Servant of God Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., “The Rosary Priest,” who promoted the praying of the family Rosary throughout the world, must be delighted from his place in heaven to see what good hands his organization is in under the leadership of Holy Cross Father John Phalen, the author of this delightful and inspiring little book about The Rosary.
Father Phalen is the president of Holy Cross Family Ministries, which has the mission of continuing Father Peyton’s work to serve the spiritual life of families, especially by promoting the Rosary. This new book will bring the Rosary to life for anyone who takes it up in one hand and takes up their rosary beads in the other.
Father Phalen examines each of the Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious and Luminous Mysteries of the Life of Jesus and Mary and weaves them with clear and simple scriptural explanations. Building on these commentaries he then illustrates the various mysteries with deeply moving, insightful, inspiring and touching real life examples drawn from his life and from the lives of the people he loves: family, friends, fellow religious and the various people he has met and ministered to in many decades of priestly ministry.
The book is divided into four chapters with five sub-chapters that delve into the specific Rosary mysteries. Father Phalen first provides ample scriptural passages upon which each of the mysteries is based and then moves into his biblical commentary, which is very well-written, clear and concise, and then the various stories he wants to tell. He then concludes each chapter with reflection questions to prompt the reader to bring the mystery to life in his or her own praying of the Rosary. They are often quite challenging, such as when he poses the question. “In what ways have you ever inflicted a crown of thorns on others: the president of a group, your pastor, your teacher, your boss, your mentor?”
Father Phalen has a deep love and familiarity with Jesus and Mary, wrought from his many years of praying the daily Rosary, and these close relationships shine through every page of this book. For example, in the introduction he reflects, “I like to think of Mary praying the Rosary with us, as if she were relating the events in the life of her Son using a photo album. She slowly turns the pages and exclaims, “I remember this distinctly: this is where my Son was beaten mercilessly. How it broke my heart! See how he suffered for us!”
The heart of the book are the stories and vignettes that connect the various mysteries and their spiritual significance with the stuff of real life. Father Phalen uses examples from his life to get the reader to ponder how the Lord has revealed Himself to them in the various annunciations,” “agonies,” “transfigurations” and “resurrections” in their day-to-day living. He is most poignant when writing about his parents, to whom the book is dedicated, and about his many brothers and sisters who grew up with him praying the Rosary. The importance of family is woven throughout the book — the nuclear family and the family of Church are presented in stories in a truly loving and caring manner.
His stories range from life in the hard streets of New York City to Peru, to Bangladesh and then back to his home turf of Connecticut and the warm confines of South Bend, Ind. Various parishes, prisons, airports and planes also provide material for his stories. It is hard to hold back the tears as he recounts the death bed scene of his beloved father who was surrounded by singing family members offering their father back to the Lord. The story answers a question he poses to the reader: “Do you recall a time when you were at prayer, and you just knew that God was with you?”
Though the book includes an introduction and an appendix that cover the history of the Rosary, and information on how to pray it, it is more of a book of inspiration than a “how to” manual. Those who have long prayed the Rosary and need some fresh inspiration will benefit most from the book. Homilists too can learn a great deal about how to weave real life stories with the stories of the Gospels for their Sunday sermons. Father Phalen does this in a most exemplary way that really respects the Scriptures as well as the experience of the persons in the stories he tells without forcing or making false connections.
The book concludes with a catalog of the various prayers used in the Rosary. For beginners to the Rosary it might have been helpful to show a picture of a rosary and where the various prayers and beads go together. Also, since the Rosary is so often prayed in groups, it would be nice to have some suggestions on how the book could be used by communities of Christians who turn to Mary in their Rosary groups.
Father Phalen’s deep love and reliance on the Rosary is a hallmark of the book and he seems to have a burning desire that all people experience the great graces that he has received through praying with it. He writes, “If a great cathedral is a catechism in glass and stone, then the Rosary is a catechism of the imagination.” The book will enliven readers’ imaginations and their relationships with Jesus and His Blessed Mother in the community of the Church.
Register correspondent Father Matthew Gamber writes from Chicago.
LIVING THE ROSARY
Finding Your Life in the Mysteries
by Father John Phalen, C.S.C.
Ave Maria Press, 2011
148 pages, $12.95
To order: AveMariaPress.com