When I get to heaven – as I trust I shall – something very embarrassing is bound to happen. As sure as shooting; somebody who has known me rather too well for comfort on this earth is going to come up to me and say, in a loud voice enough for everybody to hear, “How in the world did you get in here?”
I am not going to answer in words. I am simply going to pull a rosary out of my pocket and dangle it in front of my questioner. That will be my reply; and it will be perfectly true. It will also be true for my family, which I have every reason to hope will be there with me. We will all pull our rosaries out of our pockets and wave them.
I think that we will wave them for all eternity; or at least wear them around our necks for everybody to see. It will save a lot of explaining, and it will give credit where credit is due.
I am not humble enough for public confession of my sins: besides, it would be scandalous; and the readers would be writing to the editor denouncing him for printing such shocking stuff.
I will simply say this: there is a period of my life that I want to forget; and I would still be in it if it weren’t for the rosary.
The rosary is the rope by which I climbed hand over hand out of the pit into which I had fallen.
I started climbing out after I discovered one basic rule for any kind of success in life. The way to get something done is to do it. I will never forget how that realization suddenly popped into my head and transformed me.
Ever since then, I have been getting things done, simply by doing them. And the thing that taught me that lesson was the rosary. I do not remember how or why or when I started saying the rosary daily. But I do remember that doing it was the hardest thing I ever did in my life.
When people say to me now that they just can’t seem to get at it, I chuckle. They’re telling me! They complain about the irregularity of their lives, about visitors dropping in, and whatnot. And I chuckle again.
When I started saying the daily rosary, I was a reporter for a Hearst newspaper in the big city. It was not in the least unusual for me to be out on a story half the night, or three-quarters of the night, or all night.
At any moment during the day, the city editor might answer the telephone, look across the desk at me, and order me to high-ball by automobile, or train or other conveyance to some city or town or crossroads 100, 500, 1000 miles distant.
At any hour of the night, I might be awakened by the telephone and told to dash into the office, or dash somewhere else. As for social and other affairs, I had more than my share of them. But I had discovered that the way to get something done is to do it. I had learned that the way to get the rosary said is to say it. And I said it – and I don’t think anybody ever said it harder.
Meditation? It came as naturally to me as eating glass or swallowing swords. Praying? It was hard, sweaty, ditch-digging heavy labor for me. I was going it alone then; and the going was all uphill. It was all mountain climbing.
More than once, I awoke in the wee hours of the night, still on my knees, with the upper half of my body sprawled over the bed, and the rosary still clutched in my fingers at the second or third decade.
But the way to get something done was to do it; and I wouldn’t allow myself to crawl into bed until the rosary was finished.
I tell all this only in order that the reader may know that I am not one to whom prayer came easily. You say that it is hard for you; I answer that it was hard for me.
Then suddenly, somewhere along the line, I met Father Patrick Peyton, and discovered an additional rule for success. I discovered that whereas it was exceedingly difficult for me to say the rosary alone, it was as easy as rolling off a log to say it with my family.
We were one of the early families in Father Peyton’s Family Rosary Crusade; and what he gave to us when he talked us into it, we wouldn’t trade today for all the Fords and Lincolns in Henry Fords factory for the next thousand years.
I state a simple fact; and you needn’t take it just from me. Ask my wife. Ask the children. Ask the neighbors. Ask our visitors. They’ll all tell you the same thing: that ever since we started the daily family Rosary, and kept it up, our house has been one of the happiest and healthiest homes in the world.
To use a popular jive expression, the place simply jumps with joy. And there were times when it didn’t. There were a great many times when it didn’t. There was a time when the doctor told us we might as well make up our minds to sell our home for whatever we could get and go to Florida, with or without a job, if we didn’t want to see our children dying one by one before our eyes.
He said they simply couldn’t stand the climate in which we were living; and they’d be better off living on bananas under a tree in the south than suffering what they were suffering in the north.
The rosary changed all that; and today our youngsters, everyone of them, can whip their weight in wildcats; and would do it at the drop of a hat if there were any Wildcats in sight.
But that is the least of the blessings that have come to us from the family Rosary. I remember vividly my first conversation with Father Peyton, long before he became world famous as the originator of the family hour on the radio, in which the greatest stars of Broadway and Hollywood donate their talents to popularize the slogan, “The family that prays together, stays together.”
