It’s hard to believe that we’re already in the month of May. The summer lull, complete with its slower pace and vacation plans, is on the horizon, but there’s still a lot of work to be done before we get there.
With this dichotomy before us, where can we turn for some encouragement and persistence?
Well, we don’t have to look very far. Once again, the rhythm of the liturgical year offers us a suggestion. The month of May has traditionally been dedicated to the honor of Mary of Nazareth. Mary was the mother of the Lord Jesus and his first disciple. In her, we find an exemplar of Christian discipleship and a ready spiritual intercessor on our behalf.
In the activity and flurry of this month, however, such an answer can sound overly pious and removed in its ability to help us. We could legitimately ask, “There’s a lot to be done, several projects are being juggled, and the answer is, ‘Turn to Mary’?” Sure, okay. Thank you.
The reason for such a possible response is because we are body and soul. The flurry of our work is in the realm of our bodies, while the answer appears to be only in our souls. It doesn’t seem to be a viable or helpful answer. As holy as the Blessed Mother is, the response of “turn to her” comes across as misplaced and irrelevant.
Is this true? Does the liturgical tradition have a follow-up to these concerns?
Yes, the tradition is imminently practical and relishes all things tangible since it is born from the radical belief that God has become a human being. He has taken upon himself a human body and a human soul. Both of these now become a part of our salvation. In taking on created substance, God elevates all material things and they themselves become a means of grace.
This reality is the heart of the sacramental system, which is the source of the entire liturgical tradition.
Okay, so what’s the answer? Simply put, in this month of May, as we are directed to “Turn to Mary,” the tradition gives us the rosary. A simple circle of beads divided into five sets of ten called a decade. For each decade, a reflection on a “mystery,” which is an event in the life of Jesus or Mary, is recommended while a “Hail Mary” is prayed on each bead. There are now four sets of mysteries.
Historically, there were three for a total of 150 “Hail Marys.” This custom began so that the illiterate and/or those who were farming and in manual labor could spiritually join in with the monks who would chant the 150 Psalms from the Jewish Scriptures. And so, there was also a biblical basis to the rosary.
The “Hail Marys” of the rosary and the reflection on the respective mysteries are prayed while physically touching and moving through the beads. However distracted we might be, the beads call us back. Even when we don’t want to pray, or don’t have the energy to pray, the rosary is a concrete resource for us. Just pick it up and go.
When our minds want to wander and we want to go through our “To Do” list, the beads focus our minds and help us to pray. However busy we might be, there’s always time for a quick decade, whether we’re in traffic, stuck at the airport, in the car line at your children’s school, on a water break at work, or a quick walk during lunch. The rosary is as easy as prayer can get.
On a pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Divine Love on May 1, Pope Francis modeled this invitation. He traveled to the shrine, a historic symbol of peace, and prayed the rosary there with a crowd of people. He tweeted about the trip: “Today, at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Divine Love, as we recite the Rosary, we pray especially for peace in Syria and throughout the world. I invite you to pray the Rosary for peace during the entire month of May.”
And so, there’s a practical recommendation for each of us in this busy month of May. Rather than forgetting our souls and getting caught up in empty busy work, we are offered the rosary. It can be an unexpected consolation in times of anxiety and distraction. So, pick up the rosary, and be surprised.