What I, a Non-Catholic, Discovered While Praying The #Rosary

Edited: A kind friend politely pointed out that I had some of the mysteries mixed up. This has been corrected. Apologies for any offense.

Ask yourself a question.

Q: What personal things do you keep around, not for their value or utility, but just because they bring you a measure of comfort?

Keep thinking about that, we’ll come back to it later.


An Open Invitation to Pray

During a recent crisis in the community, our local parish reached out to the neighborhood, inviting people to come to their outdoor garden area with a pretty statue of Mary (… shrine, I guess you’d call it) to pray the Rosary. I knew I’d see some people there I know, and it’d be nice to catch up too.

But there’s one thing that has always puzzled me about the Rosary and that is the difference of the mysteries and the process of prayer and meditation at the same time. I didn’t get that. Is it like patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time? I mean, with a bit of effort, I can do that but it’s not exactly easy and it causes me anxiety to try. And there are so many prayers! How do you remember them all? Why do you pray so much?

I don’t get it.

With my work schedule, I knew that if I would be able to make the event, it’d be near its conclusion. But hey, I want to participate. I’m a person of faith.  I’ll just try doing it on my own, you know, on the public bus … at rush hour … when there’s a lot of people all around … who might criticize me or you know, look at me kind of funny (that’s the same thing, right?)

Oh no.  Maybe this isn’t such a good idea after all…

I found myself making the sign of the Cross anyway.

Okay… here goes nothin’!

(45 minutes later. Yes, forty-five. Talk to me later.)

I got there right at the end. But I wasn’t the only one there with a smile on my face and I don’t think it was because we were happy to see each other. We shared a secret. Yes, we. I think on that bus trip I had discovered a secret to praying the Rosary. And yes, I’ll let you in on it too.


The Secret of the Rosary

Earlier, I asked you what personal thing you keep around because it brings you comfort. Have you thought about it?

Maybe it’s a book you’ve never read but on the inside cover there’s that personal inscription that a friend or family member wrote to you It could be your favorite stuffed animal that you packed in a storage box when you went to college, but didn’t have the heart to throw out. Maybe it’s a favorite piece of your grandmother’s jewelry — garish beyond belief, but she wore it every day and you keep it on your bureau and some days, when you miss her, you take it out and smile, and remember her.

For me, one of those things is my rosary.

I got my first rosary during a church event which I spent with my father and my paternal aunt. Although they’re both still around and present in my life, I treasure the memories I have of the time I spent, most especially with my father. In English, we have a term for what we commonly call these objects: mementos. Everybody has at least one. There’s nothing special or remarkable about that, is there?

Maybe there is!

Think about it. That memento of yours, where did you get it? Do you remember when? Who were you with at the time? What were you doing? I bet that whoever you were with and whenever it was, it was an emotional moment in your life. I bet if you’re completely honest, a small tingling of emotion still fills you when you hold/use/see that memento. It might even be something that you’d never share with someone else. It’d just be silly to them if you tried to explain. But for you, it’s more than that, isn’t it?

Image courtesy of m_bartosch, FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Image courtesy of m_bartosch, FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Putting it another way, if I’m right, then that object or memento, is a visual aid triggering a part of some secret knowledge, of your past, of something or someone that is important to you, and when you see/use/hold it, you remember. You think about that person, that time, that experience.

I’ve just explained the purpose of the Rosary. ūüôā


The Rosary as a Visual Aid and Prayer Prompt

Earlier, I mentioned my struggle with trying to pray the Rosary. It’s just a series of repeating prayers. I didn’t get the idea of trying to meditate and pray and what it was for. Now I think I understand a little better.

When you pray the Rosary, you are connecting with Christ. You are using a visual aid (the Rosary) to inspire reflection on the life and nature of Christ.

