Show unto us

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Turn then most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

I remember the first time I was given the act of praying Hail, Holy Queen as a penance: I didn’t know the words and I had to look them up. Later, when I started praying the Rosary on a regular basis, I had to continue looking up the words until I finally used a memorisation technique that I learnt from the blogger Jennifer Fulwiller in order to learn the words. This technique involves using visuals linked to the words.

Sad to say, most times that I pray the Hail, Holy Queen, the words come out of my mouth without me really thinking about what they mean. But I do have some favourite images to use with praying this:

Behind me is darkness and ahead of me a woman. She is not facing me but she turns and looks at me. Shining behind her is dazzling light. I walk towards her, she draws me out of the darkness. She shows me the cross. Her son is hanging upon it, his arms stretched out. Her arms hold me to her. Her mantle is drawn over me. We kneel before the cross. Sometimes other people are with us – people who are in my prayer intentions – and we kneel together.

In another image, I am kneeling in the front row at church. A woman kneels beside me. We gaze at the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance. He gazes at us. At other times when I pray show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus, I picture myself kneeling, about to receive Holy Communion. Our Lady kneels next to me.

Sometimes I picture Our Lady, the ark of the new covenant, pregnant with our Lord, particularly when praying the words our life, our sweetness and our hope. Sometimes I picture our Redeemer as a little child in the womb. I can see so clearly his leg, the femur bone still developing.

NB: The next task is to learn the words in Latin – I love the chanted Salve, most especially when it is in the solemn tone as the Dominicans do. I can remember most of the words if I’m singing with other people but not well enough to do it on my own. Although to be truthful, I can’t sing well enough to do it on my own either!

Mary: the original stumbling block

???????????????????????????????Even in the time of Our Lord himself, Mary was a stumbling block.

“Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him? What mighty works are wrought by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary…” (Mk 6: 2-3 RSV)

Yet rather than a stumbling block, properly understood, we realise that Mary wants nothing more than to take us to her Son.

A commonly heard phrase in Catholicism is ad Jesum per Mariam or to Jesus through Mary. Without fail, by developing a relationship with Mary, our Blessed Mother, we will be drawn closer to her Son.

This idea that we go through Mary to Jesus is found in the Scriptures. Today I’ll focus on two such Scripture passages.

In Luke’s Gospel, we read how Mary visits Elizabeth who is also with child. Elizabeth cries out in recognition that this wasn’t just Mary her relative but that this was indeed the mother of her Lord. Through Mary, Elizabeth encounters her Lord, even whilst he is still a helpless babe in the womb. Moreover, her own child, John the Baptist, leaps in Elizabeth’s womb upon hearing Our Lady’s greeting for he too, through Mary, encounters Jesus then recognises Him.

A little further on in Luke’s Gospel, we hear of the birth of our Saviour, of Christ the Lord. An angel of the Lord brings this good news to shepherds in the nearby fields. Deciding to go to Bethlehem and see this Lord, who do they encounter? We read, “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” (Lk 2:16 NIV)

So they hurried off and found Mary – it was through Mary first that they came to find Jesus. Imagine this new mother, so tired, her heart flooded with joy at the safe arrival of this new born boy when a group of shepherds rush in, not so clean, not so reputable, hardly able to contain their excitement and puzzlement alike. She wonders at the things they say. How easily she could have had St Joseph send them packing but instead she welcomes them and takes them to see her little son, Emmanuel, the new born babe who lies in a manger wrapped in swaddling cloths.

To Jesus through Mary!

What Maths can teach us about learning to pray the Rosary

My favourite subject to teach at school is Religion, followed very closely by maths so it works out well that one of my favourite ways of explaining how to learn the beautiful prayer of the Rosary incorporates maths.

Praying the Rosary can be seen analogous to teaching number work in primary school.

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1. Maths: Make sure you know how to work out single digit multiplication facts e.g. 3 x 7. Eventually, you need to make sure you know your times tables fluently. It’s not essential to know them for grade five maths but it’s a lot more difficult if you don’t have instant recall. It’s important to also know what 3 x 7 actually means as opposed to just being able to figure out what the answer is.

1. Rosary: Have access to the actual words of the main prayers (Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be) and learn them by heart as quickly as you can.  You’re going to be frustrated very quickly if you don’t know the words. Of course if you begin praying the Rosary, even a decade a day, you’ll learn the words very quickly! Make time to learn what the words to the prayers actually mean as opposed to just knowing what they are.

2. Maths: Learn how to carry out two by one digit multiplication. It’s laborious to begin with if using a written algorithm but you’ll increase in speed and eventually be able to carry this out with a mental method.

2. Rosary: This is knowing the order of the Rosary, being able to identify which prayers are said when. It won’t take long until it’s automatic and you can stop looking at that “How to pray the Rosary” card.

3. Maths: Transfer your understanding of two by one digit multiplication to three or four by one digit multiplication. Repetition, repetition, repetition.

3. Rosary: Knowing the names of the mysteries off by heart. Repetition, repetition, repetition.

4. Maths: Making the leap to two by two digit multiplication is necessary but so difficult for some kids. They really struggle with it. A lot of work is needed in building conceptual understanding of what is happening. Teach two by two digit multiplication using a variety of methods and by continually reinforcing said methods and concepts.

4. Rosary: Up until now, the Rosary has been words but it’s time to make the leap to the meditations. The first step in this is knowing, truly knowing, the Scripture that goes with each mystery. Read them, know them, love them. Read them even if you aren’t praying the Rosary daily. Read them before praying the decade. Try finding a Scriptural rosary guide to use for awhile. Find beautiful artwork of the mystery to look at while you pray.

5. Maths: Be able to apply your knowledge of multiplication to various word problems. Sometimes you need to do some trial and error. Sometimes you can correctly determine the solution but need to find a faster, easier and simpler method.

5. Rosary: Meditate on the Rosary as you pray. There are lots of ways to do this and you might need to do some trial and error to find what works for you. This is both in terms of bodily posture whilst praying – I always find it easiest to meditate on the mysteries when walking – and in terms of how your heart and mind engage with the mysteries.

Of course we would never leave word problems until the end when teaching maths but introduce them from the very beginning. In the same way try to have little moments along the way of thinking about these mysteries. It could be spending 10 seconds meditating after announcing the mystery or, if you’re right in the first steps, thinking about the words to the Hail Mary as you say them.

The month of the Rosary starts tomorrow on 1st October. If you haven’t started praying the Rosary yet, why not give it a go with a decade a day?