The Rosary – Ways of Seeing

Ways of Seeing

Chris McDonnell

One of the traditional prayers of the Church is the Rosary. Four words in that sentence call for some explanation- traditional, prayers, Church and Rosary.

A tradition is formed over many years of practice and belief, it is rooted in the custom and experience of the people and becomes associated with their lives. It tells a story that is familiar to those who participate in its upkeep.

Prayer is the experience of God, a relationship of love and trust that is fostered in many ways, asks many questions and appears to offer few firm answers. That is why prayer is built on faith and one strengthens the other. We grow in faith and prayer, held hand in hand.

Church is a community of memory, of individuals who come together in the experience of common cause and who wish to be at one. Trusting each other, they move forward together, in shared purpose as they make pilgrimage, one step at a time.

The rosary consists of a loop of beads in five sets of ten separated by a single bead concluding with a short length of five beads and a crucifix. Each set of beads are associated with stories or mysteries from the life of Jesus. The Luminous Mysteries are a much later addition, introduced by John Paul II in 2002. The set of four mysteries tell a story of faith, with the recitation of a Hail Mary prayer for each of the ten beads, started and concluded with the Our Father and Glory be.

The handling of beads in time of prayer is found across the boundaries of religious belief. I wrote a few words under the title Beads of Prayer in July last year. The practice of praying the Rosary has diminished in recent years. Maybe it is time begin again the meditative handling of beads in time of prayer. The words that conclude this reflection offer some thoughts that might reinvigorate our reflection on the mysteries of faith for our time. They are preceded by the titles of the traditional Mysteries

The Joyful Mysteries

the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity, the Presentation in the Temple,

the Finding in the Temple.

The Luminous Mysteries

the Baptism of Jesus, the Wedding at Cana, the Kingdom of God,

the Transfiguration, the Institution of the Eucharist.

The Sorrowful Mysteries,

the Agony in the Garden, the Scourging at the Pillar,

the Crowning with Thorns, the Carrying of the Cross, the Crucifixion.

The Glorious Mysteries

the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Coming of the Holy Spirit,

the Assumption of Mary, the Crowning of Mary


The Telling

Words in the dawn space

began the echo that down

the years has troubled us.

The Visiting

Journey time to birth

in the shadow of the tree

greeting the moment.

The Birthing

Last days that broke slow

the largeness of your longing

completes time long told.

The Presenting

Hold out your empty

hands stretch wide your arms

welcome voice of open love.

The Finding

Lost in the early years

now set on a path of tears

this instant passing.


The Watering

Gathered by a desert river

he is blessed with water

and acknowledgement is made.

The Wedding

A Mother asks a favour and speaks

of doing whatever he tells you,

now, as then, at a Wedding in Cana.

The Spreading

From a voice in the desert

to the call in the city,

to a story told in the mountain village                                                    

and spoken by the ocean’s edge.

The Changing

Seen for an instant by men

who had walked, listened and eaten food together:

the otherness of God.

The Sharing

One evening round a table, a gift,

a memory with little understanding, till later

recognition by two in Breaking of Bread.


The Paining

Darkness night-cold

with distant closing crowds,

shouting wordless confusion.

The Beating

When there was no choice

when events touched the torn space

between hope and grief.

The Thorning

When dignity was lost

and mockery ensued,

when crowds blindly called.

The Carrying

Then came the Midday hour,

and through the street-side press,

each could not see their sky.

The Christing

Till when high hill held

the space of a final hour;

then silence concluded.


The Rising

Morning dawn broken

by women’s words, the empty

echo soundless tears.

The Leaving

Without knowing why

they gathered, understanding little; 

lost friendship.

The Coming

Fear found them hidden

unable to walk or speak

till the Spirit came.

The Assuming

Then came the ending,

found in the distant rebound

of a young girl’s song.

The Welcoming

The gathering home

of wisdom and a Mother’s

song searches heaven.


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