Paul Moore: The rosary — a School of Mary and a shelter in times of trouble

Columnist Paul Moore explains how he found "an oasis of hope" in the rosary." (CNS/Chas Muth)

In My Father’s House / Paul Thomas Moore

As a young man living in the desert of divorce and unemployment, I found an oasis of hope in the rosary. Here’s how it happened. One day, as I lingered in church after weekday morning Mass, not wanting to leave the peace, voices started to rise and fall. I recognized the cadence of prayer, though I wasn’t sure of the rhyme or reason.

No matter. “It will only be for a prayer or two,” I thought, “then I can make good my escape.” Wrong. They weren’t stopping. Well then, it must be a special prayer devotion for a feast day. Wrong again — this was a devotion that makes every day special: the rosary. As I came to find out, these “ladies of Our Lady” prayed the rosary after each weekday Mass.

Some might wonder how, as a cradle Catholic, I had avoided any real awareness of the rosary. I don’t have a good explanation. It might have had something to do with my youthful practice of arriving just before the priest walked down the aisle, and leaving just as soon as I heard the closing words, “Go in peace.”

I knew the components of the rosary, of course: the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be. I’m sure Mom must have tried to teach us to string them together into the rosary — a litany of love uttered for personal needs and the needs of the world — but obviously it didn’t take in my case.

However, now that I had experienced some of life’s hard knocks, I was a bit more open to being tutored in the School of Mary.

FROM INDIFFERENT TO INDISPENSABLE

I noticed one lady would lead a decade, then another, and so on. I picked up a booklet at the back of church on “How to Pray the Rosary,” so I knew which mystery to pray each day, and the names of the five decades in each mystery (e.g., the first mystery of light, “The Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the Jordan”).

Then came the fateful day when one of the ladies turned around to look at me, nodded, smiled, and encouraged me to “take a decade.” With God’s help, I did.

On those blessed mornings, in the hush of St. John the Baptist Church in Halifax, Nova Scotia, I could hear the faint sound of traffic from the busy street outside. I thought then, and have many times since, that the rush hour travelers no doubt considered themselves to be on important missions of work, but that the more important missions of mercy were being accomplished inside by the quiet prayers rising from the pews.

Ever since then, the rosary has been an indispensable part of my life.

My wife and I are in the happy habit of saying the rosary together, especially when we’re driving.

A COMFORT IN UNCERTAIN TIMES

But my wife wasn’t with me on Aug. 20, 2022, at 2:43 p.m., when I learned once more just how indispensable a comfort the rosary can be in uncertain times.

A pop-up on my phone announced a tornado warning for parts of Tazewell, McLean and Woodford counties (we live in Woodford). Hailing from the east coast of Canada, I’m not used to this.

Take cover now! Move to the basement on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Avoid windows. . . .” (My wife was out shopping. She and the other shoppers were taken to the rear of the store away from the windows.)

We don’t have a basement. Neither does the lady next door. I went over to see if she had seen the warning. Yes, her kids had called. She was way ahead of me — taking cover in the safety of the bathroom. I asked if she would like me to stay with her while the tornado warning was still on. “Sure,” she said, “but you’ll need to bring in a chair. The only other thing to sit on in here is taken.”

We figured we could either look at the weather warnings on our phones and worry — or say the rosary. We prayed the rosary until the storm passed.

Likewise, until this life is over, with God’s help I will choose the rosary and Mother Mary in times of trouble. Paul McCartney has related that when the Beatles were starting to disintegrate, and he was having some other personal struggles, his late mother Mary came to him in a dream and counseled him to “Let it be.”

With all due respect to Sir Paul, I pray I will not wait for my Blessed Mother Mary to come into my dreams, but I will always go to her and her rosary.

And I’m thinking maybe I’ll keep one in the bathroom.

PAUL THOMAS MOORE is a Catholic communicator and singer-songwriter. He and wife Mary Louise attend St. Mary of Lourdes in Germantown Hills. He can be reached at paulthomasmoore@hotmail.com.

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