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Contemplation and the Rosary

Pope Saint John Paul II

Pope Saint John Paul II reminds us that reciting the Our Fathers and Hail Marys of the rosary is not an end in itself.  The goal is to obtain a deeper contemplation of the life of Jesus and Mary.  We all know that focusing on the rosary mysteries can sometimes be very challenging.  Despite our best intentions, we sometimes find ourselves distracted and thinking randomly.


Pope Saint John Paul II offers several suggestions to help us with the rosary.  He recommends that at the start of each decade, we pause and prepare our minds to reflect on the particular mystery from the lives of Jesus and Mary.  The preparation can set the tone for the entire decade.  After announcing the rosary mystery, Pope John Paul II suggests that we use the prayer method of St. Ignatius of Loyola.  He recommends that Christians use their imaginations to place themselves reflectively in the scene that is being contemplated.  For example, we could visualize ourselves standing with Mary and Elizabeth as Mary proclaims the famous Magnificat with all her heart and soul.  

A valuable but sorrowful contemplation might be the experience we have as we feel ourselves agonizing in the garden with Jesus.  The point is that we try to feel ourselves truly experiencing each and every mystery.  Placing ourselves within the mystery allows us to obtain a deeper connection with Jesus and Mary.  Sometimes we can relate, such as the example of the agony in the garden, and at other times we feel a sense of amazement.  In short, we need to use all of our senses.  And we must never forget that Mary is with us, listening to our prayers and helping us to pray her rosary.

Another way to reflect on the mysteries is to read from sacred Scriptures.  Since Scripture is the inspired word of God, Pope John Paul II encourages us to encounter the living Christ while reading the word of God during the rosary.  Personally, I almost always pray the scriptural rosary.  It has been said that the scriptural rosary “penetrates the heart of the meditative spirit of the mysteries.”


Reading Scripture before each of the 10 Hail Marys keeps me focused on the mystery.  It keeps my mind from wandering and aids me with my visualizations.  But more importantly, the combination of reading Scripture and praying the rosary is an extremely powerful experience that carries us to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Thomas Merton's Life and Practices

Thomas Keating on Contemplation

The Contemplative Process

Christian Contemplation Introduction

The Practice of Christian Contemplation

Ongoing Steps to Learning Contemplation

Discernment for Contemplation

Purification for the Contemplative

The Purgative Way

Differences between Meditation and Contemplation

Christian Contemplation Resources

Rosary Beads
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