Reason #2: to practice contemplative prayer
In case you hadn't heard, many sociological and medical experts are saying there is an unknown epidemic going on right now. It's called the Anxiety Epidemic, and it's being talked about in many well known and respected scientific and psychological journals. A recent study conducted by the APA (American Psychiatry Association) showed that close to 70% of respondents said they felt extremely anxious in 3 areas - health, safety (especially towards their families) and finances.
But it's not only adults who are feeling increasingly anxious. Teenagers and even preteens are now being diagnosed with extreme anxiety. Panic attacks in preteens, as well as rising diagnoses of clinical depression and suicidal thoughts are becoming more and more common even in Middle School.
So far, only one remedy has surfaced - the practice of meditation, or as Catholics call it, contemplative prayer. Not surprisingly, contemplative prayer has long been one of the hallmarks of Dominican spirituality, the order that is most connected to the rosary. In fact, it is said that St. Dominic, the founder of the Dominicans, received the rosary from Our Lady herself as a gift. Whether this gift-giving took place in a vision or in an unseen inspiration drawn out over time, is unimportant. The rosary truly is a great gift, and it offers the beginning level of learning contemplative prayer.
What is contemplative prayer? The Catechism answers this by quoting the great St. Teresa of Avila, who wrote: ‘contemplative prayer is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.’ Contemplative prayer seeks him ‘whom my soul loves.’ It is Jesus, and in him, the Father. We seek him, because to desire him is always the beginning of love, and we seek him in that pure faith which causes us to be born of him and to live in him.” CCC 2709
Let's reread a couple of those lines again. Contemplative prayer is a "close sharing between friends." So much of our sharing between friends takes place on social media platforms today. Although there is a place for that high-tech connectivity, it certainly doesn't take the place of quiet time together, face to face, heart to heart, with those we love and who love us.
What about this line? Contemplative prayer is "taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us." What a beautiful, hope giving thought! It's no wonder that contemplative prayer offers such an antidote to anxiety, depression and fear. Spending time with the one who made us, knows us and deeply loves us can only be life-giving. Even though the circumstances of our lives may not instantly change, nevertheless, WE are changed, even if only a tiny bit. We find we have a little more peace, a little more patience. We find that we can get through one more day. Even more than that, we feel listened to. We are heard by one who loves us AND can also help us!
Praying the rosary is one of the greatest gifts we can give to our children, and to each other. We can teach others how to pray it, as well as pray it for others. It's well worth rediscovering, so that we can experience contemplative prayer.
Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. "I look at him and he looks at me."
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