The Rosary, Ceaseless Prayer & Joan
by Mary Martin
As I thought about what to include in this brief reflection, my mind and heart were drawn to two prayer forms and a person.
The first prayer form that sustains me is the rosary. While I have been a practicing Catholic my whole life, I admit that the rosary’s influence in my prayer life comes with some surprise. In my pre-Vatican II childhood, I can remember my parents gathering us to pray the rosary. Both my parents maintained praying the rosary as a stable element in their daily spiritual practice. Upon their deaths, both my father’s and my mother’s rosaries were given to me. When I retired five years ago, I began attending weekday Mass at my parish, St. Albert the Great, in south Minneapolis, which is located just a few blocks from where the riots took place after the murder of George Floyd. Weekday Mass is celebrated at 8:15 a.m., with a group recitation of the rosary beginning at 8:00a. A small group of between five and eight people come early for the rosary. While the celebration of the Eucharist has sustained me throughout my life, there was a hiatus of many decades before the gift of the rosary came back to me. Now this humble, sweet prayer practice has highlighted for me the solace and strength that comes through the intercession of Mary and the contemplation of the mysteries of our faith that are woven into the rosary. Daily I alternate using my mother’s and my father’s rosaries. As a spiritual director, it is my practice to silently remember, by name, current and past directees. I remember different groups of directees on different days of the week as we begin the rosary.
The second prayer form that has come to me more recently is learning the practice of ceaseless prayer. I read the book The Prayer of the Heart by George A. Maloney S.J. (1981) a number of years ago, but it wasn’t until I attended the School of Lectio Divina and the School of Discernment at the Benedictine Center that a hunger to study the teachings of the Desert Mothers and Fathers took root. This hunger only deepened while participating in the St. Enda 100 Day Retreat that was given by Sr. Meg Funk O.S.B. and St. John University School of Theology Professor, Kathleen Cahalan, earlier this year. A friend, who also shares an interest in ceaseless prayer, gave me a copy of a book entitled A Manual of Theosis: Orthodox Christian Instruction on the Theory and Practice of Stillness, Watchfulness, and Ceaseless Prayer by Joshua Schooping (2020). This slim book has provided a key to understanding the theory undergirding this prayer practice and practical steps for integrating it into my life.
Finally, the person I want to name is Sr. Joan Tuberty, a member to the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, who died on July 26, 2021. Joan was a dear friend, mentor, and my spiritual director for 25 years. In these days since her death both her continuing presence and now her absence have been ever present in my heart. Words are poor vehicles to express the deep gratitude I feel for having the privilege of receiving her wisdom and support through these many years. It was Joan who taught me Centering Prayer early in our time together, which has remained a regular practice. Through her I was also led to the writings of Beatrice Bruteau and Cynthia Bourgeault, both of whom have influenced me deeply. But it is Joan, herself, her great depth of spirit, her quick Irish wit, her simplicity, her unbounded compassion for all people, and her love of creation that will be a lasting legacy in my life. And now as I set my foot upon the path of discernment to find a new spiritual director, I feel her gentle presence with me saying, “Trust, Mary, continue to trust.” And so I do.