Our Blessed Mother definitely knew how much we needed it.
As far as prayer goes, it's been a rocky road. As a kid, I had a touch of OCD (by a touch, I mean a lot of it) and I would dread praying every night because it meant repeating prayers over and over again until I got them completely right. As I grew older, this need for perfection ceased and was replaced by staying up until the late hours of the night reading as opposed to prayer. I would often forget to pray at night or I would lazily tell myself that I would do it later. As I got older, prayer seemed to lose a lot of its relevance. I even remember becoming an nihilist for a good minute or so upon reading some of Nietzsche's work. This belief system didn't last long because that minute or so was the darkest and most terrible minute I had ever experienced until that point. (Perhaps one day I will share my "dark night of the soul," but until then, let's just assume that this was the worst.) Now imagine what it would be like to suddenly have everything around you become meaningless and empty...that's how I felt and it wasn't a good feeling, so I never strayed from Catholicism ever since even during my rebellious years.
By the time I was in high school, I prayed irregularly (sometimes every other day, sometimes after several days, etc). Sometimes I convinced myself that it would bee too much wasted time. Sometimes I only prayed more out of a sense of obligation than an act of faith. Sometimes,I prayed mechanically and almost like a robot. Sometimes, I prayed because I felt guilty for ignoring God for so long (regardless of the length of time it had been between prayers). My conscience was tearing me apart the whole time, trying to knock some sense into me, but I kept telling it that I would one day focus on my prayer life, once I got everything else out of the way (school, studying, and any other excuse you can think of). I kept listening to the excuses and praying infrequently all the way through college. It didn't help that I lived with two other people and was never comfortable praying in front of other people....so I turned into a prayer ninja that prayed when no one was watching. Needless to say, prayer was not frequent. Looking back, I am sure neither of the roommates would have minded having such a Catholic roommate praying the room...but I was so self-conscious. Well, as a grad student, I started making more of an effort to pray. However, I still ended up skipping here and there and then ending up weeks without really praying.
A year ago, I would have outwardly scoffed at this crazy idea that praying the rosary on a daily basis was possible....but inwardly I would have wondered about it. How in the world would I ever have time to pray 50 hail Marys, contemplate scripture, and throw in all those intentions at the end every morning? This was something that only nuns had time for! Yet, once I started, I found myself getting more and more serious about my prayer life...and praying a lot more. I mean, ever since I was a child, I would say 10 prayers at most when praying on my own and then call it quits. That's it. I'm done. My duty is finished.
However, as I've been praying the rosary on a daily basis...things have changed. I pray a lot more without worrying about how much time it's taking or how many other things I could be working on. When I pray now, I try to avoid thinking about daily things in order to focus on the mysteries. For about half an hour of each day, my time becomes God's time, Christ's time, the Holy Spirit's time, and the time of all the saints and angels that I ask intercessions from. I have even started trusting in God through prayer to the point where I put prayer in front of the project I have due in half an hour that I have to practice for. Just last Thursday, I was tempted to put a project before prayer. I was tempted to sleep on the train (since I had stayed up working on the project) or go over some slides on the train in order to turn my ride to school into an official one. Yet, a voice within me told me to put prayer first. For one of the first times in my life, that's exactly what I did.
The voice told me that my praying the rosary every morning was not just what I needed to do, but just what other people needed to see. And, guess what? As soon as I finished praying, something happened for the first time in all the months I had been taking the train. An older gentleman leans over his worn, dog-eared Bible (which he reads every time I see him on the train) and kindly asked me if it was the rosary that I prayed daily. I was able to honestly answer him with a moderately enthusiastic yes. Turns out the voice was right about my prayers not going unnoticed (by God as well as other people).
Praying really started turning into a gift, a comfort, and a means of communication. It's a lot more than just 50 Hail Marys...and it certainly doesn't feel like 50 Hail Mary's anymore. It's much more than that now. It's no longer a form of "sucking up" to God. It's no longer an obligation, nor was it a form of penance for whatever sins I committed in the meantime. Prayer has turned into quiet time with God. I can take the time to tell him about everything that's on my mind, and He takes the time to listen. I can also thank and praise him during this time. In time, I have discovered that I feel peace through prayer and have found myself at peace a lot more these days than I have been since I was a child. On top of this, I find it harder and harder to slip into temptation. I am now better able to stop myself from thinking half of the grumpy thoughts I think when I get cut off on the Turnpike. I am more patient. I am more empathetic. I understand the importance of God's word and God's will more than I ever have in my entire life. I have gotten better and letting things go, letting grudges fizzle into nothingness, avoiding some sins altogether, and even loving unconditionally. Also, I am beginning to understand what it takes to truly be a saint-in-training.
It's a tough road ahead, but it looks like I know how to get there now. I know what it takes and, for the first time in my life, I am ready for it. I am ready for the troubles ahead...because I got a pretty great crowd cheering me on from the sidelines. The scary part is, I am beginning to understand Catholic teachings a lot more these days and am taking things a lot more seriously in terms of religion and faith. With that said, I have hit a "point of no return" so to speak in the sense that I now know better than to do half the things I used to do as a foolish teenager or person in their early 20s. I have also hit that point where I have found myself yearning to know more and actively pursuing more knowledge about my faith and everything it involves. Forget saving God for later, I am living for Him now and finding peace these days because of it. I have come to the conclusion that I am closer to God now than I have ever been in my older life. In fact, I no longer need anyone to wish me good luck on my spiritual journey...because I now know where I am going and I know just how to get there...or who to ask for directions at least. It's going to be tough and there will be parts of it that I won't like, but I know it will be worth it. Also, I know that it is making me a better person along the way by strengthening my faith and improving my relationship with God. This, I am beginning to see, is what truly matters.
I truly thank God for the rosary and for all the revelations I have been gifted with during my months of prayer. With this said, I am truly grateful for the rosary as well as that nagging conscience that told me to pray the rosary more often. I truly hope that everyone out there gives the rosary a chance. Trust me, only good things can come out of praying the rosary....I know because I am living it.