Wednesday, April 7, 2010
A Man and His Rosary
Years ago, a student in Paris, on his way to the university, hopped on the train and found an empty seat next to an elderly man. As the train moved off, the student noticed that the old man was praying the rosary. Watching him for a while out of the corner of his eye, he finally blurted out, "Excuse me, sir, but I couldn't help but notice what you are doing, and I wonder if you are aware how superstitious and old-fashioned it is." "Oh, really?" replied the old man, "Tell me more." "I have to get off at the next stop," replied the student, "but just give me your name and address, and I will send you some books that will explain what I mean." As the train came to a halt, the man wrote his name and address on a scrap of paper and handed it to the student, who stuffed it in his pocket and hurried off. Later in the day, the student remembered the scrap of paper, took it from his pocket, and opened it. Reading the name scribbled on it, he was dumbfounded: "Louis Pasteur." To his dismay, he realized that he had been talking to a famous scientist, known the world over for his achievements in the field of bacteriology.
Like that student, many people today have the mistaken idea that praying the rosary cannot be reconciled with a modern outlook. Yet the fact is that peole everywhere are depressed and in despair, their lives seemingly out of focus. Having lost a sense of the meaning of life, they have not found true happiness and satisfaction in all the material blessings available to them. Why?
The answer may lie in the well-known prayer of St. Augustine: "Our hearts were made for Thee; and they will be forever restless 'till they find their rest in Thee." It is in opening our hearts to the Lord who created us that we discover true peace and happiness. And that is why prayer is often compared to rest. Who can continue working and living from day to day without rest? Likewise, it is prayer that gives us new strength to continue to face life from day to day with the fullness of determination and courage.
There are many kinds of prayer. Sunday mass, for example, is communal prayer, a kind of prayer with which most of us are familiar. Another kind is individual prayer. It can be spontaneous, where we simiply talk to the Lord as we would speak to any friend. It can also take the form of what is called "meditation". The rosary is an example of meditation, and one reason why many people do not appreciate it is because they do not know how to meditate. Meditation means focusing one's thoughts on one particular subject. The rosary focuses our thoughts on what are called "mysteries," that is, fifteen events in the life of Jesus and his mother Mary.
Franz Joseph Haydn
The great composer Franz Haydn loved Our Lady and the Rosary. Once, when discussing mental fatigue, he shared his secret. "I always carry a rosary with me. After a few decades I am sure to feel refreshed, both in mind and body."
Joseph Haydn once set out to write a religious oratorio. In order to do so he became practically a hermit. For thirteen months the composer remained in seclusion praying, studying and working. Some days were filled with success, others with anguish. Often he went for days without an idea. "Then I would pick up my rosary," he later said, "and, as the beads slipped through my fingers, I would relax, gather new strength and collect my thoughts. I would return to my piano and once again hammer away!"