“Ask a Priest: How Can I Focus Better When Praying the Rosary?”

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Q: I pray the rosary every day before Mass. I find I don’t concentrate very well and was wondering if you have any ideas that might help me to pray more devoutly. We’re asked to meditate on the mysteries and pray on each bead. I try, but my mind wanders in the space between the two and I have to make a conscious effort to remain on track which doesn’t always happen and I’m thinking about some mundane thing I have to accomplish. Thank you for any suggestions. – J.L.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Thanks for your note. It might help to have a visual image in front of you; for instance, images in a prayer book that depict each mystery.

It might also help to focus on particular parts of the rosary with a separate style. Pope St. Paul VI, in his apostolic exhortation Marialis Cultus, recommended:

“These are the elements of the Rosary. Each has its own particular character which, wisely understood and appreciated, should be reflected in the recitation in order that the Rosary may express all its richness and variety. Thus the recitation will be grave and suppliant during the Lord’s Prayer, lyrical and full of praise during the tranquil succession of Hail Mary’s, contemplative in the recollected meditation on the mysteries and full of adoration during the doxology” (No. 50).

Beyond that, a few things are helpful to mention.

One, the devil likes to get us distracted at the very moment we go to prayer. So it might be good to say a little prayer at the start of the rosary, asking the Blessed Virgin to help you stay recollected. Even when you find yourself getting distracted, remember that Mary is not distracted; she is with you and loving you as you do your best.

Second, don’t wrestle with the distractions. It’s like wrestling with fly paper — you just get more stuck to the distractions. Rather, when you become aware of a distraction, simply and calmly refocus on the mystery at hand.

Third, most of us struggle with distractions in the rosary. So don’t get discouraged. Your rosaries and daily Masses can be meriting lots of graces for the souls who need them most.

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