Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Rosary: Keeping Company With Jesus and Mary

a book by Karen Edmisten

It was the beginning of my sophomore year in college and after a summer away, I was pleased to see again a good "friend," whom I now know as my husband. As he approached, I realized he wasn't as pleased to see me.

"It didn't work," he said sternly when I tried to greet him. "Excuse me?" "It didn't work," he said again and held up his hand as though to give me something. I put my hand out and he dropped into it-- my rosary. "You left this in my car," he said exasperated, "and it didn't work on me."

We had many conversations about faith in the year before and while we came from different backgrounds, he had always been very open about his thoughts and beliefs and respectful of mine. What he didn't appreciate was what he perceived as an attempt on my part to win him over to my side by dropping some kind of magical beads on the floor of his Ford Escort.

Today, we laugh about this story for many reasons. First, because after much reading, discussion (sometimes with me), questioning, and soul searching my husband entered the Catholic Church in 1995. Second, because he now prays the rosary more often than I do and is the driving force behind our daily family rosary (even if it is just one decade most nights), and third, because he knows that I wasn't trying to make anything "work" on him after all. I left my rosary in his car because I leave all sorts of things everywhere. (Remind me to call Target in the morning to see if they've found my keys yet).

There are so many misunderstandings concerning the rosary, especially among non Catholic Chistians. Is it superstitious? Is it Mary worship? Is it a form of rote prayer condemned in Sacred Scripture? Why is it so repetitious? Karen Edmisten's new book, The Rosary, keeping company with Jesus and Mary clears this fog with a steady beam of simplicity and clarity. She explains what the rosary is, and what it is not, how it is meant to be prayed, and how it brings us closer to Christ.

Edmisten's style is so warm and approachable, so intelligible and down to earth, yet her topic is the prayer that invites us into contemplation of the central mysteries of the life of Christ--quite an accomplishment. She answers many common objections and concerns about the rosary. I particularly like her explanation of formal prayer. In part,

While [the rosary] could certainly appear to be vain or empty, properly approached it is a prayer from the heart, a cry from the soul and a way to rejoice in the glory of our salvation. The "fixed form" frees our minds and keeps our thoughts from floating away...Yes, the rosary is a prescribed set of prayers, but it is more than the sum of those parts...Once we're focused, the real prayer can begin.

So many points that Edmisten makes in this book were topics for our conversations over the years as my husband grew to appreciate this devotion and as I learned from discussions with him much of the why behind the what Catholics pray and believe. Edmisten handles these topics skillfully. The Rosary: Keeping Company with Jesus and Mary is a wonderful apologetics tool, removing unnecessary, but common obstacles to faith.

This is a book for Catholics, too, who grew up in homes where the rosary was prayed. Edmisten offers spiritual, historical and political context to the rosary as well as a simple approach to meditation that even this tired mother of many thinks might help improve her focus. Edmisten's prescription for meditation doesn't require mystic status. She suggests simple ways to just "be" with Jesus in each of the mysteries, ways that are so approachable and so natural that I plan to share them with my children.

From cover to cover, The Rosary: Keeping company with Jesus and Mary is a wonderful read. I am so pleased Karen wrote this book and only wish I had it those many years ago to hand my future husband when he handed me back my rosary. I'm sure he'd have read it and discussed it with me if I had asked and not just, say, left it in his car.