Book Review: “Living the Rosary”

Living the Rosary: Finding Your Life in the Mysteries

by John Phalen, CSC
Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2011

Fr. John Phalen is a member of the Congregation of the Holy Cross which is committed to promoting the Rosary. In “Living the Rosary: Finding Your Life in the Mysteries,” Phalen seeks to connect meditation on the twenty mysteries of the Rosary with experiences in our own life. “In following the life of Christ in the mysteries of the Rosary, we find the rhythm God intends for our own lives.”

For those unfamiliar with the Rosary, there are four sets of mysteries: The Joyful, The Luminous, the Sorrowful, and the Glorious. The Joyful Mysteries are The Annunciation, The Visitation, The Birth of Jesus, The Presentation in the Temple, and The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple. The Luminous Mysteries are The Baptism of Jesus, The Wedding Feast at Cana, The Proclamation of the Kingdom, The Transfiguration, and The Institution of the Eucharist. The Sorrowful Mysteries include The Agony in the Garden, The Scourging at the Pillar, The Crowning with Thorns, The Carrying of the Cross, and The Crucifixion. Lastly, the Glorious Mysteries rejoice with The Resurrection, The Ascension into Heaven, The Descent of the Holy Spirit, The Assumption of Mary into Heaven, and the Crowning of Mary as Queen of Heaven. Phalen does offer an appendix with instructions on how to say the Rosary.

Phalen emphasizes that the Rosary is a very scriptural prayer, with both the prayers themselves and the mysteries rooted in scripture. He opens the meditation on each mystery with the relevant scripture passages. He then offers a more personal reflection, frequently integrating anecdotes and lessons learned through his own priestly ministry. From there he generalizes to experiences we all may have had at some time in our lives. Questions, appropriate for either personal reflection or group discussion, close out each chapter.

His reflections offer a new perspective on the mysteries of the Rosary and their continued significance. While much can be gained simply by meditating on Jesus’ life as revealed in Scripture, connecting it to modern-day experiences may help some feel more connected to the events of so long ago.

For example, we are unlikely to ever experience being scourged with a whip, yet many have experienced the pain of bullying or abuse. An angel might not appear to us, but we all have annunciation moments that call us to a new way of life or new circumstances. People rarely literally come back from the dead, but there are all sorts of resurrections into a new life – those who have recovered from an addiction, survived cancer, or been released from prison all experience a resurrection. Like Jesus in the garden, we have all had the experience of begging God to take away a particularly heavy set of circumstances and asking for the courage to accept them. We have had the pain of carrying our crosses.

The mysteries of the Rosary are intimately connected to our lives, in ways we may never have previously considered. “Living the Rosary” will invite you into a deeper relationship with this powerful form of prayer.

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