Session 5: Traditional Devotions

An On-Line Retreat prepared by Women at the Well Ministry, St. Paul, Minnesota
Eleanor Lincoln, CSJ and Catherine Litecky, CSJ

Hail, favored one!The Lord is with you.” Luke 1:28“ Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.

Luke 1:42
Walnut Canyon in Arizona [photo by Eleanor Lincoln]

Like this lush canyon in the midst of a desert, devotional prayer can be a place of refreshment in your busy day.  For a moment rest your eyes on this picture and quiet yourself.

How can you be refreshed as you pray?  Perhaps you would like to find new ways of looking at time-honored traditional forms of prayer.  The rosary and the way of the cross are ways of praying based on scripture.  These devotions have been prayed by Christians for centuries, and today they have found new popularity among some young people.

The Rosary

You may have seen pictures of Buddhists and Muslims praying with strings of beads in their hands, each bead representing a prayer.  Your beads are probably the rosary made up a series of beads on which you can say set prayers while meditating on the mysteries of the incarnation, redemption, and glorification of Jesus.

If you are familiar with the rosary you know that these prayers are the “Hail, Mary” recited ten times in each decade, with the “Our Father” at the beginning and the “Glory be to the Father” at the conclusion of the decade.  Each set of five decades focuses on one of the joyful, sorrowful, or glorious mysteries of Jesus’ life.

In the Middle Ages the rosary substituted for the praying of the 150 Psalms in the Bible for those who could not read.  As people fingered the beads of the rosary, they meditated.  The rosary remains a traditional devotion whose prayerful, contemplative recitation has brought spiritual nourishment to many.

If praying the rosary is familiar to you, try now to meditate on a mystery of the life of Jesus and Mary which has special meaning for you.  As you pray, feeling your beads, let your mind be aware of your meditative prayer.

If you are not familiar with praying the rosary, choose to reflect on an event in the life of Jesus.  While doing so say one “Our Father” and recite the “Hail, Mary”  ten times, followed by a “Glory be to the Father.”  If you know someone who is devoted to the rosary you might talk to that person about why s/he is attracted to this way of praying. You might even want to ask a young person because the rosary is now considered “cool” by some.

The Stations Cross

Both the rosary and the stations of the cross focus on the humanity of Jesus in his earthly life.  Walking with Jesus on the way of the cross is a way of identifying with him.

You may have attended the stations of the cross during Lent, following in spirit the path Jesus took as he went to his death. Walking this path symbolizes making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  Praying these stations allow us to be united with Jesus as he walked from judgment to death and burial.  The scenes come from scriptural accounts of the passion and death of Jesus.

You may be familiar with the fourteen stations to be found in most Catholic churches. These artistic representations of the journey may be simple engraved markers on the floor or symbols or statuary on the walls.  Have you seen any of the contemporary churches which have added a fifteenth station to include the resurrection of Jesus?

While you are making this Retreat you may want to make a personal “pilgrimage” by stopping at a church to make your own way of the cross.

When Lent comes, watch for notices of contemporary ways of practicing this devotion.  Some ecumenical groups perform dramatic versions of the way of the cross or take an outdoor walk to places perpetrating injustices in order to pray for justice in the spirit of Jesus.

You have now reached the end of this online Retreat. You may want to review the ways you can deepen your prayer life.  Then make a resolution to choose one a way of praying that will help you to “pray always.”

Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

Romans 12:12