A couple of years ago I mentioned that I was co-writing a book with Dan Burke of the National Catholic Register, the Avila Institute, and SpiritualDirection. com. It is finally published! The Contemplative Rosary just became available. You can find it in paperback and ebook formats at Sophia Institute Press. It is also available at online retailers and should be at your local bookstore soon. If you don’t see it there, ask the owner to order it.
Contemplation explained to beginners and children
I am really excited about this book, because it brings teaching about contemplation to everyone: those who are absolute beginners in prayer and those who have only ever prayed vocal prayer, as well as those who are practiced in mental prayer. My new column in The Catholic Voice, “Conversation with God,” has the same aim. You can read the first two articles here and here.
Even your teenagers can benefit from this simple way of speaking about the deep things of God. My two oldest sons will be reading my columns and The Contemplative Rosary as part of their education. My 11-year-old son has already made use of some of the meditations during our family Rosary. My youngest, who is 6, can use the beautiful paintings to help him think about Jesus and Mary while we pray.
If you don’t already pray the family Rosary daily, this year, the 100th anniversary of the apparitions at Fatima, is a great time to start. We used to pray the Rosary as a family just on Sundays (although my husband and I prayed it together the other six days). At the start of this year, we began praying it all together nightly. My kids know how much the world needs their prayers and Mary’s intercession.
A preparation for contemplation
The Contemplative Rosary combines Pope St. John Paull II’s teaching on the Rosary with St. Teresa of Avila’s teaching on vocal prayer. Yes, vocal prayer. In The Way of Perfection St. Teresa spends several chapters teaching her nuns how to pray the Our Father well. She writes:
“I know there are many people who practise vocal prayer in the manner already described and are raised by God to the higher kind of contemplation without having had any hand in this themselves or even knowing how it has happened” (The Way of Perfection, Ch. 30).
In The Interior Castle, she says:
“As far as I can understand, the gate by which to enter this castle is prayer and meditation. I do not allude more to mental than to vocal prayer, for if it is prayer at all, the mind must take part in it. If a person neither considers to Whom he is addressing himself, what he asks, nor what he is who ventures to speak to God, although his lips may utter many words, I do not call it prayer. Sometimes, indeed, one may pray devoutly without making all these considerations through having practised them at other times. The custom of speaking to God Almighty as freely as with a slave–caring nothing whether the words are suitable or not, but simply saying the first thing that comes to mind from being learnt by rote by frequent repetition–cannot be called prayer: God grant that no Christian may address Him in this manner” (The Interior Castle 1,9).
Some of you may remember when I returned to “spiritual kindergarten” a while back, practicing saying just one Hail Mary with attention. Sometimes when we have formed bad habits in prayer, we need to go back to something very simple. Saying even the simplest prayer with loving attention is an invaluable preparation for infused contemplation.
The school of Mary
Pope John Paul II wrote an encyclical On the Most Holy Rosary (Rosarium Virginis Mariae) 15 years ago on October 16 to celebrate the opening of the Year of the Rosary. So for those who love the Rosary, next month marks a double anniversary. If you haven’t read the encyclical, or haven’t done so for many years, I encourage you to read and ponder it. It will move your heart to love Mary and her Son more than ever.
One of my favorite quotes from the encyclical is this:
“With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love. Through the Rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer” (RVM 1).
That images goes straight to my heart as a homeschool mom. Imagine Mary sitting in a rocking chair with a flock of children (us) surrounding her. She tells her children stories. What stories? The ones she “pondered in her heart,” the ones she shared with St. Luke when he was writing his Gospel. She invites us into her meditations on the “great things” the Lord has done for her and for all of us through her divine Son.
I love beauty. I love beautiful art. I was blessed to be able to search for 20 sacred paintings to include in the book, one for each mystery. I chose paintings that draw you to adore Jesus in the mysteries, rather than just admire the artist. Many of them I can hardly look at without being moved at once to pray. Almost all are by Spanish Baroque artists, particularly Murillo. The Crucifixion by Velazquez is unparalleled, in my opinion.
Each mystery also has 7 meditations that you can use to keep your mind fixed on Christ. We use the clausular method that Dan Burke has written about elsewhere.
Those of you who have used the National Catholic Register’s Rosary booklet (published shortly after the encyclical) will recognize the method and perhaps a few of the meditations. We updated, refined, and added to them.
I really believe this book will bless you and your families. And if you buy the ebook, you can easily carry it with you everywhere.
Discounts, in-person talks, radio, and TV
Dan Burke and I recorded an episode of Divine Intimacy Radio with hostess Melissa Elson discussing The Contemplative Rosary. It will air next Tuesday, October 3. You can listen at SpiritualDirection.com or on iTunes.
On Sunday, October 22, I will speak and sign books after the 9:30 AM Mass at St. Peter Church in Omaha during coffee and donuts.
On October 29, Dan will appear on Bookmark with Doug Keck.
If you are close to Omaha or the Twin Cities, I’d love to come and speak at you parish, prayer group, or bookstore. Email me at crossini4774 at comcast dot net
Finally, since the Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux is coming up on Sunday (October 1), I’m offering the ebook of Trusting God with St. Therese for $.99 at Barnes and Noble and iTunes from September 29 through October 6. You may also find a discount at other online retailers, including those catering to customers in other countries. This sale only runs once a year, so if you haven’t read it yet, now is the time.
Please note that I can no longer run the $.99 sale at Amazon. If you tell Amazon you saw my book for $.99 elsewhere, they may drop the price of their own accord.
May the Lord bless you and your family as we move into the Marian (and very Carmelite) month of October.
Here is the link to The Contemplative Rosary again.