HOUSTON — Although the idea of praying the rosary might be daunting for some, Dominican Father Lawrence Lew, the general promoter of the rosary for the Dominicans, said it doesn’t have to be.
In Houston’s Holy Rosary Catholic Church for feast of the Holy Rosary Oct. 7, Father Lew shared a handful of tips about this prayer.
“Begin praying the rosary slowly,” Father Lew said. “If you’ve found it (lacking), slowly begin with one decade a day.”
For those moments during the rosary, or at any time in prayer when the mind wanders or get distracted, Father Lew suggested having something to focus on, such as sacred art.
The priest, who is rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary in London and also a prolific photographer, recently published a book with Ignatius Press called “Mysteries Made Visible: Praying the Rosary with Sacred Art,” which features his own photographs.
He traveled to the U.S. for the rosary celebration at Holy Rosary and preached during a weekend Mass there.
He advised those starting to pray the rosary to continue to gradually increase the number of decades prayed each day, praying one decade at a time, spreading each throughout the day.
For example, he said to consider praying one decade in the morning when getting ready for the day. Then, as the day progresses, he suggested keeping the rosary close at hand or using fingers to keep count of prayers. Father Lew said the moments in between that fill our day can be a special time for grace and prayer, such as waiting at a stoplight, being on a bus or the elevator.
In his role as general promoter of the rosary, he actively advocates and preaches about the rosary within the Dominican Order and encourages his fellow Dominicans to preach about the rosary, which he said is part of the sacred heritage of the Dominican order.
“According to tradition, Our Lady gave the rosary to St. Dominic and entrusted the order with that job of preaching the rosary,” Father Lew said.
He compared praying the rosary to a doctor prescribing a new medicine to a patient. The effects aren’t typically immediate but people trust that the medicine will help in some way.
“That’s Mary’s prescription to us. Begin by praying the rosary slowly because we trust in Mary, and we know that she’s our mother,” he said. “She’s been given to us by Our Lord Jesus to be our mother, and she loves us. That’s why I pray the rosary, and I encourage everyone to begin that way.”
The rosary should “stir up and deepen our love for God. That’s the goal of prayer,” he added. “In a sense, it’s pointless to pray the rosary by rote in a way where it’s just ratcheting off words.”
He said is “very, very clear in the Dominican tradition and Dominican teaching that the rosary must be prayed as a meditation. It’s better to pray one decade at a time, to pray that decade well rather than try to rush through all five decades in 20 minutes.”
But if people find themselves praying the rosary as a habit more than a meditation, they shouldn’t feel guilty, he added.
“We’re human, and human beings get distracted in prayer,” Father Lew said.
As he sees it: “As long as we set our intention and begin to pray and our motivation is out of love for God and we’re still distracted, our prayer doesn’t lose its merit.”