There was a period of time during my childhood when my mother particularly emphasized role models: that my brothers and I choose wisely those people we admired and imitated. And I now see that she indirectly did the same thing by reading good stories to us and giving us good books to read.
Our imaginations influence how we perceive the world and our imaginations have been formed, and are constantly being formed, by the images and sensations that we experience. This is particularly true of childhood; it is widely known that the experiences of childhood will influence how we perceive and react to situations throughout our lives. Indeed, although it is the direct experience of major life events that will most obviously impact and shape us (the most obvious examples are negative, such as the death of a family member), the power of fictional and non-fictional characters and stories to shape the way we experience the world should not be discounted. Thus it is that I am very grateful to my mother for always striving to have me read good stories; not necessarily stories with goodie-two-shoes characters, who do only good things, but characters, good and bad, going towards virtue and away from it. In fact, these stories are one of the primary ways we learn to love the good and hate the evil. I remember thinking how awful Edmund’s behavior was in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe; it was much easier for me to see the inherent obnoxiousness of selfish behavior in that fictional story than through nagging reminders like “sharing is caring.”
And so it is in the spiritual life, but with an added difficulty: we are human beings, which means we are one person, body and soul. But this bodily nature means that everything we understand must begin in the senses. If it begins in the senses, however, it automatically means that we can never perceive spiritual things directly (at least, not in this life). This sounds disappointing at first, but then Our Lord tells Philip something very important at the Last Supper: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (Jn 14:9) God, who is infinitely beyond us by nature, loves us so much that He comes down and interacts with us on our own level.
And this is where the Rosary comes into play. Most of us are not particularly good at keeping the mysteries of our Faith in our minds at all times, and yet this is part of St. Paul’s exhortation when he tells us to pray without ceasing. (1 Thess 5:17) The Rosary is one of the best ways to do this, combining vocal prayer with mental prayer; in the Rosary, we constantly call out to God, both directly and with the help of the saints, especially God’s own Mother. And we combine this vocal prayer with meditation on the mysteries of the faith.
Just like the stories that we read in childhood, but much more powerfully and importantly, it has the power to change our lives and the way we experience the world. Because the mysteries of the Rosary are the deepest truths and realities of the world, though we do not experience them with our senses, it is crucial to constantly put them before our mind’s eye. As the friend who moves away is too easily forgotten if we fail to write, call, or visit, so it is with our faith; if we want a living relationship with the ever present God of love, who is with us always, we must learn to converse with Him always.