I can’t count how many times in a day that I feel a hand in mine. Often, it’s the hand of a young child, a daughter or a niece or a small visitor. They reach up, with complete trust, and let their hand be covered by mine. There’s never a hesitation. They never look to make sure that I’m going to accept their hand. There’s never a moment of regret…for either of us.
Joseph Langford reports in Mother Teresa: In the Shadow of Our Lady that Mother Teresa always carried a rosary in her hand. When asked why she carried it, when she couldn’t possibly be praying it, she replied that she was holding Mary’s hand.
A Hand to Help Me
I struggled to learn the rosary, tripping over the unfamiliar prayers and the coordination needed for counting and meditating and juggling beads simultaneously. I spent a number of years with an on-again, off-again relationship with it.
I’d be “on” when there was a burning intention in my life. I’d pop in the rosary tape a friend had given me from CatholiCity.com and do the prayer equivalent of treading water.
I’d be “off” when I was just fed up with my own failure with the logistics or when I thought I was too busy to handle it.
I had a devotion to Mary; I just needed to learn the prayer better.
The rosary has a rhythm to it, but, like riding a bike, it takes a lot of practice to get past the point of knowing what to do, in order to reach the point of letting go and really giving it to God. What I found, through the years, is that there was a hand helping me, encouraging me, patting me on the back.
A Hand to Guide Me
At one point in my early days as a new mother, trying to decide if I would ever enjoy my coffee hot again after a steaming early morning shower, I thought of Mary. She had no running water. I’m betting coffee was an extravagance to her time and place, one that she didn’t have.
Though I hadn’t yet struggled with depression in the way I later would, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. I was supposed to raise this little girl, lead her in God’s ways, be her mother? Just how was that going to work?
I think I turned to a decade of the rosary out of pure desperation. I was in the hot shower, and the Annunciation came to mind, so I prayed a decade.
She said Yes. I had said Yes too, but how could I keep saying Yes to God? Wasn’t this just too hard?
That decade in the shower turned into my daily rosary, as I prayed one decade at a time throughout my day. Mother Mary was guiding me, helping me reach the point of confidence and desire — confidence in my ability to handle the entire rosary at one time and desire to pray it every single day.
A Hand to Comfort Me
In the eight years of my journey as a Catholic, the rosary has been, time and again, a source of comfort. Sometimes, I just pray the words, and if that’s all I can do through the tears of frustration or the screams of anger, I think Mary understands.
Other times, I get caught up in one of the mysteries or a phrase or the thought of a special intention. I can barely keep track of the number of Hail Marys, which decade I’m on, what comes next. And, despite the feeling that it’s a failed attempt, I think Mary understands here too.
I have come to think of the rosary as a way that Mary can reach out and rub my back, much as I rub my four-year-old’s back when she’s upset. Whether I’m angry or distracted, sobbing or indifferent, Mary stands beside me, encouraging me to keep pursuing her Son.
Holding Hands with Mary
It’s not easy, praying the rosary. Maybe that’s why I sometimes wish I didn’t feel so devoted and compelled to praying it every day. Maybe that’s what makes it the single biggest part of my prayer life. Maybe that’s what makes it worth my time.
The other day, my four-year-old found the special rosaries she received at her baptism.
“Mommy, will you teach me to use them?” she asked, eyes sparkling as she considered their delicate beauty.
Of course I will. But I think the real teacher won’t be me.
I think it will be the Mother who’s reaching out to hold each of our hands, as often as we’ll let her.