Thursday 18 November 2021

Telling the Rosary - Vincent Sherlock

Telling the Rosary
ISBN 9781788121071
eISBN 9781788121347
eISBN 9781788121330

This is the ninth book published by Messenger Publications that I have read in as the last few months. The first I read was, Saint Ignatius of Loyola: A Convert's Story by Patrick Corkery SJ, and this was one of the ones I picked up while writing and researching a previous review. At the time of writing this I have over 20 reviews or articles about the Rosary that I have written. I am almost always willing to give a book about the Rosary a try. I picked up this one as one of 4 I picked up while writing and researching for the review for the first book from Messenger Publications that I read. But I kept finding other volumes that grabbed my attention. I decided on a quiet Saturday to pray through the 4 sets of mysteries with this volume. It did not disappoint.

The description of this booklet is:

“The family rosary is a fond childhood memory for many Catholics. Although the tradition has faded, many still find comfort in this familiar devotion. Popular witer and parish priest, Fr Vincent Sherlock, takes a fresh look at the way in which we might pray the rosary. Based on many years pastoral experience and a gift of communicating with parishioners and readers, Fr Vincent provides a lovely, readable booklet which will encourage those who have forgotten how, and give new inspiration to those who use their rosary regularly.” 

The chapters in this volume:

Chapter 1: The Joyful Mysteries
Joyful Mystery 1: The Annunciation
Joyful Mystery 2: The Visitation
Joyful Mystery 3: The Nativity
Joyful Mystery 4: The Presentation in the Temple
Joyful Mystery 5: The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple

Chapter 2: The Luminous Mysteries
Luminous Mystery 1: The Baptism of the Lord
Luminous Mystery 2: The Wedding Feast of Cana
Luminous Mystery 3: The Proclamation of the Kingdom
Luminous Mystery 4: Transfiguration
Luminous Mystery 5: The Institution of the Eucharist

Chapter 3: The Sorrowful Mysteries
Sorrowful Mystery 1: The Agony in the Garden
Sorrowful Mystery 2: The Scourging at the Pillar
Sorrowful Mystery 3: The Crowning with Thorns
Sorrowful Mystery 4: The Carrying of the Cross
Sorrowful Mystery 5: The Crucifixion

Chapter 4: The Glorious Mysteries
Glorious Mystery 1: The Resurrection
Glorious Mystery 2: The Ascension
Glorious Mystery 3: The Descent of the Holy Spirit
Glorious Mystery 4: The Assumption
Glorious Mystery 5: The Coronation of Our Lady

So It’s Told

The introduction to this volume begins with these words:

“In Dick Farrelly’s iconic song, ‘The Isle of Innisfree’, an emigrant reflects on his memories of home. He misses all that was familiar to him. Things that remain embedded in his memory. Among his most cherished memories, is that of family prayer and his description is wonderful:

And then into a humble shack I wander
my dear old home, and tenderly behold
the folks I love around the turf fire gathered
on bended knees their Rosary is told.

It is said that Farrelly got the idea for this song when travelling by bus from Co. Meath to Dublin. I have an image of him scribbling down the lines lest he’d forget them. I wonder whether this scene of family prayer was part of that original bus-penned draft, but even if it wasn’t, I am so pleased it found its way into the song he released.

‘On bended knee their Rosary is told’ is truly an inspired description of the Rosary’s place in our story of faith. He could have said the Rosary was ‘said’, ‘recited’ or ‘prayed’ but no, the verb he used is the past tense of ‘to tell’. The Rosary then, as he sees it, is the telling of a story, and so it is.

What is that story? It’s the story of Christ – told from Gabriel’s visit to Mary in the first joyful mystery of the Annunciation, right through to the second glorious mystery of the Ascension, followed by the fulfilment of the Lord’s promise that he would send to us ‘An Advocate’, as prayed in the third glorious mystery, ‘The Descent of the Holy Spirit’.”

Each Chapter begins with an overview of those mysteries. And each mystery has:

The biblical reference.
Who Is In The Story?
The Story Told? 
Thoughts for Prayer

A sample is 

Sorrowful Mystery 4 The Carrying Of The Cross
(LK 22:40–46)

Who Is in the Story?
Jesus, soldiers, on-lookers, disciples, women of Jerusalem, Mary, Simon (and from Stations of the Cross, Veronica)

The Story Told
It is a story of the final climb to Calvary. The ‘cross’, a symbol of suffering is placed on Jesus’ shoulders and the journey begins. Along the way he is given the forced help of Simon of Cyrene who is dragged from the crowd.

Jesus’ falls along the way speak to us of frailty and human weakness and of being able to endure only so much. Three falls are alluded to – the first unwelcome and unexpected and the other two more painful because they happened before. The falls of Jesus, in a strange way it seems, are an encouragement to people to keep getting up and to focus on the desire to get up rather than dwell on the falls. ‘How many times must I forgive?’ ‘Not seven, but seventy times seven … ’ (Mt 18:22).

The ‘cross’ itself speaks of burdens carried and quite often undeserved and certainly un-invited. Jesus transforms the cross into a bridge between earth and heaven, death and life, despair and hope, failure and triumph, loss and gain. We are reminded that the cross was left behind and that, even at its most cruel moment, it became a source of salvation for a repentant thief and of conversion for a soldier.

We are asked not to be burdened by the cross but to be liberated through it. Leonard Cohen, in a wonderful song called ‘Come healing’, speaks of the cross in these words: ‘The splinters that we carry, the cross we left behind, come healing of the body, come healing of the mind’. The carrying of the cross is a call to a deeper faith in the power of healing.

Thoughts for Prayer
There may be room here to remember those who have been with us in difficult times and to offer a prayer of gratitude for support received. We might recall those who are facing into a difficult journey, possibly of medical treatments or surgical procedures. Maybe we locate ourselves in the garden, when we feel vulnerable and challenged, fearful and perplexed and ask God to send his Angels to watch over us. We could pray in this mystery for acceptance of a difficult situation, in the knowledge that Jesus accompanies us in a very real way at this moment.”

I particularly enjoyed the last section Thoughts for Prayer, for each mystery. It helped me go from praying the rosary to using the rosary as a way to pray in new ways and consider different things to be praying for. Instead of coming to the rosary with an intention this section each time inspired new intentions. A few that came to mind I wrote down to keep praying for. In the conclusion we are informed that:

“Going back to Dick Farrelly’s Isle of Inisfree and memories of his family at prayer, we might do our best to create memories for future generations. Truly the family and the home at prayer are both a gift and a joy to behold.

In ‘telling’ the Rosary, we are mindful of the days aligned with different mysteries but there may well be a place and space for taking mysteries ‘out of sync’ and allowing them speak to our heart on a given day or in a particular situation. Sometimes too, it can be good to take a decade or two from different sets of mysteries if and when they allow us to connect with something within that needs special attention.

At days’ end, the telling of the Rosary is the telling of Christ’s story and Mary’s place in that is to be the storyteller and the one who points us, as at Knock, towards the Lamb of God.

I remember when growing up, a priest in my home parish used to speak a lot about Our Lady and he had a prayer that he learned from someone else – a simple prayer of intercession through Mary.”

This is an excellent little volume. I plan to pick up other books by Vincent Sherlock’s particularly his Stations of the Cross and Let Advent be Advent, and have high expectations for them. This was another great resource from Messenger Publications. Give it a try I am certain it will be worth the effort.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2021 Catholic Reading Plan! For all review of Messenger Publications books and booklets click here

For all other reviews of Rosary Books click here.

Books by Vincent Sherlock:
Let Advent be Advent
The Enchanted Way: Reflections on the Way of the Cross

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