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These nuns pray the Perpetual Rosary – one shares her reflections


Photo Courtesy of the Dominican Nuns, Marbury, Alabama

A Dominican nun - published on 10/30/20

What is it like to pray the Rosary for an hour each day, before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament? These nuns know.
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When I knelt in the monastery chapel after entering through the enclosure door to begin my postulancy, Mother read the traditional prayer for this moment: “O Mary, my good Mother, behold at your feet this child whom the charms of your Holy Rosary have drawn into this dear solitude . . .” At the time, I would have listed many other elements whose “charms” drew me more strongly than those of the Rosary. As the years have gone by, however, I have realized more and more the graces flowing from our practice of the Perpetual Rosary.

As a devotion, the Perpetual Rosary began at a time very much like our own. During a plague in 16th-century Italy, Dominican Fr. Timothy Ricci responded to the people’s distress by organizing the perpetual prayer of the Rosary, with each person committing to pray at a specific hour each month.

The devotion continued over the centuries, until in 1880 the French Dominican Fr. Damien-Marie Saintourens was inspired to found a community of sisters who would be able to keep the Perpetual Rosary with greater fidelity. The Dominican Sisters of the Perpetual Rosary would act as Mary’s Guard of Honor, always praising her with the words of the “Hail Mary,” and interceding with her for the needs of the world. 

Our monastery of cloistered Dominican nuns in Marbury, Alabama, maintains this tradition as a treasured heritage of our community.

Photo Courtesy of the Dominican Nuns, Marbury, Alabama

The Perpetual Rosary in practice

It is almost time for my Hour of Guard. I slip into choir (the nuns’ part of the chapel) past the tabella near the door that indicates each sister’s assigned time. I kneel in front of the rosary prie-dieu, while the sister finishing her hour kneels behind. As the clock strikes the hour, we bow, rise, and genuflect again, in a simple “changing of the Guard” ceremony. The departing sister leaves to carry out her other duties, while I softly take my place at the kneeler at the foot of the statue of Our Lady of the Rosary. Looking up at the monstrance, I raise my heart to Jesus in the Eucharist, then commend the coming hour to Our Lady as I grasp the familiar beads and begin the Dominican Rosary: “Hail Mary . . .”

What does it mean to be Our Lady’s Guard of Honor? Every hour throughout the day, one sister is kneeling at the foot of the statue of Our Lady, praying the Rosary before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. This spirit extends beyond the Hour of Guard to permeate the entire day. Whether waking or retiring, beginning a community meeting or ending recreation, every activity of our life is strung together like the beads of a rosary by our “Aves” or other prayers of Marian devotion. “To Jesus through Mary,” the motto of our Montfortian consecration, becomes a living reality as we join Our Lady in pondering the mysteries of her Son in the rhythm of our daily life.

The Rosary and putting on the mind of Christ

In the world today there is so much competition for our mental space: social media, television, music, advertisements … even in the silence of the monastery we can be distracted from keeping our heart focused on Christ. By praying the Rosary regularly, whether distracted or not, whether satisfying at the time or not, we store up in our minds an ever-increasing stock of thoughts and images centered on the mysteries of salvation.

We keep an assortment of Rosary meditation booklets at the rosary kneeler, for just this purpose. Often I simply turn my attention to Our Lord and think of the mysteries in His Presence, but at other times I reach for a Scriptural Rosary book, a book of Dominican meditations, or one with images from sacred art. To dedicate time and attention to impressing these mysteries in our memories helps us “put on the mind of Christ” (cf. Phil 2:5). 


Read more:
Why it takes me (and my kids) a full school week to pray one Rosary

The Rosary echoes the Liturgy

We experience the Perpetual Rosary flowing from and leading to our liturgical worship. The celebration of the liturgy is the heart of our Christian and monastic life: the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass each morning, and the Divine Office, or Liturgy of the Hours, in which the chanting of the Psalms is interspersed throughout the day. What the Holy Eucharist brings to us in sacramental signs—the saving death and resurrection of the Incarnate God—the Rosary brings to us through meditation on the Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries.

And while the cycle of the liturgical year allows us to partake of the graces of the mysteries of Christ in the feasts of Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, and the rest, the Rosary allows us to partake of those same graces in the cycle of our meditations.

When I asked about this point at community recreation recently, one sister exclaimed, “YES! That is exactly what our life does! You see, the theological virtues have God as their object, and they place us in direct contact with Him. So when we meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary with faith, hope, and love, we have access to the graces of these mysteries every day.”


Read more:
Do you wish you could make a habit of the Rosary?

The Rosary as intercessory prayer

In every “Our Father” and “Hail Mary,” we pray for our daily bread, for forgiveness, for help at the hour of death. The mysteries of the Rosary themselves center on Jesus’ burning desire for the glory of the Father and the salvation of all people. When we take our post for our Hour of Guard, we join our own desire to that of Our Lord and His holy Mother, offering our prayers for the needs of the Church and the world.

The Dominican friars speak of God to men; the cloistered Dominican nuns speak of men to God. Sometimes I offer the Rosary for an urgent intention burning in my heart; at other times, each decade calls to mind a specific need that entwines with the mystery in the life of Our Lord. Our Lady knows how to distribute God’s graces as we call upon her aid.

Called to the Perpetual Rosary

Just as we cloistered nuns are set apart from the world for our life of prayer, so also inside the monastery, the sister at the Hour of Guard is set apart to be exclusively dedicated to prayer. Hour after hour, day after day, decade after decade, the nuns succeed each other meditating on the mysteries of Jesus and Mary.

Although it wasn’t “the charms of the Rosary” that drew me to this vocation, those charms are one reason why I am a Dominican nun today, part of Mary’s Guard of Honor at our Dominican Monastery of St. Jude in Marbury, Alabama.

Photo Courtesy of the Dominican Nuns, Marbury, Alabama

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