Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Book Excerpt: The Rosary by Gary Jansen

While I am decidedly Protestant, I requested this book because I have a great interest in learning about and connecting with other Christian faith traditions. I'll try to share some thoughts on this book this week...but I'm frantically trying to finish another book at the moment. :)

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

Gary Jansen

and the book:

The Rosary: A Journey to the Beloved

FaithWords; 1st FaithWords Ed edition (October 28, 2008)


GARY JANSEN is an editor at Doubleday Religion and former editor-in-chief of the Quality Paperback Book Club. His writing has appeared in USA Today, Newsday, and the Chicago Sun-Times. THE ROSARY is his first book.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 11.99
Hardcover: 96 pages
Publisher: FaithWords; 1st FaithWords Ed edition (October 28, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0446535842
ISBN-13: 978-0446535847


What Is the Rosary?

Imagine for a moment that you have just fallen in love with the person of your dreams. Picture it right now. Picture your ideal. Picture your beloved. This person is beautiful, smart, and wise. This person is caring and loves children.

This person values friendship in a way you’ve never experienced, and when you are in the presence of your beloved you feel whole: energized, perplexed, inspired, and amazed.

Now, you’ve experienced loves in the past, but this relationship is different. It’s mutual and nurturing. The more deeply you fall for your beloved, the more human you feel.

Could it be that your soul was asleep for years and that this person has awakened you, has even resurrected your spirit, your will, your desire? You feel changed, because you are changed. You feel that maybe the world around you has been covered in thin diaphanous veils and with each step you take toward your beloved, a layer is removed. Your vision becomes clearer and clearer. Colors are more colorful, sounds are crisper, you hear music in noise. For the first time since you were a child you experience wonder.

So continue imagining your beloved and continue seeing your relationship expanding, growing with each word, with each action, with each hope. Time passes; it has just been the two of you for some time. Then your beloved asks you to meet the parents.

What is your reaction now? Are you anxious? Nervous?

What are they going to think of me? Am I good enough? Are they going to see through to my faults?

It’s one thing to be in a relationship, you think; it’s an entirely different thing to add the parents. You’ve done a pretty good job of hiding some of these things from your beloved, but parents always know, especially mothers.

Your beloved senses your anxiety and reassures you that everything will be fine. The fateful day arrives and you walk to the parents’ home. As your beloved takes your hand, you notice that your palms are sweaty.

Your beloved knocks. The door opens. You meet Mom.

And she turns out to be the nicest person you’ve ever met.

She welcomes you into the family, and she radiates kindness and beauty. All that worrying, all those moments of self- doubt subside, and in a matter of seconds you feel excited to be in her presence. You look around and don’t see the father, but you sense that he is everywhere in this home.

Now let’s take a step back. You have never experienced a love like the one you have with your beloved, and, while you feel an openness, you admit to yourself that this person can be a mystery to you. You have questions. It’s not that you don’t feel close to your beloved, it’s just that you begin to hunger and thirst to know everything about this love that has come into your life. And to be perfectly honest, you feel intimidated, because your beloved is such a complete person, and you feel, more often than not, less than whole.

What were you like as a child? What were your parents doing before they had you? What were your friends like? Did you ever get lost? What were some of the loneliest times of your life? Why did you come into my life?

You’ve held off asking some of these questions of your beloved, but here in front of Mom, you feel strangely comfortable to let loose. It’s as if she is standing there ready to embrace you and help you understand everything. Who better than your beloved’s mother to answer all these questions swirling in your mind? Who better to provide insight than the woman who carried your beloved in her body for nine months and who experienced the pain and joy of bringing her child into the world?

You begin to ask all your questions, and this woman who you’ve just met seemingly transforms into your own mother. She smiles and takes down a scrapbook and the two of you begin looking at pictures. This is a picture of me when I first found out I was going to have a baby, she says. This is a picture of my cousin and me, we were both pregnant at the same time. Here’s one right after the birth. So many people came to visit us. Here are a few pictures of a wedding we attended, and this

is a picture of . . .

