Sherry Antonetti is a freelance writer, blogger and published author of The Book of Helen. She lives just outside of Washington, DC with her husband and their ten children.
In reading about spiritual weariness, (and we all experience it at some point, whether we examine it or allow ourselves to drift into it), one of the best ways to fight it is deliberate gratitude. Counting one’s blessings and saying “Thank you” to God for each of them helps remind me that all that is, is a gift. When we cease to be grateful, it becomes harder to pray. When we cease to pray, we also struggle with being grateful for all we receive. I’d fallen out of allowing myself the discipline of the daily Rosary. It began with saying only some of it. It fell to a decade, and then, to not remembering at all. Like a person not returning to the gym, I grew slack. I’d forgotten to be salt.
One of the most frightening passages in the Bible is when Jesus warns of salt losing its flavor and being good for nothing but being trampled underfoot. The idea of losing one’s flavor, of no longer being on fire for Christ, owing to the sin of sloth, frightens me more than anything else, as one of my defining characteristics is enthusiasm. However, it is when we grow weary of ourselves in our relationship with God, that we must either plunge deeper, recognizing this dullness as a gift, or we will gradually become less salty. In Pope Francis’ First Angelus, he said, “The Lord never gets tired of forgiving us. It is we, who get tired of asking.” I’d grown weary. I’d stopped asking.
God doesn’t let me drift without helpful reminders. He places people in my path, people who need prayers, people I love, people who need. One of the greatest gifts of social media, is the ability to be part of people’s lives far away from them, and to walk with them in their trials. The presence of those others, who ask for prayers even without asking, is like looking at a living Rosary. This woman’s daughter is in the hospital. “Hail Mary, full of grace…” That man’s sick at home. “Hail Mary, full of grace…” My son is preparing for confirmation….”Hail Mary, full of grace…” My husband is traveling…”Hail Mary, full of grace…” I felt the both the weight of all who needed prayers and all the gifts for which I should be thankful, and the joy of this abundance of gifts, of people, of experiences, of life itself.
Each prayer brought with it, a reminder, of how I could pour in more to the relationship I held with each person for whom I prayed. It was like God pouring salt into me to share. One decade down, and I already felt brimming, bursting. However feelings are fleeting and love is an action. I still had four decades remaining.
Like the second mile of a workout, the second decade took less struggle. At the middle, I recalled how at the gym, I always find it easier to keep at it when I see others doing the same. I asked the saints to pray the Rosary with me. I named them. I also named people I loved who died, and recalled their voices saying the prayers along with me. The decade brought the gift of joyful tears as we “powered through.”
As if to prevent me from spiritual pride, my struggle returned in the fourth. It felt like a wrestling match. I worried I’d give up. I worried I’d lose. I worried I’d fall asleep. Every Hail Mary felt hard to finish. Imagining placing the prayer on the altar made it easier, but I also felt the hardness of finishing one to get to the next.
Finding myself at the start of the fifth decade, I felt conflicted. I wanted to complete the Rosary, and feared I’d forget this reality, that the purpose of prayer was to offer a gift of love, not give a laundry list of needs and not to get my holiness card stamped. The goal of prayer involved more listening and less talking. I worried I’d finish the Rosary and close up my mind and heart and ears because I’d “finished” the prayer. Asking for my ears and my mind and my heart to be open reminded me of part of the prayer of Saint Patrick. (The part I remember anyway.)
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
So I asked Saint Patrick for some help, and I immediately felt the insight: Prayer never ceases, because all of heaven continually prays for us. It’s just when we pray, like when we enter into the Mass, we participate in Heaven. It didn’t make praying the last decade faster or easier, only more peaceful. As I finished the Rosary, I remembered to say, “Thank you for all the help” and to ask, ”Could you help me again with this tomorrow?” My heart swelled with a chorus of "Yeses."