EdmistenAs we close out this Month of the Rosary, it's not too late to put a little spark into your devotion to the Rosary.  One of the best resources I've seen lately that will help you fall in love with this wonderful devotion is The Rosary: Keeping Company with Jesus and Mary

I am pleased to share the following Book Spotlight interview with Karen Edmisten, author of The Rosary: Keeping Company with Jesus and Mary.

Please briefly introduce yourself and your family to our readers.

I'm the homeschooling mom of three wonderful daughters, ages 15, 13 and 7, and I am blessed to have been married to Tom for 25 years. We are both converts to the Catholic faith -- I was received into the Church in 1995, and Tom came in five years later. It's been a lively, unpredictable and exciting journey.

Please share an overview of your wonderful book, The Rosary: Keeping Company with Jesus and Mary.

Thank you! The book is meant to be a source of information, encouragement and support for anyone interested in the Rosary -- cradle Catholics, converts, and even non-Catholics.

I include some personal stories about my own experience with the prayer, especially since when I first came into the Church, I had some anxiety about the Rosary. I worried that one had to pray it a certain way, in order for it to "count."  It also seemed dry and rote to me, and not particularly meaningful. As I worked on this book, I found that my early anxieties weren't altogether uncommon. So, it was important to me to address them in the book.

I also include a brief history of the Rosary, and cover some common misconceptions (held by Catholics and non-Catholics alike) about Mary, and about the prayers of the Rosary. There's also an explanation of the role of the mysteries, and some down-to-earth, practical help offered -- ways to incorporate the Rosary (and more prayer in general)  into our lives.

I'd love to hear about your conversion story and what prompted you to become a Catholic author.

I grew up without any kind of religious belief. My parents are great people, but they simply didn't have a religious background, and they had no interest in Christianity. By the time I was in college, I was seriously questioning the meaning of life -- more specifically, the meaning of my life. I explored a number of different philosophies and tried on different belief systems. But I couldn't find a good fit -- nothing answered all my questions. I stayed away from Christianity for a long time, because I couldn't believe that such a "patriarchal" religion had anything to offer me. But I ran out of things to investigate ... and since I wanted to honestly examine all options, I did begin to look more closely at Christian ideas.

Reading C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity was a huge turning point for me. Also, a good friend of mine had grown up Catholic, left the Church, and then returned, and he became a great source of information for me on what Christianity was really all about. Eventually, I began to read the Bible and pray that if God were real, He would somehow reveal Himself to me. I always say that once we start to pray, we "haven't got a prayer"! And that was true in my case. Objections began to topple, and before I knew it, I desired baptism. At the age of 30, I was baptized by an Episcopal priest, and five years later, after further prayer and study, I was received into the Catholic Church. I love being Catholic, and I love to share this beautiful faith with others.

As far as becoming a Catholic author, it happened slowly. I worked with our parish's RCIA team, and gave witness talks about my conversion. A priest friend encouraged me to write my conversion story and send it to OSV's New Covenant magazine, which at the time was edited by Mike Aquilina. Mike very kindly accepted the piece (which was twice as long as what NC usually ran -- he deftly edited it to an acceptable length, when he could have simply told me to take a hike for not reading the writers' guidelines.)  I wrote several other pieces for New Covenant after that, and began to write a bit for other magazines as time, homeschooling, and mothering allowed.

edmisten_bookWhat motivated you to write this book on the Rosary?

The book actually came about in a funny way. I started blogging in 2005, as a way of pulling all my writing links together in one place on the web. I occasionally review books (mainly books I love -- I'm not always terribly objective) and I had just reviewed Mike Aquilina's Love in the Little Things: Tales of Family Life. His editor at Servant read the review, and we ended up connecting. The result was this Rosary book. It was such a privilege to have the opportunity to write it and to share my love for this prayer with other people.

What have you learned and implemented in your own spiritual life as a result of writing this book?

What a great question! I learn something from everything that I write, and that's one of the things I love about writing.

I actually learned quite a bit about the history of the Rosary during the writing of this book. Many of us are familiar with the stories of St. Dominic and his role in the Rosary -- a book by a Dominican priest helped me to clarify and convey a lot of that history.