So you sit in her presence and page through the scrapbook of their lives. These pictures tell stories, and you begin to understand what was once a mystery. You feel this family’s happiness, their sorrows, their illuminations, and the glory of their lives. All of a sudden, the worries, the fears, the doubts, the brokenness, the distractions that you seem to feel on a daily basis fall away and you are transformed by love.

That is the Rosary.

Wait, you may be saying, what does all this have to do with the Rosary?

Isn’t the Rosary some long complicated prayer where you say the Hail Mary a couple hundred times while holding a set of beads?

Yes, but not exactly. The Rosary is a prayer that is longer than most in the Christian tradition, but it’s a simple prayer, and like all simple things, it is beautifully complex once you get to know it.

Yet, the Rosary is more than just a prayer, it is a journey to the beloved, an invitation to fall in love with Christ by sitting in the presence of His mother and observing through the prism of her life — and your life — the radiance of divine revelation. Anyone can say a prayer or go to church or quote the Bible, but it is only through loving Christ and entering into a relationship that we can, through patience, meditation, and contemplation, align our earthly desires and longings with the will of God.

According to Merriam- Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, the word rosary is derived from the Latin word rosarium, meaning rose garden, and has been a form of prayer — traditionally said with the aid of beads, since before the time of the Reformation.

One characteristic that makes this prayer different from many others is the use of repetition. Popularized by the Order of St. Dominic in the fifteenth century, the Rosary is a cycle of repeating prayers that combines meditation with devotion. It is comprised of four sets of mysteries — or time periods — from the Gospels and are named the joyful, the sorrowful, the luminous, and the glorious. Each set of mysteries in turn is made up of five specific events from the life of Christ. A decade, which is just a fancy word for a prayer repeated ten times, traditionally the Hail Mary, is said for each event. There are prayers that begin the Rosary, prayers between each decade and prayers that end the Rosary. While the focus on the Rosary is always Jesus Christ, the guide connecting the mysteries is Mary herself who takes us by the hand and leads us through the miraculous journey of her Son’s life.

While you can pray all four sets of mysteries in one sitting, it is common for people to choose one set and focus attention on those events. The Rosary can be a difficult prayer in the beginning. Many will balk at the idea of repeating the same prayers over and over again (how boring!), but through practice and imaginative meditation, you’ll come to realize, as Romano Guardini notes in The Rosary of Our Lady, that the greatest things in life are repetitious: the cycles of life, the turning of seasons, the beating of a heart, breathing. Life is repetition.

One misconception about the Rosary that makes many non- Catholics suspicious is that it’s a prayer to Mary. This isn’t true. One does not pray to Mary when he or she says the Rosary, a person prays with Mary, the way someone would pray with another person at church or in a prayer group. Imagine this. Suppose I ran into you on the street. You’re a prayerful person, and you know I am too. You are going through hard times. Maybe your parents are ill. Maybe you have lost your job. Maybe you are dealing with a death of a loved one. We talk for a few minutes and as we part you ask me to pray for you. I assure you I will.

Praying the Rosary is no different than that exchange. It is spiritual union, an act of love for the benefit of another. As Pope John Paul II stated in his 2002 apostolic letter, On the Most Holy Rosary, the Rosary is a prayer of learning and illumination that allows, “The principal events of the life of

Jesus Christ [to] pass before the eyes of the soul . . . they put us in living communion with Jesus through — we might say — the heart of his Mother.”

Ultimately, the Rosary is your prayer and can be prayed the way you see fit. It’s a gift from God, and there is much to be learned from such a generous offering. But if the Hail Mary is the one thing that is preventing you from taking part in this divinely inspired exercise, then sit in the presence of Mary and say the Our Father instead. And if the Hail, Holy Queen, which ends the Rosary cycle, is also not to your liking, then recite the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me.”


Anna said...

Sounds like an interesting book. I should pray the Rosary more. Thanks for posting this!

Diary of an Eccentric

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