Cézanne’s painting of an old woman humbly telling her beads illustrates the kind of prayer recommended by Our Lord in today’s Gospel. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Lk 11:10). The prayer of the Rosary makes it possible to persevere in supplication. Supplication, expressed in the repetitive prayer of the little and the poor, softens the heart of the one praying and, at the same time, touches the Heart of God.
Our Lord Himself used a prayer of repetition during His agony in the garden of Gethsemane. Saint Mark says, “and again he went away and prayed, saying the same words” (Mk 14:39). It is good for us to pray using the same words over and over again. There is something about the repetition of the prayers of the Rosary that renders us capable of receiving the graces that God would give us or, at least, less recalcitrant, less resistant to the graces that render us capable of corresponding to His will.
The Rosary breaks down our resistance to the will of God. The Rosary clears the way for the “Yes” to Love that so often we are afraid to pronounce. By means of the Rosary we begin to learn to ask not for the many things we crave, or fancy, or may think we need, but for the One Thing Necessary, the Gift of the Holy Spirit.
The prayer of supplication that is the Holy Rosary becomes, almost imperceptibly, a ceaseless prayer, an uninterrupted prayer of the heart. The Rosary is, I think, for the West, what the Jesus Prayer is for the East. In the Rosary the same Holy Name of Jesus is repeated over and over again together with the Holy Name of Mary. The repetition of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary graces the prayer of the Rosary with an unmistakable sweetness and unction. Even when this sweetness is not felt, it is present, purifying the heart of the vestiges of bitterness left by sin.