When I was around ten years old, my parents decided to pray a family rosary one evening. Even though they sent all six of us kids to a Catholic school, we had never before prayed one. For whatever reason, that night, my parents felt inspired to pray a family rosary.
We knelt together in the living room and began. But before we had finished the first decade, things began to break down. I don’t recall the specifics but making faces and giggling were involved. My mother declared it a failure, and we never prayed one again during my childhood.
Many years later, when I was the mother of three young boys and expecting a fourth, I read a book about Marian apparitions and realized that the Blessed Mother has asked us to pray the rosary daily. I wanted to do it, but I did not know how. I knew that the Our Father’s were prayed on the big beads and Hail Mary’s on the little ones, but was totally ignorant of the opening and closing prayers and mysteries. Regardless, I went ahead with just the two prayers I knew, until I soon obtained a little booklet on how to pray the rosary. Then, every day, I prayed it.
But in the spring of 1990, I felt I had a good reason to skip it; it was late and I could not stay awake. Our fourth son, Jacob was just a few weeks old. My husband Mark had to get up for work at 4:30 in the morning, so he was sleeping in another room on weekday nights during this time. One night, after nursing Jacob and getting him to sleep in his crib, I returned to my bed. Totally exhausted, I thought to myself, “I am so tired. There is no way I can stay awake to pray a rosary.”
At that very moment, I heard a book fall from the bookshelf on the headboard onto the bed. I was lying facing the other way. Before turning to look, I thought to myself, “Watch it be the Bible and I’ll end up feeling guilty for not praying the rosary.” Instead, it was the very book with the Blessed Mother’s picture on the cover that had originally inspired me to pray the rosary to begin. “Wow,” I thought. “That’s sure a big coincidence.”
I put the book back on the shelf and found the energy to pray a rosary before going to sleep. The next day, I told the event to Mark and the older boy ages seven and five. “That was quite a coincidence, wasn’t it?” I said.
A few days later, it was the same scenario. Jacob took an especially long time to get to sleep that night, and I was unbearably tired. I got into bed and thought: “There is no possible way I can stay up to say a rosary tonight.” At that very moment, I saw with my own eyes, the same book tumble out from the bookshelf onto the bed. It again landed with the Blessed Mother’s picture face up.
I held my breath in awe. I was not even moving when the book fell. I realized that there was no way it was a coincidence that both times, at the exact moment I decided not to pray the rosary, that the book that inspired me to pray it had fallen off the shelf with the Blessed Mother’s picture face up. God knew my thoughts. And he knew how to get my attention.
Before beginning my rosary, knowing that I would tell Mark and the boys the story the next day, I did a little experiment. I took the book and placed it hanging off the shelf. Then, I moved the headboard back and forth. The shelf slid back and forth on the headboard, but the book stayed in place and did not fall out. Remember, I had been lying still both times when the book had fallen.
“Why do you think that happened,” five-year-old Luke asked me the next morning.
“In the Bible it says that the night before Jesus died on the cross, he asked his apostles to stay up and pray with him,” I answered. “I believe that God was asking me not to go to sleep but to stay up and pray my rosary. I think it is so powerful that God does not want me to skip it.”
So many Catholics do not understand the power of the rosary. It is a meditation on Christ’s life, with the Apostle’s Creed, Our Father's and Hail Mary's.
“Why do you pray to Mary?” is a common attack against the rosary. We ask for her intercession. When she interceded at the Wedding at Cana, Jesus performed his first miracle.
“But why so many Hail Mary’s if you are praying to God?” is another common question.
Mary is a Jesus-centered prayer. “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” The Lord is Jesus. “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” There is Jesus again and Scripture says all generations will call Mary blessed.
“Holy Mary, mother of God,” Jesus is God. “Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, amen.” Asking the mother of Jesus to pray for us is a good and holy thing—something definitely worth staying up for.
Copyright 2014 Patti Maguire Armstrong
About the Author
Patti Maguire Armstrong is the mother of 10, and has a B.A. in social work and M.A. in public administration. Her newest book is Holy Hacks: Everyday Ways to Live Your Faith & Get to Heaven. Others include Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories from Everyday Families and the Amazing Grace Series. Follow her at @PattiArmstrong and read her blog at PattiMaguireArmstrong.com.