. This doesn’t look too complicated.
Except, wait. What is a mystery and why are they joyful or sorrowful? Is that the mystery?
Maybe you can say the prayers while ignoring the mystery part, but what if God gets super angry at you for not doing it right? You know how it’s always been for you: If you can’t be a perfect Christian, why be one at all?
What about YouTube? You learned how to hard boil eggs and chop an onion from YouTube videos. You can probably learn how to pray the Rosary that way too.
YES! There are tons of videos that will teach you! And someone finally told you what a mystery is! Except now you have to sort through all these videos and try to remember which mystery goes with which day of the week . . . and what day are we on again?
You’re on the right day of the week. You’ve got a window up with the prayers and another window up with a YouTube video you can follow along with.
Step Three: Praying the Rosary
You make the Sign of the Cross and you don’t immediately burst into flames. This is going better than expected.
You make it through the Apostles’ Creed and totally nail the Our Father, but then you get to the first Hail Mary and you whisper it while wincing like you’re expecting God to backhand you.
God doesn’t backhand you.
You make it through the first decade of the rosary, which you’ve just learned is 10 beads. Look at you, learning new things!
After Glory Be, the person on the video says some people add an extra prayer called the Fatima Prayer, and then you have this moment of crisis because you don’t know which way is THE CORRECT WAY (TM) and how are you supposed to know if people are out there running around, praying different prayers like that?! Why do some people do that and other people don’t? This is incredibly stressful!
You almost miss the announcement of the second mystery because you’re still freaking out about whether or not you should say the Fatima prayer. (And please don’t question where that prayer came from. There’s no way you’re ready for that yet if you’re freaking out this much.)
You make it through 10 more Hail Marys and nothing explodes.
You get to the third mystery and you sort of get it now. You can appreciate how getting into the rhythm of these prayers could really work. Once people memorize all of these prayers, they can focus on the mysteries and meditate on the gospel. This isn’t anti-Jesus. This is all Jesus.
The video takes you through the rest of the beads on your rosary, and you get to the Hail Holy Queen prayer.
Sure, you called Mary the Mother of God while praying earlier, but this prayer . . . this feels different.
You slowly step through it. Mary is the mother of Jesus, which would technically make her Queen Mother. So, fine, technically there’s nothing wrong with this prayer. You say it.
You finish up and make the Sign of the Cross again.
Step Four: Review
You glance behind you to make sure Jesus himself hasn’t come down to give you a talking to about how you shouldn’t be worshiping goddesses.
You’re pretty sure you’d know if you were actually worshiping a pagan goddess, anyway. You probably can’t accidentally worship a pagan goddess. You’re thinking maybe you’ve inherited some messed up ideas about prayer and Mary that aren’t true.
You weren’t engulfed in the glowing light of love while praying the Rosary, but you didn’t get a booming God voice telling you to REPENT NOW either.
You’ve been taught to be scared of this Catholic stuff, but there wasn’t anything really scary about this. Sure, you freaked out a little about that Fatima prayer, but maybe that’s a lesson.
Perfection isn’t the point of Christianity, and it isn’t the point of prayer. God is more interested in your intentions than your execution.
The desire to connect to God is what connects us, not our perfectly formed phrases. Words are a tool, just like the rosary you’re holding.
This is a slightly exaggerated version of my personal experience and doesn’t necessarily reflect the experiences, prejudices, or neuroses of all ex-fundamentalists who decide to pray the Rosary. Your mileage may vary.