  • On Mondays and Saturdays, Catholics reflect on the life of Mary, and the events leading up to Christ’s birth and His early childhood (the Joyful Mysteries).
  • On Thursdays, they remember some of his miracles in his early ministry, leading up to the Last Supper, (the Luminous Mysteries).
  • On Tuesdays and Fridays, it’s a reflection on the events of Good Friday, beginning with the Garden when Jesus is betrayed, leading up to His crucifixion (the Sorrowful Mysteries).
  • And finally, on Wednesdays and Sundays, it’s a celebration of Christ’s resurrection and ascension, the events of the early Church, and a life of obedience to God, rewarded at the end of Mary’s life (the Glorious Mysteries).

But the Rosary acts like a visual aid in another way too.

It’s a prompt for our prayer lives. When I tried praying the Rosary, I found the Holy Spirit prompting my heart with words taken from the mysteries I was reflecting upon, and it gave me a direction to pray for specific things. What resulted was a far richer prayer experience than I usually have on my own. I think that the reason for this is that each of the mysteries stems from the Scriptures. When we base our prayer on the Word of God, amazing things can happen.


The Pleasing Aroma To God

“Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.” (2 Cor. 2:15, NLT)

I also discovered that in the process of praying the Rosary, when I announce the “decade” (the mystery I’ll be reflecting on), it helped me to stop at that point and meditate on that mystery at that point, as I prayed the “Our Father”. Pausing for a moment of reflection (or meditation) before going on to pray caused sort of a dual layer of prayers going on, on the surface, the Hail Mary’s, and below that, another prayer prompted by the mystery I was reflecting on.

It’s a bit of an awkward way to describe it but I can only compare it to it being like two layers of prayer, on top of each other, like a melody and a harmony of a song, being played at once.

As I’m writing this, I am debating, and you may debate as well, which is which, but here goes. If praying the Rosary were a song, then there are two parts, the melody (the familiar tune we know) and the harmony (the chords played in the background that flesh out the song). From my current perspective, I would call the melody the prayers in the Rosary itself, because it is familiar, and our own secret prayers to God, the harmony of the prayer experience.

I can understand though that there may be some Catholics out there who will say I’ve got it backwards, and it’s the Rosary that is the harmony of the prayer, blending in with our own secret prayers, making it a richer experience.  Regardless of which is which, I think the end result is the same: our meditation and prayers become an offering, like a pleasing aroma, to Christ.  And that, my friend, is something to be cherished.

I would love to hear your thoughts on what you think about the Rosary, and about prayer in general.  Do you think that praying and using references to scripture helps you?

The Heart of #Ferguson

Since the death of Mike Brown two¬†weeks ago, I have been quiet on my website about the fact that I am a Ferguson, Missouri resident. ¬†Some of you who have known me longer than this blog has existed will already have known that information, for newcomers, this may be a complete surprise to you. You might even wonder why I didn’t blog about it when I lived basically where the riots and looting were going down.

First, I wanted to put some distance between myself and the events that were going on, and second, I didn’t want to post something that might inadvertently be opportunistic in the aftermath of what was a horrible tragedy.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve had a lot of family and friends contact me to make sure that my husband and I were okay, offering us a place to “get away for a while”, offering assistance if needed. To those people, thank you for your kindness.

In the years since my husband and I¬†moved to Ferguson, we’ve had two tornadoes, and now, the events of this summer taking place around/on W. Florissant at the Ferguson/Dellwood border, that’s brought national and international attention to our small town.

After spending some time reassuring one friend that we are, in fact, not in the proverbial ‘eye of the storm’, she encouraged me to share my news on my blog, I think because¬†people need to hear good news and straight talk (to paraphrase). ¬†So here goes…

Continue reading “The Heart of #Ferguson”

Blurb Featured on Anna Loan-Wilsey’s Website

Last autumn I reviewed “Anything But Civil” by Anna Loan-Wilsey (review here) for the Historical Novel Society. This week, I discovered that a blurb from my review was featured as press for the book on the author’s website. How fantastic!

