The 33 Day Rosary Challenge: COMPLETE!

At the beginning of May, I joined the Real Men Pray The Rosary 33 Day Challenge.  The rules were simple: pray the rosary once a day for 33 days in remembrance of Christ’s human ministry.  Here’s what I learned along the way.

I DO have the time

One of the greatest lessons of this challenge was the discovery that I do, in fact, have enough time for prayer in my average day.  I believe this month is probably the first in my entire life where I’ve made a sufficient effort to include structured prayer in every day.  I found it possible to pray the rosary in the gaps of my daily grind, or during times when I would otherwise do something more idle.

Some of my favorite times to add prayer might seem unusual.  I discovered that my Sunday driving route to visit the homebound of our parish was plenty of time to pray the rosary.  Instead of listening to the radio, I turned if off and prayed instead.  This was made especially profound for me because Christ was literally with me on that trip each week.  I tend to do my Apostles Creed, then pray aloud for the intentions of my rosary… on these Sundays, it took the form of talking with a friend who was in the car with me for a minute or two before I went into the reflective prayers of the rosary itself.

Beyond that, my favorite time to pray was putting my two-year-old daughter to bed.  I would whisper the prayers softly in order to keep proper track of my progress and she was usually asleep midway through the third decade.  A few times she would pat my hand with the rhythm of the prayer… it doesn’t get more special than that.

On days when my work schedule would permit it, I discovered that a lap around the hiking trail that surrounds my office building was just enough time to get a rosary in.  If I started as I walked out of the office door, I would finish the final prayer as I walked up the ramp that led back to the parking lot of our building.  It really worked out perfectly and gave me a special deposit of grace that often would help me during a challenging workday.

On the remaining days when life got in the way or the schedule was too hectic, I found considerable peace in waiting for the rest of the family to go to bed and I would pray my rosary in the quiet house before retiring myself.  Sometimes, this was force of will… I was tired too.  However, despite my fatigue, it was always worth it to end my day with prayer… I found I slept better.  It’s the next best thing short of ending your day in Adoration like I did at the Knights of Columbus convention.

I learned the prayers, and kept my word too!

Another (expected) side effect of the challenge was that I actually learned the prayers that I often struggled to remember.  The ‘Hail Holy Queen’ and closing prayer of the rosary would often trip me up, but now I can do them from memory.  I also struggled with the Apostles Creed (as ashamed as I am to admit this) and now it comes much more smoothly.  I still sometimes conflate the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed, but it’s better than it was by a long shot.

Because of the daily habit, I also found that I was actually praying for others.  I made it a point to remember in prayer those that needed it… my sick friends, those with ailing family members, those with particular issues to work through, and even my own family.  I often fell into the habit of telling someone I would pray for them, and during this month I did much better at making good on that promise.

I also found that after the second week, I was able to recall and meditate on the mysteries of the rosary itself.  I would have trouble remembering which were the Glorious Mysteries and which were the Joyful ones… what day to pray which mysteries on, and so on.  It is nice to not struggle so much with that anymore.  In addition, I also feel more able to both pray the rhythm of the rosary verbally (one Our Father and ten Hail Mary’s per mystery) while mentally actually meditating on the mystery itself.

The rosary is much more of a ‘whole body’ experience than I expected it to be.

Reflections

This process helped me cultivate a virtuous habit, raise my mind better to God, find time in my day to pray, and reflect more on the life of Christ.  In general, I consider it a tremendous success and am grateful for the challenge to get out of my comfort zone.  This process has made me appreciate the deposit of grace that comes along with daily prayer, and it truly helped me get through some tough times this month.  It also made me appreciate the dense spiritual beauty of the rosary, something I never fully understood until now.

Will I continue?  In some ways, yes.  There are some other daily devotions that I am interested in trying (the Liturgy of the Hours being foremost), and now that I know I can make 20-35 minutes a day for prayer I might explore some of those more closely.  I will definitely pray the rosary as often as I can, since it honestly hasn’t been that difficult to find the time.

In closing, I strongly suggest that you check out Real Men Pray the Rosary and make your very own 33 Day Rosary Challenge and see what it brings to your spiritual development.  I want to take a moment to thank those responsible for this program.  It has really improved my daily prayer life and helped me overcome that obstacle in my spiritual development.

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