I have to admit that being raised Catholic did not instill in me an appreciation for the Rosary. An overnight stay with my grandparents was fun, but it also included saying the Rosary before bed. I remember being quite bored. The main reason I counted the beads was to know how much more I needed to endure before it was over. I never really caught on to the profound beauty of the Rosary and my view of it remained a childish one well into adulthood. Hence, it was easy for non-Catholic Christians to convince me that it was just “vain repetition” and another part of “that Catholic religion” that needed to be discarded for a “real” relationship with Jesus.
I’m not sure if I lacked proper instruction, or if I just didn’t listen to what the Rosary is really about. I see it much differently now. In the movie The Passion of the Christ, there is a scene where Jesus is carrying the cross and his mother, Mary, watches him fall painfully to the ground. She flashes back to a time when Jesus was a boy. She sees her little boy fall and she runs to His aid. Now He is carrying the cross to His death. She wants desperately to help Him, but she also knows that she can’t. Her little boy is suffering and dying for you and for me. The sword has pierced Mary’s heart. Jesus is suffering because of His “yes” to the will of His Father. Mary is suffering due to her “yes” to God, too. “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to thy will.”
In that short movie scene we can see a “little Rosary.” It is a glimpse of Jesus through His mother’s eyes. Of all the people who will ever live, no one knows and loves Jesus like Mary. The Rosary is a journey through pivotal events in the life of Christ through the eyes of Mary. She is the greatest, most obedient disciple of Christ. Thus, she always points us to her Son. Like she told the servants at the wedding of Cana, “Do whatever He tells you.” Mary exemplifies the essence of Catholic teaching. She is all about Jesus, not herself.
The Rosary can certainly become a series of vain repetitions if it is approached that way. But, like me at my grandparents’ house, that is a childish perspective. When properly meditated upon, the prayers of the Rosary unite our hearts with Christ and inspire our discipleship. The mother of my Brother is my mother, too. For the Christian, God is Father, Christ is Brother, and Mary is mother. That’s why Jesus gave Mary to John, “the disciple who loved Him,” from the cross. John represents all Christians in that exchange. The Rosary is quality prayer time together with the family of God and it includes meditation on our mother’s unique perspective. There’s nothing vain about that. It’s all about knowing Jesus better.