I remember growing up in our town praying the rosary once a week. It was one of our pious habitual activities. As a family, we prayed the rosary every Friday evening because it was the evening assigned to us by the Catholic Women’s League for our devotion and prayer to the Virgin Mary. My grandmother was the president of the group CWL, and as president, she must lead us by example in devotion. My grandmother said that praying the rosary every Friday was our way of thanking and returning back all the blessings we got for the week. Exactly at five thirty in the afternoon on Fridays, my grandmother would assemble us including the women househelpers to fetch the statue of the Virgin Mary from a neighbor’s house. Our neighbour was also a member of the Catholics Women’s League and her assigned time of praying the rosary was every Thursday evening. It was our commitment to fetch the Virgin Mary and we did it as one big family.
I was spiteful of this rite and deep inside me, I found it arduous and wearisome task that consumed valuable time. I adhered to it because of custom and because I was afraid of my imposing grandmother. I was also afraid of the wrath that God will inflict on me if I did not join the family in this religious belief. They said God will not bless you, and instead, will inflict unimaginable evil if you miss the Friday ritual. As a ten year old boy, I was easily threatened. I believed that evil things would come upon me if I stopped joining the family in praying the rosary every Friday.
After we fetched the statue of the Virgin Mary with a big rosary brambling on her neck and put it in the altar inside our house. Then the long mechanical, tedious, boring ritual begins. The kneeling is what I despised the most for my knees ached and cannot stand for the long duration of the praying. I was up to all the shenanigans that I can think of. I would go to the kitchen as if to get myself some water from the fridge, but heaven knew I was not thirsty. I just wanted to relieve my self from the long period of kneeling. I would go to the bathroom to force myself to pee. I would stand inside the bathroom to rest my knees and have recess from the boring ritual that was going on outside. My grandmother would always look at me with her dagger look after the shenanigans I made to avoid being choked up by the senseless praying of the rosary.
Sometimes I laughed inside myself, for I cannot fathom the way they prayed. It’s like they were robots that droned while praying. They murmured the words and I could not understand the words they uttered. To appease my grandmother and the family, sometimes, I murmured the words simultaneously with them. Of course, this gibberish manner of praying never came from my heart. I only looked at the beads of the rosary of my grandmother when she was already on the fifth or the last mystery. Being on the last mystery would soon end my burden of kneeling and boredom. I could not endure the torture for just even another minute.
That was 27 years ago. I was only 10 years old then. My grandmother would always scold me after the boring ritual. I would hear her say, “Someday you will go back her (She meant the Virgin Mary) and you'll understand the importance of praying the holy rosary. But I didn’t mind what she said. “The hell with those murmuring, kneeling, the five mysteries of the day,” I said to my self. Besides I didn’t believe in the invisible who lorded over as they told me. I didn’t believe in his miracles. For me it was all magic and trickery. I didn’t believe that this invisible lord created the first man and woman. For me our origin was a conundrum that could be answered by science in the future.
On December last year, I was hospitalized. I encountered what I used to know as near death-experience. Manang Flor, the wife of my friend Manong Hener who on certain occassions would drive for me, visited me in the hospital. I saw a rosary in her hand. She was a devotee of the Virgin Mary and a member of the religious group Brgy. sang Birhen in our village. She always carried with her a rosary and prayed it every time she felt like praying it. She told to me that praying the rosary is like meditation. She said that praying with the rosary with the beads was just like what Buddhists monks do with their beads and the Hindus when they perform yoga. I found out through the internet that the medieval roots of the rosary was grounded on the efforts of lay people to have their own extended prayer an equivalent from the Divine Office said and sung by monks and friars. The office was a complex set of biblical and hagiographical readings of prayers and hymns, each part keyed to a different time of the day in the different seasons of the year. A more brief form of this, a breviary, was created for itinerant (mendicant) orders that did not have a monastery to keep the eight different hours of the full office.
I felt nostalgic remembering my childhood when I used to join praying the rosary with my family.
I asked Manang Flor her if she could teach me how to pray the rosary. Even if I joined praying the rosary back then, I had not really learned to memorize it. Yes, I did join the murmuring in a gibberish uttering of the prayer without learning it. She told me she will give me her extra rosary and teach me how to pray it.
After two weeks of getting used to praying the rosary I felt the lightness of my spirit and I was high on something indescribable. I am an addict now, but of a different addiction and that is praying the rosary everyday. I relieved myself of the everyday problems by praying the rosary. To me,it has become a form of meditation or yoga that cleanses the spirit and frees the mind of evil thoughts. I also found out that the rosary was invented by the Carmelites as a tool for meditation. As I roll the beads of my fingers and uttering the prayer I lift up my spirit bit by bit as if I'm in a sort of meditation. I already made it a habit to pray it everyday just like my grandmother. I no longer conjure to some shenanigans anymore as I am spiritually addicted to it. Just like what my grandmother said that someday I will go back to her and understand the importance of praying the holy rosary.
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