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Rosary at the Grotto

It’s 9:54 on a Monday night. A few students sit scattered throughout the Grotto—some are in the chapel, others are reading on the couch, one is making tea in the kitchen. It seems like a quiet evening.

But at 9:55 the energy begins to pick up as a constant stream of people climb up the porch. Familiar Midwest manners fill the small entryway as people hang up their jackets and take off their shoes:

“Ope, sorry.”

“No, you’re good.”

“I’m just going to squeeze past you.”

The couches become crowded, the snacks soon disappear, and the bright yellow living room echoes with the happy and chaotic noise of friends catching up on the happenings of their days.

At 10:02 it’s time to get the show on the road.

“Anyone need a rosary?” the leader asks, gently shaking the jar full of homemade rosaries and walking around the room. The chapel door swings open, and there’s a minute of rustling as students kneel down and angle themselves toward Jesus. A respectful hush falls over the room.

As my knees hit the wood floor, I think back to my freshmen year at the Grotto. After spending half an hour praying the rosary, I remember complaining that my knees ached.

“That’s kind of the point,” one of my friends gently replied.

Praying the rosary is hard. Sometimes, I feel like a fraud. I hear people causally mention that they snuck in their daily rosary before class, or how they have a particular mystery that they like to meditate on. But even though it seems like the good Catholic thing to do, I’ve struggled to connect to the devotion of praying the rosary. My mind wanders as we repeat the Hail Mary for the fortieth time. I think about how there are other spiritual habits that I’d rather focus on, or I get frustrated because I don’t feel anything as I pray.

But on the days when I do make it to Grotto Rosary, Mary reminds me of her goodness. She multiplies every little gift we offer her. The sacrifices we make are small: we set aside the homework and projects we’re worried about for half an hour to pray; we walk through the dark, the cold, or—if it’s late October—the rain, to arrive at the Grotto on time; we feel an ache in our knees as we recite the decades.

Mary blesses every moment we give to her. Sometimes there are stars in the sky on the walk over. The tasks we left in the library never seem so stressful or crucial when we return to them after prayer. The pain in our knees recenters on our minds on the reverence that is due to our Lord in the Eucharist.

Even though the rosary is difficult for me at times, Mary lets it be a life-giving experience. We get to talk and laugh with one another and grow in community. We share our prayer intentions and help carry each other’s burdens. We get to take a break from the worries on our hearts, and hold Mary’s hand as our fingers move through the beads. And we get to pray to Christ through Mary, which is a blessing we may never fully understand on this earth.

We pray for the pope, and for an increase in the virtues of faith, hope, and charity. We listen to the rhythm of the leader, and respond with one strong voice. We bow our heads at the Glory Be.

The end of the rosary is my favorite part. Our voices rise together as we sing the “Salve Regina” to honor Mary, our queen. We invoke St. Michael, asking him to keep us safe from temptation as we finish our days and prepare for the rest of the week. A list of saints is called upon—St. Bruno, JP II, St. Athanasius—and then finally, one last request:

“All you holy men and women,”

“Pray for us!”

The chapel door closes and we slowly rise from our knees.

At 10:35, the peaceful scene from the beginning has reclaimed the little blue house, but the recent community is still remembered. Some stay to chat, others hurry out the door. The chaos of the Grotto winds down as we say goodnight, having given our blessed mother a small offering of the time she deserves.

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