Well, I had to retire another rosary this week. It happens. Since I pray the rosary every day—sometimes while driving, sometimes in the house before everyone in my crowded house wakes up, sometimes in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep, sometimes in the garden—I like to have one with me at all times. Since I’m both a scholar and a farmer, my pockets are a poor choice for a place to carry a rosary. Rosaries tend toward tangling in pockets anyway, but when in the company of loose change, pens, screws and nuts, and other assorted things, that makes things even worse. Add to that the many times I have to lift heavy objects—logs into the bed of my pickup truck, for example—I have often broken the chains—or even beads!—of rosaries so many times I needed to find a better way. A better way, as it turns out, has been to wear it around my neck. Rosaries still can get broken there, but not as frequently, although, inevitably, repairs need to be made or a replacement is in order.
That’s my recently retired rosary in the picture. If you look closely, you can see where the silver coating has worn away from the beads. It’s not that I have such an intense prayer life; it’s only the usual wear and tear of any tool on the farm (which, by the way, we named Stella Matutina in honor of the Virgin). The crucifix you see is probably the third one that’s hung on this rosary. Its predecessors must lie somewhere in the soil of my farm, or in the barn, maybe in the pasture or woods. But this past week I had to repair the rosary almost daily. Then I lost a bead. So, I found another, a crystal rosary with a pendant of the Virgin instead of a crucifix (I think it belonged to my grandmother) which is now hanging around my neck.
A priest once asked me what my spiritual practice was like. I probably disappointed him. My spiritual practice revolves around saying the rosary and contemplative paying attention. I pay attention, for example, to literature (including scripture), and especially poetry (what I have called, following William Desmond, agapeic reading), as well as to music (we’re all musicians at my house). I also pay attention to the way things grow and to changes in the animals (not to mention people!) who share this farm with me. Farming is a contemplative activity (an oxymoron, I know), at least biodynamic farming is. We do most farm work by hand, only using a rototiller once in a while, though I have a deep affection for my chainsaw. I try to turn as much of what I do in the course of a day into a contemplative activity. It’s called presence. Parousia.
Now, my way of praying the rosary is (big surprise) pretty idiosyncratic. We never said the rosary in my Catholic family when I was growing up —though rosaries were around—and I didn’t know how to pray it until I was in my late twenties. I could never get with the maudlin prayers added to the rosary from the visionaries of Fatima (“O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell…”). Coupled with the children’s version of The Baltimore Catechism, I bet this little number has inflicted untold neuroses on the Catholic soul. Instead, I kind of do my own thing. In place of the Fatima prayer and the Creed (not that I have anything against the Creed), I have, for the last year or so, been offering Valentin Tomberg’s “Our Mother” prayer on the centerpiece and at the end offering the prayer of the Lady of All Nations. I also invoke the Mother, the Daughter, and the Holy Soul (I only hope the Inquisition doesn’t find out). At other times, I’ve prayed the Trisagion on the centerpiece. I have even offered Dante’s beautiful prayer to the Virgin from the Paradiso.
I follow the more-or-less traditional sequence of the Mysteries, praying the Joyful Mysteries on Mondays, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesdays and Fridays, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. I also pray the Luminous Mysteries (the Baptism, the Marriage at Cana, the Preaching of the Gospel and the Feeding of the Five-Thousand, the Transfiguration, the Institution of the Eucharist) on Thursdays. I know a lot of my traddie brothers and sisters dislike the Luminous Mysteries as a Modernist innovation of that heretic John Paul II, but—come on already!— they belong!
I have learned much through this single religious discipline I have chosen (or has chosen me). Primarily, I have learned that a spiritual practice is as simple as living a life in parousaic attention, as messy as that can be. If you will recall (and many don’t), at the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost an important figure was at the center of the cenacle: “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” (Acts 1:14). That’s all it takes. As Christopher Bamford writes in his beautiful essay on the rosary, “I learned it with the force of revelation through the Rosary at the feet and in the presence of Mary Sophia.” 
That’s all it takes.
Tomberg’s Our Mother Prayer
Our Mother, Thou who art in the darkness of the underworld,
May the holiness of Thy name shine anew in our remembering,
May the breath of Thy awakening kingdom warm the hearts of all who wander homeless,
May the resurrection of Thy will renew eternal faith even unto the depths of physical substance.
Receive this day the living memory of Thee from human hearts,
Who implore thee to forgive the sin of forgetting Thee,
And are ready to fight against temptation, which has led Thee to existence in darkness,
That through the Deed of the Son,
The immeasurable pain of the Father be stilled,
By the liberation of all beings from the tragedy of Thy withdrawal.
For Thine is the homeland and the boundless wisdom and the ail-merciful grace, for all and everything in the Circle of All. Amen.
Prayer of the Lady of All Nations
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Father, send now Your Spirit over the earth. Let the Holy Spirit live in the hearts of all nations that they may be preserved from degeneration, disaster and war. May The Lady of All Nations, who once was Mary, be our advocate. Amen.
St. Bernard’s Prayer to the Virgin (Paradiso, Canto XXXIII)
O, Virgin Mother, daughter of thy Son, Humblest and greatest of all creatures; The eternal counsel’s predestined end;
Thou hast brought such glory to human nature That its divine Creator did not scorn To make Himself the creature of His creature. The Love that was in Thy womb enflamed
Sends forth the warmth of the eternal peace Within which this flower has bloomed. Here to us, thou art the meridian face Of charity; and among mortal men, The living fountain of hope. Lady, so great are thy power and worth That who seeks grace without recourse to thee Would have his wish fly without wings. Thy sweet benignity not only brings relief To those who seek, but, indeed, oftentimes It graciously anticipates the plea. In thee is mercy, in thee is kindness, In thee munificence, in thee unites All that creation knows of goodness.
Michael’s latest books are an edition of The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz and Transfiguration: Notes toward a Radical Catholic Reimagination of Everything. He can be reached at email@example.com See also The Center for Sophiological Studies' available courses. Also check out the latest volume of Jesus the Imagination: The Garden.
1. Christopher Bamford, “Deserts and Gardens” in his An Endless Trace: The Passionate Pursuit of Wisdom in the West (Codhill Press, 2003), 275.