The Path Less Taken

A Modern Look at an Ancient Prayer

A few years ago, I remember watching a network news report about the beneficial effects of meditative prayer. The report first featured a Catholic women’s group that was devoted to praying the rosary. The women shown were primarily in their fifties and sixties. Then the report moved on to meditations inspired by Buddhism and Hinduism. The women who practiced that were in their twenties and thirties.

For me, that report signified the Catholic Church’s problem of attracting young people, especially with traditional devotions that have an image of being outdated. Having grown up in a Catholic family, I have an affection for some of these devotions myself and would like to see them continue among members of my own and younger generations. But how can something like the rosary be made attractive and relevant to young people today? Liz Kelly, a Catholic young adult musician and writer, offers an answer in her recent book “The Rosary: A Path Into Prayer” published by Loyola Press.

As she recalls in her book, Liz Kelly was raised in a devout Catholic family of seven children. She eventually drifted from the faith of her childhood and “dipped into other religions, agnosticism and radical feminism.” Kelly went on to attend Protestant churches for a number of years where she learned about praying the Scriptures. But she couldn’t find the inner peace to experience prayer the way she knew it should be. Weighed down by anxieties, bad relationships, and a rape she had never reported or dealt with emotionally, Kelly sought refuge in a variety of addictions: food, running, television. Her downward spiral continued leaving her feeling “crushed, confused, soulless.”

In despair, Kelly turned to the rosary, the simple prayer she remembered from childhood. She writes, “As a former runner, I found the repetition of the prayers comforting?It was like the runner’s high I’d felt during long, hard workouts when my brain could rest?The rosary silenced the craziness in my head and heart.”

As someone who’s brain is often in overdrive, Kelly notes that quieting her mind was often the most difficult part of praying the rosary. Her advice for others like her is to “make your first prayer, ?I’m not sure what I’m doing here, please help me.’ No special eloquence is required; the simplest prayers are often the best.”

In addition to examining the step-by-step evolution of her own prayer life, Kelly explores both the history and modern relevance of the rosary’s prayers and mysteries. Also, interspersed throughout the book, are testimonials from people ? even some non-Catholics ? who say that praying the rosary has changed their lives.

For me, when it comes to common prayers like the Our Father, it’s easy to say them out of habit without really listening to the words. Kelly offers an analysis of these prayers that is genuinely insightful, offering readers a deeper perspective on an aspect of our faith we may not give much thought too. She goes on to place each mystery of the rosary in its biblical context, explains its relevance in layman’s terms, and offers a prayer for the reader to gain the wisdom and virtues to which each prayer should lead. She notes, “When you pick up the rosary beads, it’s like you’re picking up the gospel. When you pray the rosary, it’s like you’re taking the hand of Christ and walking through his life with him and his mother.”

Far from being a dry theological treatise, Liz Kelly’s “The Rosary: A Path Into Prayer” is a brief, engaging look at one young woman’s tumultuous journey into a deeper and stronger spiritual faith. Always relatable and understandable, this book offers the perfect introduction ? or re-introduction ? to an ancient prayer that still has a lot to offer people of all ages today. As Kelly writes, “The ordering of the rosary mirrors the balance that God has given the universe: one part joy, one part light, one part sorrow, one part glory. All equal, all essential, all a very natural part of the process.”