I thought you would enjoy a peek and Ms. Loan-Wilsey was gracious enough to allow me to reprint a portion of her website for my readers:

anything but civil_02-06-14_permission_from-author.2

Learn more about Anna Loan-Wilsey and her Hattie Davish mysteries at her website, http://www.annaloanwilsey.com/.

Debut Speaking Engagement

microphone by renjith krishnanHey guys,

I’m really excited about this opportunity I’ve been given by the St. Louis Writers Guild to talk about one of my passions, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). ¬†For those of you who have known me for a while, you know that I am passionate about writing and I’m absolutely thrilled about this opportunity.

If you’re in the area on Saturday, I hope you’ll stop by and say hello. Both topics should be very interesting and there’ll be something for fiction and non-fiction writers alike.

Keep reading to learn more and I hope you all have a great day!

my signature

Workshops for Writers: Jumpstart your Novel or Memoir

with Linda O’Connell, Donna Volkenannt, Jennifer Shew, and Lauren Miller

Saturday, November 2, 2013
10am to Noon
Kirkwood Community Center
111 S. Geyer Rd
Kirkwood, MO 63122
Free for Members, $5 for Non-Members

Whether the story you have to tell is a novel or a memoir, November is a great month to start writing it. Get inspired by life writers Linda O’Connell and Donna Volkenannt and novelists Jennifer Shew and Lauren Miller. They will show you how to jumpstart your book.

National Life Writing Month: Linda O’Connell & Donna Volkenannt
Learn about the many different kinds of “life writing”
Find how an essay can be expanded to a memoir
Get the skinny on how an expose` may or may not lead to publication
Discover how to unlock the power of stories to inspire, uplift, and heal

National Novel Writing Month: Jennifer Shew & Lauren Miller
Learn how to get started with the 50,000 words of NaNo
Get up to speed on writing socially
Hear one author’s experiences with the local NaNo group
Find out about tools such as Scrivener

Donna Volkenannt believes words have the power to inspire, uplift, and heal. Her personal essays, short stories, articles, and poems have won almost 100 awards, including honorable mention in the national Steinbeck short story competition and nominations for a Pushcart Prize and a Spur award. First place winner of the 2012 Erma Bombeck Global Humor Award, she lives in St. Peters, where she blogs about writing and the sweet mysteries of life. http://donnasbookpub.blogspot.com

Linda O’Connell is a multi-genre writer whose niche is writing personal essays. Her stories have been published in 20 Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and more than one hundred national publications. She is developing an anthology for Publishing Syndicate and is the author of a book, Queen of the Last Frontier, the biography of Emily Keaster. http://lindaoconnell.blogspot.com

Jennifer Shew has always liked to write and read stories, mainly fantasy, because they let her imagination take over. That’s why she was so happy to hear about NaNoWriMo ten years ago–it was like a license to write whatever she wanted. She has been a Municipal Liaison (ML) for the growing St. Louis NaNoWriMo region for seven years. She helps people get started with the 50,000 words of NaNo and host write-ins for folks to write socially. She‚Äôs excited to write her 500,000th word this year!

Lauren Miller reviews books for the Historical Novel Society and writes for the St. Louis Writers Guild’s literary magazine, The Scribe. Her work has also appeared in publications such as The Poet’s Art and a MMORPG (that’s a massive multiplayer online role-playing game). After five years trying, the historical and spec fiction writer declared her first win last year by completing a 50,000-word novel during National Novel Writing Month. http://www.pocketfulofprose.com

Press release provided courtesy of St. Louis Writers Guild.

Shannon Hale Visits St. Louis

Wednesday night was the single best author event I have ever attended (sorry Gregory Maguire). There I was, a 30-something female reader going solo, surrounded by a large crowd of teenage girls and their parents, teachers, or youth group leaders.  Those girls were excited.

Shannon Hale talking

Shannon was at St. Louis County Library (SLCL) Headquarters to promote her newest venture, Ever After High, which already has its own line of dolls (ala the Monster High variety), courtesy of Mattel.  In addition to answer the slew of questions from her (mostly) younger audience, Shannon treated us to her rap version of one of the songs in Ever After High.

