A Place for Mary in My Home
It took a prayerful friend and a good cup of coffee to change my experience of the rosary.
Nearly 18 years ago, I met a new friend at church. She had three boys. Her baby was the same age as my only child at the time. As I got to know her, I learned her coffee pot was always on and her prayer of choice was the rosary. Her love for the Blessed Virgin Mary had a profound effect on me.
We two began praying the rosary together. Then we had coffee as our children played or napped.
Soon a powerful yet simple idea percolated alongside the coffee we’d brew: why not pray the rosary with other mothers? We met for four weeks to pray and figure out if we should do this. We were novices in discernment and needed a little courage to step out. Knowing that Jesus often sent His disciples in twos, we gained confidence in this plan.
Along the way I stopped just reciting the rosary, and began truly praying it. I needed to make a more personal connection with Mary so my prayer would grow. While praying the fifth Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary, I reflected on applying Jesus’s words to my own life: “Behold your mother!” as well as the subtle phrase, “And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home” (Jn 19:27).
Up to that point, I had never made a place for Mary in my home. Suddenly it all clicked. The rosary was something well suited to my stay-at-home life. I could pray it while nursing a baby, or while driving doing errands, or standing at the sink up to my elbows in dishes. I could teach it to my children and tell them the stories of Jesus and Mary. God’s blueprint for salvation was all there in the mysteries!
Prayer First, Fellowship Second
After four weeks, we asked other moms to join us. Two more came. For nine months once a week, we gathered around kitchen tables to pray, share special intentions, and have coffee all while our toddlers played together. The gestation period was over: Mothers' Morning of Prayer was born.
With our pastor’s permission and blessing, we took the next step. We placed an announcement in the church bulletin. The model was simple: prayer first, fellowship second.
Mothers’ Morning of Prayer (MMOP) grew season by season. Once we totaled 12 mothers plus children, home settings got crowded. We had management issues, but it was a joyful problem to have! Prayerfully, carefully, the group devised ways to meet the needs of the mothers and the needs of the children week after week. The group matured and moved into the formal setting of parish meeting rooms. It took more coordination, but there was much answered prayer, not just in the lives of those women, but in their families, the parish and beyond!
Often I would visualize Mary sitting as a member of our prayer circle every week. One year someone donated a beautiful statue of Our Lady of Fatima to the group. Mary then had a prominent place during prayer time. When the meeting ended, her statue wasn’t put away; “she” was sent home with a different family each week given “a place” before returning next week.
“Prayer first, fellowship second” mirrored a spiritual reality. The more Mary became a model of prayer for these women, the more they became models of service. The MMOP women did what women do: they cared, nurtured, cooked, empathized, cheered, cried, mourned, rejoiced, loved and hugged. They nursed babies and nursed hearts. Experienced moms welcomed newer moms. They poured coffee and listened. They did it all with a sublime holiness that I attributed to the power that comes from praying first. Thousands of prayers prayed on hundreds of beads. One bead at a time, immersed in the mysteries, yields great grace.
When I moved out of state, I took the vision of MMOP with me. Actually, my MMOP group “sent” me to my new church backed by their prayers. I didn’t know a soul in my new town, but that’s a minor detail for God. Within months of moving in, I needed a babysitter. Someone at the church knew a mother who could recommend one. It was a very providential phone call. The young mother who called with the babysitter’s information was also a devotee of the rosary! Who but God could prepare and bring together two women for the same ministry, unknown to each other and hundreds of miles apart? Who but Mary would understand about traveling to a distant “hill country” in search of a kindred spirit (cf. Lk 1:39)?
A rosary and a pot of coffee later, Mothers' Morning of Prayer took root in my new parish.
A helpful resource for these rosary groups has been the pocket-sized book Scriptural Rosary. We used it to let group members take turns leading the decades of the rosary. The scriptural meditations keep one’s mind on the spiritual richness of the mysteries of the Rosary. Practically speaking, it allows moms to take a break to tend to their children’s needs and then get back into the flow of prayer. Using a book provided a non-threatening “no experience necessary” approach for newcomers.
Home and work obligations have since taken me away from the ongoing MMOP. My children are teenagers now; my at-home time has a different rhythm. Yet my heart is always gladdened whenever I meet a woman with whom I have shared the weekly rosary. When I pray the rosary on my own, I see the faces and remember the special intentions of those I know and have known through the years.
Lately, a small group of “alumni” from MMOP have reconnected. We’re forming an Evening Rosary Group that meets once a month in someone’s home.
And so the circle of the rosary continues, bead by bead.
©2005 Patricia W. Gohn
Pat Gohn has been married to Bob for 23 years and has three children. Known to her friends as “majoring in carpooling and minoring in theology,” she is currently pursuing a Masters in Theology. She lives in Massachusetts and can be reached at [email protected]. Her monthly column “Ordinary Time” appears at www.catholicmom.com.