As I have said before, praying the rosary is not easy. At least for me. I suppose there are some for whom it comes more easily. But for the rest of us, meditation during the rosary often includes a fair amount of distraction.
What can we do to change this?
My post from earlier today, in honor of the Feast of St. Charles Borromeo, give us some good ideas to consider. How do we prepare ourselves for prayer? Do we recollect ourselves? Do we try to close out distractions? Do we place ourselves in the presence of God? Etc.
Even after we make various external and internal preparations, distractions can easily enter in: our minds are weak, and there is a lot on them.
So I would like to propose three additional ways that we can undertake our meditation so as to stay more constantly focused on it:
1. Don’t simply try to think about the mystery in the abstract; think, instead, about how you would explain the mystery to someone else. Having the virtual third party in the mix helps you to stay concrete and focused. Maybe the person to whom you would be explaining the mystery is the one for whom you are offering the rosary!
2. Consider how the mystery relates to your state in life. Again, this helps to make it more concrete and thus easier to focus on. For example, How does Christ’s crowning with thorns redeem your marriage? How does Our Lady’s crowning in heaven give you hope amidst your struggles? And so forth.
3. Place yourself in the scene as a helper. You are the one who holds the Christ child for a while after he is born, to give Our Lady and St. Joseph a break. You are the one who helps to clean up Our Lord’s blood following his scourging. You are the one who helps to roll back the stone to find the empty tomb. Etc. Considering yourself in a “supporting role” in each scene can help give rise to good resolutions and a more fervent love of the Lord.
A relaxed and recollected mind is often not enough for us to pray well; we also need good focal points and some sort of “virtual boundaries”, as it were, to keep us from wandering off the path. Methods such as the three that I have suggested above might help.
But we cannot reduce our prayer to a method. This is the danger of certain prayer fads that are common today, wherein the focus shifts to perfecting the execution of the method, as if we could manipulate the presence of God and our communication with him if only we did X, Y, and Z and did it more perfectly. Methods can help us to get going in the right direction (or not!), but they are not an end in themselves. Ultimately, we need to repeat the words of Scripture – “Lord, teach us to pray!” – and seek ever to be led by the Lord into deeper communion with him.
UPDATE: A commenter has made this helpful point: “What we often consider distractions are the conditions and circumstances of our vocation. So the rosary can become a persistent reminder that Christ, who rejoiced and suffered the circumstances of human life, is present now in my current circumstances.” I would simply clarify that I have been talking about the type of distractions that take us entirely away from prayer – daydreaming, and later realizing that we weren’t praying at all in those moments that we were thinking about whatever. When we realize that we have been distracted we should gently bring ourselves back to prayer and make a humble offering of those distractions to the Lord, who indeed suffered the circumstances of human life and understands it far better than we do. But since the point of praying the rosary is to meditate on the various mysteries of the life of Our Lord and Our Lady, we need practical means to arrive at a better meditation and so avoid, as much as possible, the sort of “daydreaming about our to-do list” that, for some of us, is all too common and ends up taking us away from true prayer.