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A prayer you can count on.

I put my arms around her as the doctors began to work on her husband's near-lifeless body. He had suffered a heart attack while we had been idly talking after Mass. Now we were watching her companion and love of 30 years fighting for his life. I could feel her shaking with fear, almost in shock, and I knew I had to do something to calm her down.

Out of instinct more than habit, I took out my Rosary and asked her to pray one with me. "I believe..." were magic words. Instantaneously the familiarity yet profundity of the words began to calm her down. Soon we had reached that special rhythm of the Rosary. Like waves breaking upon the shore, the Rosary's cadences calmed us. By the time we had recited one Rosary, the doctors had managed to bring her husband back to life and stabilize his heartbeat. As I left her to wait out the next critical hours with her husband, I wondered about the Rosary's special grace.

Rosaries are seldom seen today. One must wonder why. They have had a long history in the church's tradition. Legend has it that Mary gave the Rosary to Saint Dominic in a revelation. History tells us that in the 12th century, popular devotions to Jesus and Mary were brought together to form what became, in the 15th and 16th centuries, the Rosary as we know it. The Rosary's 150 repetitions of prayers, first representing Our Fathers and then Hail Marys, were seen as a substitute for the 150 Psalms prayed by monks in the Divine Office.

Devout but uneducated lay folks admired the monks' devotion and wished they also could participate. Soon, a string of 150 beads--instead of a monk's psalter--began appearing in association with laypeople. Thus, poor folks who could not read, much less afford, a Bible could pray with the monks.

It didn't take long to realize the special nature of the Rosary's prayer. Its constant repetition lent itself to a prayerful trance a state of meditation that brought peace and comfort to the heart. It is no wonder that great saints likE Saint Dominic and Saint Ignatius of Loyola felt the Rosary to be their greatest prayer and aid in contemplation.

Thus the question arise as to why one sees so few today with Rosary in hand. It is as if we have come to prefer the busy pace of modern life to the wave-like rhythm of the Rosary. If so, it is a great mistake. Our frenzied lives frequently lead flesh-and-blood hearts to stop beating. A different pulse should remind us of another heart's beating. When we recite the Rosary, it is as if we can hear our soul's heart beating in time with the Hail Mary,, and Our Fathers.

Indeed, although I cannot claim that reciting a Rosary was the cause of her husband's successful recovery from a heart attack, I do feel that the Rosary we prayed had an effect. Even as her husband's heart first stopped beating, our Rosary's rhythm, in some mysterious way, beat in its stead. I believe her husband also came to know the peace and calm we felt. The circle of th Rosary enveloped all of us in its gracious and healing mystery.

By Alex Garcia-Rivera, a professor of theology at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California.
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Title Annotation:Practicing Catholic; the Rosary
Author:Garcia-Rivera, Alex
Publication:U.S. Catholic
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jul 1, 1998
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