On Praying the Rosary

I miss my dad every night around 7:30 pm.

That’s when we stop everything and pray the Rosary. We started back in March when we hosted Nine Days of Prayer in the diocese. That led to a few nights of Evening Prayer during Holy Week, which lead to the Divine Mercy Novena between Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday. Then, I suggested we do another novena at the beginning of May but the Bishop had a better idea: why not the Rosary every single night in May.

And so here we are.

I log in around 7:15, just after the alarm on my phone goes off, ending whatever yard work or Zoom meeting, or dinner preparation that has been started. I finally got smart for the nightly Rosary and invited anyone who wished to lead to do so. I don’t mind leading, but it’s nice to have others give their voice to the prayers too.

It is a holy interruption in our household and it always makes me miss my father. You see, it was my father who introduced me to Mary.

Dad taught me how to pray and a big part of those prayers was the recitation of the Rosary. We prayed every day on the way to school. We prayed in the living room when my aunt and cousin were killed in house fire. We prayed around the bedside of my brother, Jim, as he lay dying of cancer.  We prayed for peace in times of trouble. We prayed in thanksgiving for good health. We prayed for each other. For others. For ourselves. We prayed. Together. Alone. We prayed.

Dad was introduced to the Rosary by his mother, who made them by hand. She gave dad his first beads – for his First Communion – and then made and gave each of the grandchildren one for that same celebration in each of their lives. I still have mine and am proud to say the beads are nicely worn.

As dad got older and spent his time working in the yard or cleaning the pool, he prayed the Rosary every day, just like he had every day of his life. But he found that the mysteries of the Rosary you and I know did not quite cut it anymore. So he made up his own. He contemplated five miracles. Five saints. Five parables. A few summers before he died, he asked me for new ideas I suggested he think of five priests who had influenced his life and, since so many relatives were women religious, five sisters. He liked that idea.

When dad was dying, we took turns sitting with him, praying the Rosary, asking for peace for him, freedom from pain, and a quick journey home to the Mother he had called “Holy” so many times in prayer.

When he was gone and mom was putting together an outfit for dad, she knew where to find his Rosary: in the pocket of the last pair of pants he had worn. We buried him with one set of beads. I have another, found in his office after the funeral.

So last night as I was sitting in my attic office, looking at my wife across the room, I thought of dad and I prayed. I thought of those drives in the early mornings to school and those times sitting around the living room. Eventually, my thoughts turned to the hours sitting by dad as his life slowed. I prayed and I missed my dad.

We gather each night during May – nearly 200 faithful souls – and we pray for each other, our parents, our children, graduates, those who have died, those who are sick, the unemployed, the underemployed, our leaders, our heroes, our families, ourselves. It is an holy interruption from the anxiety that surrounds us.

Perhaps this week you might dig out your Rosary and pray. Perhaps its in your pocket or purse or backpack. Perhaps it’s been a while since you let the beads slide through your fingers. If so, start slowly. One decade per day, starting today. It will make a difference in your week, I promise.

Think of those who taught you to pray and thank God for their example.

Then close your eyes and open your heart and join me.

“In the name of the Father, and of the Son….”


Photo: My father and me when we were both much younger!

This originally appeared on Patrick Donovan’s personal blog, Five Minutes on Monday.