From a spiritual perspective, the book has been an affirmation of my own commitment to the Rosary, and a re-examination of how easy it can be to "put off prayer" until a "convenient" time. The tips I share in the book are tips I return to repeatedly myself, so it's really a matter of one sojourner encouraging another, not the case of an expert dishing out advice.  I think it's important to acknowledge that in our fallen condition, prayer is always a battle. We need to constantly encourage ourselves and one another.

In the book, you share encouragement for folks who may feel overwhelmed or anxious about praying the Rosary.  Can you share some of that with our readers?

I'd love to. First, we all need to remember that prayer is indeed a battle! (See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2725.) We will fail, but we can't let our failures discourage us -- just as we encourage our children to learn and mature from their mistakes, our Heavenly Father encourages us to do the same. We have to persevere. When we do, we will eventually see progress.

Second, I think we have to be willing to take baby steps. If you don't currently pray the Rosary, try incorporating it into your life in small ways -- a decade on the way to Mass, a decade in the shower, a decade in the car. Small habits grow, and these things can be great starting points.

Third, don't worry about "doing it right."  For example, if your Rosary repeatedly stalls out because you're constantly interrupted right after the Apostle's Creed, try jumping right into some decades. Those decades still "count."

We're all so busy these days!  What are some of your suggestions for finding time to pray the Rosary?

I find that I have to be brutally honest with myself -- if I think I don't have time to pray, I need to take a closer look. Is there something -- anything -- in my day that I can cut out so that I will have time?  TV? Computer time? Phone time? There's usually something that can go, especially if we're looking only for an extra fifteen or twenty minutes in a day.

Also, attaching prayer to other activities works well for me -- praying while I walk or work out, praying in the car and the shower, or while doing a chore or errand. Certainly those times will not have the contemplative dimension that we desire and often associate with the Rosary -- it's supposed to be all about meditating on the mysteries, right? And it is about the mysteries ... they are what make the Rosary a contemplative prayer, and they plunge us deeply into the life of Jesus. But, establishing some rhythms for prayer is the first step. Adding the mysteries, and deepening one's prayer time, will follow.

How does the Rosary ultimately draw us closer to Christ?

In the book, I quote Pope John Paul II's Apostolic letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, several times. He offered such beautiful answers to this question.  First, he pointed out something very basic about the tool we use to help us pray the Rosary: when we look at the beads, we see that they all "converge upon the Crucifix." He went on to say: "Everything begins from him, everything leads towards him, everything, through him, in the Holy Spirit, attains to the Father."

Even the Hail Mary itself is about Jesus -- He is implicitly present in it from the beginning. (I go into more detail about this in the book, and look at the Hail Mary line by line.)

And, in meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary, what we end up doing is journeying with Jesus Christ. Because the mysteries are Scriptural references to the lives Jesus and His mother, meditation becomes a way to spend time with, to keep company with, Jesus and Mary.

And, remember, meditation, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, simply means using "thought, imagination, emotion, and desire" to enter more deeply into prayer (see CCC, 2708.) Don't be intimidated by the idea of meditating, or worry that it's beyond your spiritual grasp. If you can think about Jesus, and imagine being with Him at various times in His life, if you can ponder the attendant emotions, and desire to know Him better, then you are meditating!

The bottom line is that Mary doesn't want our attention, and she isn't trying to draw us closer to her --  she wants us to direct our attention to Jesus. The Rosary can help us do that.  However, praying the Rosary will draw us closer to Mary, too, because it will help us to see (and want to emulate) her as a beautifully devoted disciple. But, Mary will always lead us to her Son.

Are there any additional thoughts or comments you'd like to share with our readers?

I often remind myself that all prayer "counts" -- from the quick thoughts tossed up to God to the slow, meditative Rosary on a quiet Sunday afternoon ... from the depth of a sublime holy hour to the rote Hail Marys droned while doing a load of laundry ... it all counts. It's all part of our relationship with God. Just as we have different levels of interaction with our spouses -- from quick, utilitarian conversations, to intimate exchanges -- so will the spectrum of our communication with God play out. Prayer is about talking to the One we love, so don't wait for the perfect time to talk. Just talk to Him. All the time.

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