The first time I prayed the Rosary, it was a mistake. Well, not a mistake, but it wasn’t entirely intentional.
I had been on a walking pilgrimage, with the British Pilgrimage Trust. One of the people I met, walked with – and at the end, at Westminster Abbey, prayed with – was a friendly woman who told me she worked at St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Soho Square.
And one lunchtime I was doing work nearby, so I popped in. She recognised me, seemed very pleased to see me, but said, “We’re about to start the Rosary. Would you like to join us?” This, by the way, was before I started going to church regularly at Hampstead, or indeed anywhere.
As you can guess, from the fact that I went on that pilgrimage, I was curious – but joining the Rosary suddenly plunged me into anxiety. It promised to be yet another of those things that people do in church that cause me to wonder if I will ever know what’s going on, and how to do it. What if I do it wrong? Will somebody be offended? But on balance I thought it was worth the risk.
I followed Lucy into the church and kneeled beside her, and did very little else for the next however long because I didn’t know what I was doing. There seemed to be quite a lot of repetition. But it was restful. I enjoyed it.
Fast forward a few months, and I was by now popping into church quite regularly, including for Morning Prayers and Evening Prayers. One day Ayla (curate at Hampstead Parish Church until last year) said that she was doing a Rosary group on Thursday mornings. I was pleased, and slightly surprised. I had no idea that Anglicans pray the Rosary. Surely it was too “high” – like trying to pray from the top of the steeple? Apparently not.
I joined the (then live, in person, Zoomless) group, and quickly got into the rhythm of it. Once again, I found the repetition helped me to ground myself in a prayerful way. And the rotating cycle of Mysteries provided a different contemplation each time.
Cycle? There are four sets of Mysteries: Joyful, comprising the early life of Jesus; Luminous (His ministry); Sorrowful (you can guess); and Glorious (the Resurrection and beyond).
When Covid came, our small but perfectly formed group transitioned quickly into Zoom. Then Ayla left, and we have had to lead ourselves. It’s been my privilege to do that fairly often.
When Sheena G. asked me to write this (for the Church Chat section of the Hampstead Parish Church website), I felt surprisingly daunted. I’m not a theologian. I can’t make a robust intellectual argument in favour of praying the Rosary. Happily, I realise I don’t need to. You can find that kind of thing elsewhere, I’m sure.
(Have you met the Internet?)
What I can assure you is that I continue to find it extremely helpful in creating a prayerful space, and have missed very few weeks. Others in the group would say the same. To be honest, I quite like the small size of our group just as it is, but at the same time I would be ecstatic if, by writing this, I were able to persuade you to join us.
We meet on Thursday mornings, every week, at 8.30, and finish at 9. Perhaps we’ll see you there.