“Did you pay that bill?”
“Don’t forget to stop for gas on the way into town tomorrow!”
“You snapped at that student today. You really aren’t a very kind person.”
“What are you going to do about your weight?”
I would like to say I discovered the use of the Anglican rosary as an aid to prayer because of a desire, shared by many, to deepen my prayer life. The truth is I wanted to shut up those critical voices of my own personal Greek Chorus. If I had spent all day grading papers, but left one set unfinished, the choir would sing out in the night, “You really should have finished!” If I had gotten them all done, the choir would change the night’s anthem to that old favorite, “You neglected your family while you were grading papers!” Too much thinking. The rosary gave me a way to quiet my thoughts, not so much shutting them off completely, but more like gentle ocean waves of prayer repeating and repeating, wearing down the voices of the shoulds and the shouldn’ts of my conscience.
It used to bother me that I would sometimes fall asleep before finishing the rosary. An older lady who was a lifelong Roman Catholic reassured me on this point. She said their tradition is if you fall asleep before finishing your rosary, your guardian angel will finish it for you. Nice! Although I still pray the rosary before sleep, over the years, it has broadened out until it has become part of my daily prayer routine. It also has become something I will do if I am waiting in a long check-out line at the store, or if I am just stressed during the day.
Throughout history, many different Christian traditions have used beads or the counting of prayers, not for the sake of repetition, but as a still focal point for entry into prayer and meditation as part of the rhythm of their lives. The early Christian monastics who lived in the desert would gather small pebbles; as they walked and said their prayers, they would drop the pebbles in the sand one-by-one.
Since the revival of the use of rosaries in the Episcopal Church in the 1980's, they have gained in popularity. When I started, Anglican rosaries were not widely available. One Christmas, my present to myself was to buy a nice Roman Catholic rosary and have it professionally altered at a jeweler. Now, Anglican rosaries are widely available for purchase. One reason they have become so popular might be the flexibility of the devotions. Instead of fixed prayers, there are a number of different forms one may use. You are also encouraged to create your own personal prayers for the rosary.
It seems somehow appropriate, living in the desert of Nevada, to share in this long tradition that goes back to the deserts of our spiritual ancestors.
I recently taught a class on praying the Anglican rosary. A copy of the class handout is available here in PDF format: Anglican Rosary Class. It includes some history of the rosary, prayers for it, how to include personal prayers while doing the rosary, and how to create your own prayers for use with the Anglican rosary. It also has a list of books and Internet resources.