Prayers, and mysteries, and intentions, oh my!
The rosary is a devotion in which we pray a set of prayers (primarily the Hail Mary, Our Father, and Glory Be) while we meditate on the life of Christ through a set of mysteries (the Glorious, Joyful, Sorrowful, and Luminous Mysteries). It is also common to offer up a rosary for a special intention, such as the health of a loved one, or for growth in a particular virtue.
But how do we pay attention to all these things at once? Does praying the rosary require mental multitasking? A listener named John recently called in to The Patrick Madrid Show and asked how he was supposed to meditate on the mysteries of the rosary while offering up an intention. How do we do both at the same time? Patrick responded:
“The intention doesn’t have to be foremost in your mind every second of the prayer. In other words, as you’re meditating on, let’s say, the Sorrowful Mysteries, you’re thinking about Jesus being scourged at the pillar, for example. Ideally you’re meditating on that part of the life of Jesus, and what that means for you, and what He did for you. And your intention doesn’t have to be competing with that meditation and be foremost in your mind.
What’s necessary is that you have that intention at the outset, or even perhaps in the middle of the rosary, or you could conclude the rosary with your intention. When it actually happens is not crucial, but the fact that you have that intention.
Theologians will refer to what is called an ‘actual intention’ or a ‘virtual intention.’ A virtual intention means, under these kinds of circumstances of praying the rosary or going to Mass, that you are always, reflexively asking the Lord to grant the intentions. That is virtual in the sense that it is always present, even if you are not consciously thinking of it at that moment. It’s understood, in other words, that you have this intention.
The priest, to use another example, when he celebrates Mass must intend to do what the Church does, he must intend to confect the bread and the wine into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus. Now, he may not have that thought present in his mind at any given moment, but as long as he has the virtual intention of always celebrating Mass to do this, that is sufficient.
Without belaboring the point, that would be the same thing when you pray the rosary. God knows what the intentions are in your heart. And if you just simply say, ‘Lord, I offer this rosary for x, y, and z’ and then you’re doing your best to meditate on these biblical incidents in the life of Jesus, that’s more than sufficient in terms of what you would need to do.”
Listen to Patrick’s response below:
The Patrick Madrid Show airs weekdays from 6:00 – 9:00 a.m. Pacific.