7 Ways to Pray the Rosary Without Distraction
IF there were a show of hands of distracted people during the praying of the rosary, my hand would be the first to go up. The familiarity of the Hail Marys feels like a permission slip for my mind to roam. I often find myself stopping to re-start because I’ve lost my place or got distracted.
Even with the challenge to stay focused, I don’t plan to give up the rosary because its prayers have been the life preservers of grace many times in my life. What better way to honour Our Lady of the Rosary — the one whom ‘all ages will call blessed’ (Luke 1:48) than to recommit praying the rosary more wholeheartedly. As we hold her hand and meditate upon the mysterious of the life of Jesus, she takes our prayers to Him, ‘Who refuses her nothing’ (John 2:1-12).
Here are seven ways to help you when distracted:
1. Pray Out Loud
Praying out loud helps with staying on track. Alternating between varying speeds may also do the trick. Try praying out loud S-L-O-W-L-Y, then do the next Hail Mary at regular speed. Faster than normal speed is not better for me but it may help others.
A companion to vocalize the prayers and keep track of where you are is found on www.comepraytherosary.org, which has recordings of all the mysteries playing in a loop.
2. Read Scripture Verses
Before starting the decade, read the scripture verse that relates to the mystery. One can easily find online the verses that correspond to each mystery. Along with scripture, there are books and online resources (both to read or watch) with reflections that set the tone and offer an application.
Here is one example from Regnum Christi for the Second Joyful Mystery, The Visitation:
Luke 1:42-44. Elizabeth was filed with the Holy Spirit and cried out in a loud voice: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb…The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe in my womb leapt for joy.
Reflection: One of the wonders of God’s plan is that he chooses to associate souls, one to another, so that they help each other on their journey. As cousins, Mary and Elizabeth share a bond of kinship. But they also share a spiritual kinship because of how the Holy Spirit is acting in their lives, fashioning the Messiah and his prophet deep inside their wombs. During those months, Mary and Elizabeth don’t just sit around waiting. They are working, preparing for Elizabeth’s baby, quietly conversing, and praying. Together, they are like a little monastic community. In our lives too, God gives us spiritual friendships and soulmates who help us grow closer to him. Sometimes he links our lives together for a larger purpose that will reveal itself with time. In this mystery, ask Mary to help you and your spiritual friends to listen carefully for God’s voice in your lives, so that you can walk with him and with each other.
3. Pray with sacramental images
Gazing upon sacred art is a favourite way to engage the mind. There are beautiful images of milestones in Jesus’ life that stir the heart and offer a focal point. This practice can be combined with scripture passages and a reflection.
4. Offer Each Decade/Rosary for Someone
During a decade or for the entire rosary, visualize a person who has asked for or needs prayers. Picture the person; perhaps God is comforting or healing them. Ask Jesus through Mary to help this person or their situation.
5. Contemplation using the Imagination
St. Ignatius experienced God speaking to him through his imagination, as well as, through his thoughts and memories. This 500-year-old tradition (based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola), called contemplation, includes praying with the imagination. A method of contemplation is to place oneself in the bible scene, becoming a character in it. Imagining what the character would say and do, as well as listening for the sounds, and noticing the smells, is an active way of praying that engages the mind and the heart.
During the 3rd Joyful Mystery, the Nativity, I imagine myself at the manger as one of the Magi attendants. I am gazing upon the Holy Family, sitting on straws of hay. The air is crisp and I can smell the fresh hay. The Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, and of course baby Jesus, are there. Then the Mother smiles at me and asks if I want to hold baby Jesus and I reach my arms out to hold Him. I’m always sad at the end of this mystery when I hand baby Jesus back to Mother Mary. One of these days, I will silently ask our Holy Mother if I can carry baby Jesus with me to the next mystery, which is the Presentation of Our Lord, where Simeon and Anna are waiting.
The most popular prayer using rosary beads, aside from the rosary, is the Divine Mercy Chaplet. There is a version of this Chaplet that is sung and it’s a beautiful, moving format. With the same idea in mind, sing the rosary; find a version online or use a tune to a familiar song. If you are musical, play an instrument and compose your own tune.
7 Write it Down
It’s gentler to gaze upon distraction, acknowledge it, then move on, than it is to yell, ‘Cut, Cut! Out, Out!” Rather than banishing the distraction, write down the random thought, and then continue. Later, go back and read your list. You never know, your distractions may contain some insights from the Holy Spirit.
Praying the rosary calms me down when I’m anxious or nervous. It helps me feel closer to the Apostles and Saints. It encourages me to carry my cross, especially during the Sorrowful Mysterious; it strengthens my bond with our Lord and develops a desire to keep Him company in His agony.