For several months, my family has been in conflict. There is anger, betrayal, greed, fear, lies, accusations, scandal — if you picture Game of Thrones taking place in the present-day Midwest, you’ll have a pretty good idea.
I am sleeping with my rosary again.
People say that when you become a parent, you will “default” to the way your parents raised you in times of stress, no matter how intentionally you planned to be different. I feel like in times of stress, I “default” to the religious practices of my childhood. The rosary has long been my companion for staving off intense bouts of anxiety, the one thing I’ve felt I can do when everything else is beyond my power, but I’ve never been in crisis this long before, and so I don’t think I’ve ever said so many consecutive rosaries in my life.
Usually, I say the rosary as a way to pray when my mind is too muddled for much coherence, or when I’m not quite sure what I should be praying for. I rattle through the rote prayers while contemplating the situation. But all these rosaries has me noticing the words of the prayers more than ever, and I’m not sure you can keep saying something without having it change you.
“Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell.”
This line strikes me anew because I’m not really sure I buy into the whole hell-as-eternal-punishment idea, so I ask myself if I should be praying such a thing. But then the last line captures what I’m really asking:
“Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy.”
I am acutely aware as I say these words that I am asking God to grant even those who are hurting me most entrance into heaven; that I am not asking for justice, but for mercy–and to keep praying this prayer, I need to be okay with that. There is still so much anger, but as the weeks go by, compassion sometimes cracks through the surface.
“Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”
Because we are all sinners to allow ourselves to become so embroiled in conflict with the people who are meant to be our first teachers, our first examples of love and goodness.
“Deliver us Lord, from every evil, and protect us from all anxiety.”
Protect us from all anxiety. Because this is ultimately why I find myself attached to my rosary at times like this. Because my anxiety is sky-high, because I can imagine the worst (which, in this case, is pretty bad), and because there’s only so much I can do on my own to meet those fears head on. I spend most of my time feeling ineffectual in this whole mess, but the rosary remains something I can do.
And there are many days when I find that the sharp edge of anger and grief have dulled. Perhaps it is the luxury of distance — most of my family lives a few hours away from me — perhaps it is weariness, or perhaps the prayers really are changing my heart. I can only hope I’m not the only one.