Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help (9 May 2015)
Do you have food that gives you comfort? Food is something very close to the hearts of many (mine in particular!) and it is familiar smells and tastes that bring comfort in times of trouble. The curry that’s made at home is one such food for me and it reminds me of my childhood, of home and of my family. I love trying new things, and new kinds of food but that type of curry always feels like home. It’s the same with travelling – most of us like to travel, to explore and experience new places but it’s always great to return to the comfort and familiarity of home. We all have our personal pockets of comfort in our lives.
I’d like to reflect a little on the role of the rosary in our lives, especially given that it’s the month of May and we do pray it a little more fervently this month. It is a familiar prayer and gives us much comfort. But have we stopped to ask why and how it gives this comfort? I found out that the rosary (the name comes from rosarium or rose garden) as we know it now is rooted in the monks and how they used beads or knotted cords to remember their prayers. The long and illustrious history of the rosary includes, according to tradition, St Dominic who was said to have devised our current format of saying the rosary. By the 16th century, it was made an official devotion of the church by Pope Pius V. It’s been in the church for a long time and is firmly part of our ways of praying.
Yet, many may see it as old fashioned and prayers that only our parents and older relatives do. I was like that for some time in my life. As an undergraduate, I thought I was too smart for the rosary. I felt that it was a holdover from the time when illiterate people needed to repeat prayers and so it didn’t quite suit my burgeoning intellect. It was old and outdated and I was on the lookout for new ways of praying, ways that were more ‘intellectual’ and ‘with the times’. Fast forward some years later, as I was discerning my vocation to the religious life. While on retreat, I experienced dryness and restlessness in prayer. My director sensed that and suggested slowing down and asking for the intercession of our Blessed Mother, through the rosary, for help with prayer. I wasn’t convinced but tried anyway. It worked and I experienced much consolation later in that retreat. I felt like I’d come home after a long dry spell outside.
There was comfort, familiarity and reliability in allowing the beads to pass through my fingers again. It was like coming home after time away and smelling the aroma of curry wafting through the front door. I had explored but it was good to be home. With this was also a sense of humility and recognition that no matter where one tries to go, we always have to come back to the Lord and our Blessed Mother and allow them to enfold us in their love. Wilful as we are, they will welcome us back.
Yet, there is also something to be said for exploration beyond what we’re used to. I’m sure most of us here are very familiar and comfortable with the rosary so why not explore different ways of prayer, in addition to those that we’re comfortable with? To pray with others in adoration, charismatic prayers, Christian meditation, lectio divina, the list goes on. To try to explore other ways of deepening our relationship with God, knowing that there’s comfort just round the corner.
So perhaps that’s what we might be called to do this month of May. To extend our ability to respond and build our relationship with the Lord through different ways of praying. And also to continue to enjoy our traditional and comfortable ways of praying with the rosary. Or better yet, to bring someone back to enjoy these traditional prayers with us, with the faith that our Blessed Mother will help us to turn them back to us slowly. The rosary or rose garden is already there waiting for us. Why not enjoy it and bring someone in there to enjoy it with us?