Last week a RCIA group in the area came to visit and learn about Monastic Life. Their instructors were trying to expose the catechumens to different “faces” of the Church, showing them its richness and diversity. One of the catechumens asked a question that we thought would make a wonderful blog series: “How do you pray for us?” Most people know that cloistered nuns are ‘there’ to pray for them, for the world. They intuitively turn to nuns as a sort of “hot line” to God. Once in a while a person calling in a prayer request will ask how it will be prayed for. Perhaps you’ve wondered the same thing. Hopefully this blog series will give you a better idea of just how it is nuns pray for you.
The Adoring Rosary
Let’s begin with a prayer that is the particular apostolate of our monastery—the Adoring Rosary.
History In the late 19th century, Mother Rose of St. Mary, OP and Fr. Saintourens, OP founded a contemplative Dominican cloistered community in Calais, France whose special apostolate was the Perpetual Rosary devotion. This devotion was exactly what it sounds like—the praying of the rosary perpetually. Sisters, forming “Mary’s Guard of Honor”, prayed the rosary in shifts all throughout the day and night. In 1891 the first American Perpetual Rosary monastery was founded in Union City, New Jersey. In 1919, fourteen sisters from the Union City monastery founded our monastery in Summit, New Jersey, which continued the devotion of the perpetual rosary. In 1926 we received permission for perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and began the practice of the adoring rosary.
The Adoring Rosary The Adoring Rosary is simply the joining of the perpetual rosary with perpetual adoration. Sisters are assigned ‘hours of guard’ (in time slots of either 30 or 60 minutes) during which we pray the rosary before the Blessed Sacrament in Its throne above our altar. The sisters replace each other continuously throughout the day, and although we are no longer able to keep the devotion perpetually at this time, we do pray through the night two nights a week. There are a few times throughout the day when this rosary 'marathon' is paused, and that is during Mass, Office, and Meditation when these prayers take precedence over the adoring rosary. Even during meal and recreation times we take turns remaining before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament praying the rosary.
We are often asked how much of the rosary we pray during our hours of guard. Each sister is left to pray the rosary in the way to which she feels drawn. Some speedy sisters may pray all 20 decades during their hour, while another may slowly ponder through just one decade. Some sisters kneel at the prie-dieu in the middle of choir (the nuns’ chapel), steadily thumbing through their beads, while others prefer to sit with scripture as they meditate on the mysteries of the rosary. In the middle of the night you might even find a sister making a slow circuit around choir, her feet moving in time with her fingers (there are many tricks to keeping awake during the nocturnal hours of guard!).
Your prayer requests Outside the door to choir is a very large bulletin board on which your prayer requests are posted. Each request is dated when it comes in, so it is easy to look through the new ones before we enter choir. Pick any Office of the day and you will find sisters reading the prayer requests before they enter choir. Many sisters make a habit of doing the same before their hour of guard. If a particularly urgent request comes in, the note will be put up on a different board (one for daily announcements) to make sure that it is seen immediately.
The Adoring Rosary is just one way that we pray for you and your intentions. Subsequent posts in this series will explore other ways we have of praying for you including: the Divine Office, the Morning Offering, Mass, the community Rosary, meditation & contemplation, private devotions, our consecration, and penance.
For encouragement in praying the rosary yourself we suggest a previous blog entry: I've Got a (Rosary) Secret!