Pope John Paul II, in his apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, tells us that the Rosary “marks the rhythm of human life” (RVM, 2). Through the years, I have come to discover the truth of this beautiful statement. This sacred prayer and its holy beads have been my comfort, my joy, and a mighty weapon for spiritual warfare.
I cannot recollect the exact moment I ﬁrst saw a Rosary, but I am certain the beads must have been in my grandmother’s hands. Gram Simon’s hands were rarely without her Rosary beads, unless she was cooking a dinner, baking a pie, dusting the house, doing the laundry, or hugging one of us kids. I remember family trips with Gram and Gramp and my female cousins. We liked riding in their car, because it was spacious and had air conditioning, even back in 1959. Every trip began with the Rosary. Gram would lead, and Gramp would chime in with part two of the prayers.
I have to honestly tell you that I couldn’t wait until the Rosary was over so we girls could get to talking about really important things, like what we would do when we got to Geneva-on-theLake, a beach town on Lake Erie in Ohio. Little did I know that, even then, Gram’s prayers were storing up graces for me that would affect my future. Many years later, I would learn that Gram prayed a Rosary a day for each one of her thirteen grandchildren. That’s thirteen Rosaries a day, and one of them always had my name on it.
The years passed, and off I went to university. Campus life was rife with dissent in those days. The sexual revolution and all that attended it were in full swing. I would like to say I remained unscathed by it all, but that would be untrue.
Putting my Catholic upbringing and education on the back burner, I became involved in the hedonistic lifestyle of the time. But Gram was praying away, and occasionally I received a note from her telling me so.
Though I made a dramatic change before my senior year began, damage had been done, and it would take me ten years to come back to the faith. When I did, I realized it was Gram Simon’s Rosaries that tilled the hardened soil of my heart so that the seed of truth could be planted, grow deep roots, and produce the fruit of conversion. Gram waged a battle for my soul, and her weapon of choice was the prayer of the Rosary.
The Rosary became an important part of my devotional practice, but the joy and beauty of it remained elusive.
There were times when the light of grace broke through, and I could see that the Rosary was far more than the rote recitation of formula prayers. I wanted to go deeper, and yet, for the most part, the Rosary remained a rather long, monotonous affair, during which I had to ﬁght distraction, boredom, and sleep. Indeed, the prayer of the Rosary was a battleﬁeld. (See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, [CCC] 2725–2728, for more on the battle of prayer.)
Things changed the morning of March 20, 2004, when two Florida state highway patrolmen came to the door of our home to tell us that our son, Simon, had been killed in a vehicular accident at 1:01 A.M. In this moment of deepest travail, I turned to our Blessed Mother, seeking her maternal beatitude to make this time a sacriﬁce of praise to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the exceedingly rough days and weeks that followed, I clung to my Rosary as if the air I breathed depended upon it. Spiritually speaking, it did.
During those weeks, it was as if Mary was walking me through the mysteries of her Son’s life, sharing with me the intimacies of grace each one contained, that I might ﬁnd the strength and conﬁdence to go on. Sometimes these came by heavenly light; other times I was not even aware of the profound graces being imparted. But the effects were clear. Mary took my weakness and gave me her strength; she took my fear and gave me her trust; she took my insecurity and gave me her conﬁdence. And it all came by way of the Rosary.
Since Simon’s death, the power of the Rosary and its efﬁcacy as the weapon of spiritual warfare has been impressed upon me ever more deeply.
It is my ﬁrm conviction that St. Dominic’s words are true: “One day, through the Rosary and the Scapular, Our Lady will save the world.” “In the end,” Mary told the children at Fatima, Portugal, in 1917, “My Immaculate Heart will triumph.” And indeed, it will.
By the divine pleasure of the Father, Mary invites us to enter into the mysteries of faith presented to us through the holy Rosary and to receive the graces they offer. As we are transformed more and more by their power and light, we can come to “the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). And we can battle against the powers of darkness to bring this our day and time into the victory of the cross.