First off, I cannot believe how substantive the questions were coming in from such a young crowd. ¬†These girls (as a whole) really knew Shannon Hale’s books and asked some great questions. ¬†Maybe we had some future writers in the crowd. ūüėČ

Shannon also revealed that she is a mother of four (including twins) and that (I think) this was her first time visiting STL. ¬†Next stop on the list was LA. ¬†On a side note, that’s got to be really hard being away from your family that long. ¬†If she felt homesick, you’d never know it. ¬†Girl brought energy!!!

Shannon Hale readingAs a writer myself, I am impressed with her turnout time for novels (Goose Girl was three months, I think she said), and two years for some of her other books.

She spends about three hours a day in her office, during “writer stuff”. ¬†Although nobody asked about target word counts, I imagine that Shannon must be really productive when she does get down to work. ¬†I think that two years for a book is pretty darn fast.

Waiting in line for the signing, I met some awesome people while waiting in line including some Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) who had met Margo Dill. You may remember that I reviewed Margo’s book, Finding My Place, back in ¬†August.

Back to Shannon Hale.

Shannon grew up reading one of my favorite fairy tale authors, Robin McKinley, author of Beauty and Rose Daughter.  It was reading Beauty that inspired Shannon Hale to try and write her own version of a fairy tale and answer some questions left unanswered by the original, The Goose Girl.

For those of you who didn’t read The Goose Girl (the original), I recommend the beautifully illustrated copy written by Eric A. Kimmel and illustrated by Robert G. Sauber.

C.S. Lewis once said:

“I wrote this story for you [The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe], but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it.

I think this quote is often taken out of context. In context, it implies that C.S. Lewis’ family member outgrew reading children’s lit during the long process of him writing it. ¬†Out of context, it focuses on ¬†the idea that fairy tales are something you come back to again and again (although in Lewis’ case, I think he probably meant when he/she was old enough to have children of their own).

Anyway, my point is, some of us never stopped reading fairy tales. I haven’t.

I never really grew out of fairy tales. ¬†I remember being a toddler and reading fairy tales and then even as I grew older, I kept reading them. ¬†I loved Robin McKinley and Jane Yolen, and then later, Gail Carson Levine and Shannon Hale brought this revival of interest in fairy tales as literature. ¬†Both ladies have written fairy tale-ish stories that explore the characters on a much deeper level than the originals. ¬†It’s not just a fairy tale anymore.

Shannon Hale and Lauren Miller

Beyond the fairy tales, what Shannon Hale brought to SLCL was a little magic of her own (ala the author kind). As I described the experience to one friend, she summed it up best, “Sounds like an author who knows how to treat her fans.”

I think that that’s the important thing to remember. ¬†Shannon Hale may write her books for herself, versus a specific audience, but people are drawn to her stories. They buy her books. They go to her signings. They follow her online.

Respect your audience.

Embrace your audience.

Sometimes do both!

That’s the magic I think Shannon Hale brought to STL with her, the magic an author brings when they genuinely appreciate their readers and go above and beyond. ¬†She stopped to talk to each person that came to see her. She signed their books. ¬†She personalized them for Pete’s¬†sake. Some of us took photos.

My favorite thing she did didn’t even involve me actually. ¬†There were some really young girls in the audience and I watched Shannon interacting with one of them, a seven-year-old, and sharing with her some snapshots of her own young children. ¬†How cool is that?

If our experience at Shannon Hale’s author event in STL was any indication of what LA can expect, readers are in for a rare treat.

Here’s some of Shannon Hale’s writing credits for those of you unfamiliar with her work: Shannon Hale on Goodreads

I’ve reviewed two of Shannon’s books for adults so far on Pocketful of Prose, The Actor and the Housewife and Midnight in Austenland. ¬†Let me know what you think!