Lately (as in the past 6 months or so) I’ve been feeling nudged?shoved?pushed? to start praying a daily rosary as a family. I have a whole laundry list of reasons why this is a terrible idea, but then again, most days I have an hour long Netflix or PBS kids playlist I can refer to and see that yes, my children do possess an attention span capable of sustained engagement – albeit perhaps formal spoken prayer being less fascinating to the toddler brain than Curious George.
But. We have to try. I look around at the increasing violence in the world, whether on the news or just on Netflix, at the seemingly endless human appetite for cruelty and vice, and I look at four small faces turned up at me, asking “why are you sad, Mommy?” when I gasp out loud at a text from a sister announcing (another) terror attack somewhere not so far away in the world.
I’m sad because I won’t always be there, baby. I’m sad because no matter the sweat and effort and grace and plain old fashioned hard work I put into forming your little minds and souls, I can’t guarantee a good outcome. I’m sad because free will, and sin, and hatred, and racism, and abortion, and honor killing, and suicide bombings, and fanatical gender ideologies.
I’m sad because I’m handing you over to a broken world, and that I can’t protect you from what’s out there. The clock is ticking down to the moment you’ll walk out the door and the shot will cut to your dad and me and the golden retriever on the front steps, heartbroken and hoping for the best like a good Subaru commercial. (But we are never getting a dog.)
I worry a lot about the future. It’s part of the reason I’m in the line of work I’m in, because it’s important to tell the truth to a world that would pretend it is only a construct, and because it’s worth the time it takes (even sometimes time away from my kids) to proclaim the Gospel, whether on the digital page or up on a stage, or just in a restaurant over cocktails with a friend.
But all the worry in the world can’t save this weary world. And all my efforts and all my good works are nothing in the face of that fantastic and mysterious force that is human free will. We make the best choices we can with our kids and work to lay a foundation of truth, goodness, and beauty…and they are free to walk away. They are free to turn around one day and look us dead in the eye and say “I hate you. I don’t believe any of this. I’m leaving.”
As we are free to do the same to God.
So, as a mother prone to natural anxiety to begin with, the only rational thing for me seems to be to entrust these little people who are en route to adulthood to the maternal care of a mother who will always be there. I picked up this book, “The Rosary: Your weapon for spiritual warfare,” more than a month ago and flipped through the introduction. Then, a couple weeks ago, I picked it up again and actually got down to the business of reading it. And all those little nudges in my heart to pray it more often and more faithfully coalesced in an upwelling of desire, strengthening my resolve to actually just start doing it.
I won’t always be there for my kids. But Mary will.
I can’t always be able to come when they call me. But she can.
I’m not able to soothe away some of the pain that this world will inflict on them. But Her Son will.
The further our culture – and the rest of the West with it – veers off the rails of the crazy train, the more convicted I become that the only thing I can actually do is change my own heart. Is beg God to change it for me.
It is our own personal holiness that matters. Not the way we vote, or the boycotts we participate in, or the arguments we win. Those things have a place, but in the grand scheme of things, it is conversion that matters, that makes real progress in this sin wearied world. Conversion leading to compassion. To conviction. To a desire to suffer out of love for the other. Even the stranger. Even the enemy.
And I can think of no greater aid to the process of conversion than spending time in conversation with the Mother of God.
Our school had a motto this past year, a quote from Mary to St. Dominic: “One day, through the Rosary and the scapular, I will save the world.”
When I saw it on the little prayer cards at the beginning of the academic term I thought it was cool. I also thought maybe a bit of an overstatement? But then again, if Mary wants to use these small, tangible acts of faith and humility to bring us to her Son, who am I to question her methodology? Surely we’ve proven ourselves (repeatedly) to be fairly incompetent in larger matters.
After reading about the Battle of Lepanto in the opening chapter of this book, I think that just maybe, Mary wasn’t messing around when she said those words. And when I think back to my lost college years – the few leading up to my reversion in particular – and the improbability that I would ever come to my senses and return to myself, I can’t help but think of the hundreds of rosaries my mom prayed for me, the nights she must have spent worrying over my soul, crying over my terrible choices, wondering why God was seemingly deaf to her prayers.
And I am grateful.
So we will pray the rosary. We will arm ourselves for battle and engage in the tedious, inglorious, and often strenuously resisted practice of tithing a small portion of our day to God. Praying not as we’d always prefer personally, perhaps, but as His mother has asked. Repeatedly. In this 100th anniversary year of the apparitions of Fatima, it seems only right that we take up our weapons and engage in battle.
However much wearied and however many whining toddlers we must persevere in the face of.
The rosary isn’t magical, but it is powerful. And it’s a bet I’m willing to make, staking my own selfish heart and my personal preferences on the hope that this faithfulness in small matters will transform our hearts and plant seeds in the hearts of our children that will blossom in eternity.
Let’s make America good again. How about the whole world, while we’re at it?