Father Peyton, knitting his brows in the way he has, and speaking in that wonderful Irish brogue which I won’t try to reproduce, told me that, when he was first ordained, he planned to start a crusade for daily mass, communion and the rosary.
The longer he prayed and puzzled over it, the more he became convinced that if he asked for everything at first, he’d get nothing; whereas if he could get people to say the rosary, the rosary would lead them to the other things.
Today I can testify that, in our case at least, he was perfectly right. We have learned that the rosary, if you will just say it, takes care of the full spiritual development of the family.
I recall that, when we started it, the children got very tired and restless while kneeling, especially at bedtime. Soon my wife, with the wisdom that God gives to mothers, told youngsters to sit for the rosary.
Today, the two who are in grade school go to mass and communion daily, carrying their breakfast with him, or buying donuts and milk in the school basement. The rosary drew them naturally and inevitably to mass.
My wife and I often tell friends that someday we are going to write a book entitled “how to rear children.” It Is going to have 300 pages, and every page will have three words – and three words only – printed on it. “Let them alone.”
But of course there will have to be a preface: “Teach them to pray… And then let them alone.”
In spiritual as in all other affairs, we have learned that children need very little preaching to. They ought not to be analyzed and psychoanalyzed and cross-examined and made to toe Chalk Lines.
What they need is prayer and good example – and the rest takes care of itself. I would say this – that by far the easiest and least troublesome way of rearing a family of which you can be proud is to institute the family rosary in your home, and keep it up.
It eliminates almost entirely the need for discipline, because it creates such harmony and such family love that the children discipline themselves. It knits the family together with bonds 10,000 times stronger than any that can be forged by merely natural means.
I think that I’ve heard all the objections to the family rosary. Fully half the fathers and mothers who have talked with me about it have shrugged their shoulders helplessly and said that there simply doesn’t seem to be any time of the day when all the members of the family can be brought together in prayer.
The answer to that, of course, is exceedingly simple. If you can’t get all the members of the family together, say the rosary with the members who are present.
Sooner or later, something will happen to make it possible for the others to join in.
The rosary is like that. Give it a chance, and it’ll take care of the problems. The Mother of God can have whatever she wants from her divine Son; and one of the things she wants is Rosary Families.
Mothers have said to me that the smaller members of the family won’t behave during the rosary. What of it? The smaller members of our family won’t behave either.
Between them, our two-year-old Jimmy and eight month old Regina put on something resembling a three ring circus while we are saying the rosary. We don’t interfere. It’s our business to say to say the rosary; it’s theirs to have a circus. God made them that way; and if He doesn’t mind, why should we? We pray above and between their shouts and gurgles, and it works out very well.
I have also heard people say that the antics of the smaller children interfere with their meditations. They interfered with mine, too, until I learned to include the youngsters in the meditation.
Now, while saying the Joyful Mysteries, I look at Regina, cooing and bouncing in her crib, and I think, “Why, Christ was just like that once! He cooed and gurgled too, and waved his arms, and kicked his legs, and rolled over on his stomach, then worked like a Trojan to get turned to his back again.”
Or if the baby is sitting on her mother’s lap, I look at them and realize that the Christ child sat in Mary’s lap too, and clutched at her garments, and tried to pull Himself upright, and swung His hands at her face, and laughed when she smiled at Him.
I think of the fact that He, too, had to be fed; that although He held the universe in the palm of His hand and kept the planets on their courses. He depended on his mother for everything.
Perhaps we are saying the Sorrowful Mysteries. If so, sometimes I look at Jimmy and think how I would feel if he were crucified in front of my eyes. Then I know something about what Mary felt.
I know something, too, about the infinite love of God which caused Him to send His only Son to die for us.
Could I send one of my sons to die in agony for someone who had insulted me? I think of that; and then I am better able to thank God for the redemption.
If we are saying the Glorious Mysteries, I consider often what a moment it will be when all the family rises from the grave and is reunited, nevermore to be parted; when we are all together to stay together, in perfect happiness, forever.
If the happy family is a thing of rollicking joy – and it is – then what must a perfectly happy family in heaven be like! It is very well worth looking forward to. It is very well worth the trouble of saying the daily rosary.
Ten or fifteen minutes a day is what it takes; and eternity is what it purchases. I wasn’t born yesterday; and I’m not passing up a bargain like that.
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