April 28, 2009

Defensive Devotion

We have common rosary twice a week in our parish, and almost every night in May and October. For the folks who are devoted in this way, the rosary is an active devotion. For me it's different. Over the years the rosary has become for a defensive devotion.

I'll explain what I mean. It started before I was in religious life when I worked as a direct caregiver in a group home for physically and mentally disabled adults. The shifts were typically ten or twelve hours, and there were no naturally occurring breaks. So, in order to get much needed breaks, everybody smoked. Having to have a cigarette provided a means to get out of the house and take a breather--so to speak--away from the chaos.

So I joined in for a while, but eventually I didn't want to smoke anymore. It wasn't too hard for me to let go of the smoking, but I still needed an excuse to take a break from work. I was talking to my spiritual director about it and he asked me how many of these smoking breaks occurred during a shift. When I responded that there were about five or so, he suggested that instead of smoking, I pray a decade of the rosary. His advice worked well, and I began to pray the rosary in five or six parts over the course of the ten hour shift.

This is what I mean by defensive devotion: the use of a devotional spiritual practice to avoid doing something else which we don't really want to do. I've kept up the general idea of this practice over the years. Nowadays I pray my rosary little by little when I am going from here to there in the course of daily work. There's a lot of little walks that you make during the day as a parish priest, such as the sacristy, the funeral home, and the bank. Often I use this time to do my proximate preparation for preaching, deciding exactly how I intend to deliver what I want to say, but if it happens that negative, anxious, or unhelpful thoughts enter my mind, or temptations to sin arise during the relative mental idleness of these travels, that's when I reach for wherever I left off in my rosary.

Call it a weapon in the spiritual combat, if you will. For me, I like to call it defensive devotion.


GrandmaK said...

Though the rosary has been part of my prayer life and integral for me as a way of staying focused in prayer, I carry my chaplet in my scrubs pocket to work each day. Yes, I guess it is for me, too, a defensive devotion. I will squeeze it an pray, often before making a phone call. Thank you!!! This was great! Cathy

4narnia said...

thanks for sharing how you pray the rosary as a "defensive devotion", Fr. C. it's very similar for me, since for some reason, i have difficulty praying the rosary all at once. but, as you mention, there are many opportunities throughout the day where we could avoid things that probably are not good for our soul, snyway. we can use opportunities such as when we're walking places, as you mention; or if we're stuck in traffic; or standing on a long line somewhere- it really does work and can give us peace and a sense of calmness in a situation that might otherwise not be. so, "defending ourselves" in this way is a great suggestion, Fr. C! (glad to hear you gave up the smoking-the rosary is much better for our health!) see you soon! PEACE! ~tara t~

Paul A. Zalonski said...

A friend reminds me that the rosary decapitates sin. And I believe he's correct. Many graces have resulted in fidelity to this prayer. I don't get to the rosary daily, but I try. Another defensive devotion is the praying of the Angelus, something that Communion & Liberation promotes.

Brother Charles said...

Thanks for the comment, Paul. Where I live the Angelus rings twice a day.

When St. Francis came back from the Holy Land, he had been very impressed by the Muslim public calls to prayer, and wrote a letter to "the rulers" recommending such a practice for Christians.

Paul A. Zalonski said...

2x a day for the Angelus? Why not the traditional 3x. St Mary's New Haven has the Angelus bells rung at 8, 12, 6 daily. We do it here in Newtown but the bells around real, merely a recording...but a good practice.

Do you have the text from Holy Father Saint Francis recommending this practice?

Brother Charles said...