HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – July 8, 2018 – 12:00am
I have always been more spiritual than religious. I always felt that most religions place too much weight on dogma, rituals and rites. I am not against rites, rituals and practices as long as they “work,” in the sense that they make you inspired and drawn to the great mysteries that they are suppose to connote. The problem for me is many of them do not take me there. I intellectually understand what they are suppose to do, but they do not inspire me.
As far back as I can remember in my childhood, our family always prayed the rosary. I remember kneeling in our sala with my sibs as my mom led the rosary while facing a statue of Jesus who sits on a throne. Our household help would join us. We would also participate in the Block Rosary ritual where a statue of Mary is passed around the neighborhood and each family leads a communal rosary with a long novena for a few nights.
I also associate the rosary with riding our car. Often, when our family would be riding, my mom would suddenly start praying the rosary. And that was a spoiler since, all of a sudden, a pall of seriousness would come in and change the mood in the car. To counter that, my siblings and I would start singing a few minutes after we got inside the car so that my mom would forget to start praying the rosary. She loved listening to her kids sing.
In grade school and high school, it was the same. We prayed the rosary in school all the time. We were expected to carry one in our pockets. During the month of October, we wore the October medal with blue ribbons in honor of Mother Mary.
The rosary baffled me. I would always ask myself why we had to repeat the “Hail Mary” 53 times, and the “Our Father” six times. And I could never remember the “Hail Holy Queen” prayer, and the “Pour forth we beseech thee oh Lord thy grace…” prayer to end it. For a young man, all this was repetitive, and boring.
Lately, my wife has picked up a new hobby. She has started to make rosaries to give away to anyone who wants them. She spends hours and even days stringing up beads making rosaries. She finds it not only therapeutic but it also gives her a feeling of peace. She feels that it helps the Catholic cause by giving them away.
A few years back, while rummaging through some old stuff, Lydia found my dad’s rosary. My dad died in 1957. He prayed the rosary every day. I don’t know how long he had that particular rosary before he passed on. I remember praying with that rosary a few times. I imagined how many miles my dad’s fingers had traveled through it. I was moved.I felt my dad’s presence. I could feel the holiness and sacredness that this surviving family relic possessed.
When I was going through my decades of cynicism about religion and the Church, I turned to meditation. That became an integral part of my spiritual practice. I got used to silence and watching my thoughts come and go without being attached to them.
Since the new pope came in, I’ve softened my stance somewhat about religion. I started attending Mass again though still not regularly. I again picked up the rosary and started doing formal prayers just like I did when I was a kid. I don’t know why. Perhaps it was this pope’s openness and his liberating views that made me reconsider a few things.
In the late evenings, I like to pray the rosary in the dark. I often fall asleep without finishing it. But it calms me down. Its repetitiveness makes it feel like a mantra. I try to focus on every word. When I say, “Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners…,” I add the names of people I know who need prayers. It makes it more meaningful.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not a devotee. Far from it. I don’t do it as a regular practice yet. But I have discovered its power to stabilize me and calm me down. I try to think of all the times the rosary had been prayed over the centuries, and I am awed into humility. There is a power to it.
I remember a classmate of mine saying that after spending most of his life asking big and small questions about life, love and the nature of God, he still ends up going back to his basic catechism and finds the answers there.
I haven’t found all the answers. And I know the answers that I have found so far may not even be the same as those my classmate found. But as an older person now, I am more patient and I can concentrate more when I pray.
I keep a rosary beside my bed and pick it up quite often now. It is there on the table beside my cellphones. My mother would be so proud.
While my modern gadgets connect me to the world, the rosary, I have rediscovered, is still a reliable gadget that can connect me to deep solitude and God.