Taking to heart the treasures of the Rosary

May 9, 2023

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo prays a Rosary during a unified Rosary prayer service with other U.S. bishops in praying for the United States in October of 2020. (Photo by James Ramos/Herald)

HOUSTON — In May of 2021, Pope Francis encouraged Catholics around the world to continue the tradition of dedicating the month of May to the Blessed Mother and the Rosary and said: “Each day of this month of May, we will entrust to You, Mother of Mercy,” the many people in our lives.

While the Rosary, with its 50-plus beads and several prayers, might feel overwhelming, praying the traditional devotion doesn’t have to take up that much time and can be a quick and simple, if not sometimes urgent, prayer to the Blessed Mother, according to Sister Maria Goretti Thuy Nguyen, OP.

“It can be a convenient prayer,” she said. “Whenever I need to have a quick prayer, I just reach out on my side, and I have it right there,” referring to her black Rosary that her Dominican Sisters of Mary Immaculate Province congregation carry as part of their habit.

According to tradition, St. Dominic received the Rosary from the Blessed Mother herself in 1214. She appeared to him in a vision and instructed him to use the Rosary to preach the Gospel and to convert souls. St. Dominic did as he was told, and the Rosary quickly became a popular devotion among Catholics.

“The Rosary is [the Dominicans’] treasure,” she said. “A Dominican won’t be a Dominican without it; we are incomplete without the Rosary.”

Someone once told her that when someone holds onto a Rosary and prays with one, they’re holding the hand of the Blessed Mother, she said.
The Rosary doesn’t require a Breviary, a book of daily Catholic prayers, or an app to pray, she said. Reciting the Rosary also doesn’t require a book or a Bible to be taken off a shelf or long preparation for other prayers — it could even be just a short decade, she said.

“For the Rosary, it’s just so convenient,” she said. “You can pray anytime, anywhere.”

Finding peace with the Rosary

That anywhere can include time sitting in traffic on the highway, when stuck behind a stopped train or even when waiting at a traffic light.
“I feel peace, even when I am tired or don’t want to kneel and pray,” Sister Nguyen said. “The Rosary gives me peace... while I pray the Rosary, I am at peace, and things that happen around me won’t bother me that much because Mary is holding my hand.”

That focus helps other distractions lessen, especially when praying the Rosary. Taught by Dominicans in catechism class and in her children’s choir, Sister Nguyen remembered a day when the sister leading the choir was asking everyone who their baptismal saint was, the tradition where Catholics take on the name of a saint who might inspire their faith life and devotion.

Sister Nguyen said “Mary,” and then learned about the seemingly endless titles that the Blessed Mother has in her many devotions when the Dominican teacher mentioned “Mary, Mother of God,” “Mary of the Holy Rosary” and “Mary, the Annunciation.”

Sister Nguyen, now an associate director with the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis of the Archdiocese, said she learned about “Mary of the Assumption” that day, understanding the tradition of the Assumption, how Mary went into heaven to live with God.

A very young Sister Nguyen realized then she “wanted to be in Heaven with God” like Mary and took on the name of Mary, the Assumption, as her favorite saint. This, in turn, became her favorite mystery of the Rosary, the Fourth Glorious Mystery-The Assumption: “The Most Blessed Virgin Mary, when the course of her earthly life was completed, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven, where she already shares in the glory of her Son’s Resurrection, anticipating the resurrection of all members of His Body.” (CCC, 974).

“Whenever I pray to that mystery, I always fall in love with the heavenly scene with Mary,” she said.

Simple but powerful prayer

The Rosary was part of her childhood faith life. She recalled how her family would stay after Mass to pray the Rosary or visit the different statues around the Church and offer prayers. These devotions always included the Hail Mary, she said.

“It’s a simple prayer that we always pray. So without any intention, Mary, of course, is always there, even if we didn’t ask for her protection or her guidance, but I believe that she’s always there even if we don’t ask,” she said.

Like many other Dominicans, as well as other consecrated men and women religious, Sister Nguyen carries a Rosary as part of her habit. The beads clack about as they step, either in their pocket for some or coming from their hips at their side.

“In the ancient time, people went to war with a sword. So our habit with the Rosary on our side... is like a weapon for us to protect ourselves from harm,” she said. “Whenever we are in trouble or in any need of assistance, heavenly assistance, we just take out our spiritual weapon: the Rosary on our side.”

The Rosary is always something that can be shared in community or even with just one other person, she said. She recommends any good Catholic should keep a Rosary in their pocket during the day, either to pray with or for simple meditation or reflection by just holding it.

An even better Catholic, one who likes to pray the Rosary together with others, might carry another Rosary, perhaps in a pocket or a bag, to share. Sister Nguyen carries an extra Rosary with her to lend to a friend or someone who might need one.

Perhaps Sister Nguyen, and the many others who pray the Rosary, take to heart what the late Pope Benedict XVI said in May of 2008: “When reciting the Rosary, the important and meaningful moments of salvation history are relived. The various steps of Christ’s mission are traced.

With Mary, the heart is oriented toward the mystery of Jesus. Christ is put at the center of our life, of our time, of our city, through the contemplation and meditation of His holy mysteries of joy, light, sorrow and glory.”