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A Rosary for My Lady Print E-mail
By William Saunders   
Wednesday, 08 April 2009

Sometimes I ask myself why I became a Catholic. What series of events coalesced to lead me into the Church?

One of those, I am sure – though it may appear paradoxical – is that I grew up a Methodist. That is no put-down of what is often today empty, mainline Protestantism. Rather, the Methodists of my youth were the finest Christians I have ever known. They taught me to love the Lord and to be serious about helping others.

There was no anti-Catholicism among those folks in North Carolina. Instead, they viewed Catholics as “true Christians,” as they themselves were. Given my love and affection for those people, if they had been hostile to Catholicism, it would have been a real obstacle for me. Instead, I was open to being moved by the Holy Spirit as He guided me, as an adult, into the Church.

Among those fine Methodists were my parents. No one ever had better ones. I was blessed with a happy, Christian home.

While my dad passed four years ago, my mom only passed earlier this year. She was quite a lady, full of zest, faith, and good works. Her favorite saying was, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” And she did just that, perhaps most especially during her final two years, when she was bed-ridden due to a stroke.

I loved her and I miss her. And here, the second reason I am a Catholic comes in. I am a Catholic because I am not a fool, and it seems to me only a fool would spurn the gifts God gives through the Church.

Among those gifts are what some call “pious practices.” While those who do not understand mock them as little better than superstitions, the reality is that such things as “saying the rosary” truly touch us in our humanity, in our reality as incarnate beings, as flesh and spirit. They are not simply mental prayers; they are physical prayers. By saying words aloud, by touching beads, by moving our hands, our physical nature is involved in the prayer, and thus, our spiritual and our physical natures unite in supplication to the Lord.

The rosary was a gift to St. Dominic from the one who is the greatest gift of all to Catholics, the Blessed Virgin Mary. In order that we might pray more effectually, she gave us prayers that bring us closer to her and to her Son. Then we are truly in touch with the real power of the universe. And this is no pious nonsense – the only reason we do not all say prayers five times a day to Mecca is because the faith of those who said the rosary was answered in the defeat of the Sultan’s forces at Lepanto in 1571. That is what we commemorate in the Feast of the Holy Rosary each October. Through our prayer, the power of God can enter into this world.

Catholicism, unlike gnostic forms of Christianity, is about realistic joy, and not the mindless or naïve joy that is being peddled in our popular culture. Catholic joy is rooted in reality. And the reality is that we all suffer and die – on the way, we pray, to eternal life.

When our loved ones die, we miss them, not only emotionally, but physically. That is, we long to hold their hands, to embrace them. It may seem there is no longer any way to fulfill that longing. After all, their physical presence is gone.

One of Catholicism’s gifts, however – at least to me – is a place where I can go to be with those whom I love but who have departed: the graveside. There, while the spirit has departed, the body remains, awaiting the resurrection. There I can be in a kind of physical proximity to the person who has died.

Two weeks ago, I visited the grave of my mother for the first time since her funeral. A friend and I prayed aloud a rosary for my lady and for the repose of her soul.

Standing in the dirt and grass over the grave, with the rosary in my hand, praying as Our Lady taught us, seemed truer to reality than any prayer had before. I felt consoled, yes, but more importantly, I felt connected to the ultimate realities – to God, to His mother, to mine, to the life beyond the grave, and to the incarnate life to come in the resurrection of the just.

I thank the Catholic Church for giving us a faith that touches – and transforms – physical reality. I thank the Church for a faith that, during Lent, leads us to deny our physical selves so we can more deeply connect to God, but a faith that then leads us, in the Triduum, to the very messy and unpleasant physical reality of pain and suffering and death, a reality that would be a horror but for the One Who redeemed it by dying for us, and for our beloved dead.

William Saunders is Senior Fellow at the Family Research Council. A graduate of the Harvard Law School, he writes frequently on a wide variety of legal and policy issues.

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Comments (7)Add Comment
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Dei Genetrix Virgo
written by William Dennis, April 08, 2009
Quite a moving article!  At the time of the Battle of Lepanto the Western World although fractured by the Reformation, still believed that Christ was with them. The Muslim assault was halted.  Modern Western secularism has blinded us to the fact that again we are engaged in a holy war for the heart and soul of Christianity. Now we have lost our moral bearings and Christian identity. I am afraid unless we find our identity again, in Jesus through Mary, this time we will loose to the Infidel.
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written by Megs, April 08, 2009
What a wonderful article. I was very touched. My grandma gave me my first rosary and taught me how to pray it. I first heard about the Rosary and Lepanto when I was a kid in CCD and was always fascinated with it and that has stayed with me. That and I adored Don John of Austria. Anyone who could dance before heading to battle was to-die-for in my book. I try to take my rosary with me at all times and I have spent more than a few classes saying it while ignoring my prof.
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written by B.A., April 08, 2009
Thank you for this uplifting commentary. Sometimes I need a reminder as to why I'm Catholic myself, and about why I pray the rosary. I guess you could call it a pep talk. My own mother is ill right now, you reminded me that through our pain and sorrow, as Catholics we do believe and trust in eternal life. Thanks again, I needed that!
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written by William H. Phelan, April 08, 2009
Thank you, Mr. Saunders, for a very fine, uplifting essay. Your thoughts are those that have kept the faith of millions alive.
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Don't exaggerate Lepanto
written by Anthony, April 08, 2009
The Battle of Lepanto was a very important event especially in cultural and religious terms. It boosted the morale of beleaguered Christian (and especially Mediterranean Europe). However, it was not the major strategic victory it is often made out to be. The next year the Turks had rebuilt their fleet even larger than it was at Lepanto. We should thank the Blessed Virigin Mary for renewing our will to persevere against the odds of the Turk and not for any real monumental strategic victory.
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written by (MISS) CHRIS VIDRINE, April 08, 2009
I'M BLESSED TO HAVE HAPPENED UPON THIS ARTICLE. I LOST MY OWN DEAR MOTHER ON JUNE 6TH OF LAST YEAR, AND AT TIMES I FELT I'D ALSO LOST MY MIND, SUCH HAS BEEN MY GRIEF. I WISH EVERYONE COULD READ THIS PIECE, ESPECIALLY NON-CATHOLIC CHRISTIANS, AND KNOW WHY WE CHERISH OUR CATHOLICISM SO. IF WE'D ALL PRAY THE ROSARY EVERY DAY, MAYBE WE COULD REVERSE THE COURSE OUR DEAR AMERICA SEEMS TO BE ON.
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Volunteer
written by Denise Martin, April 09, 2009
Lovely article! Thank you Mr. Saunders.
My daughter converted at the age of twelve. She said, "I love being Catholic. Catholics like pretty shiny things and beautiful pictures and stuff we can hold in our hands." She has since grown in her faith but now makes beautiful rosaries of precious stones and sterling silver components. "Beauty, Truth and Goodness" are her watchwords. Thanks be to God for our Catholic faith!

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