October is the month of the Holy Rosary. In order to help you pray it more profitably and more “Dominicanly”, you will find here a text by Fr. Perinelle, a French Dominican of the mid-twentieth century in a book entitled How to do Mental Prayer. He devotes a chapter of this book to the explanation of how not just to say the Rosary but truly pray it, to make of it a mental prayer, which is what it is supposed to be but alas, often is not. This is due, in part, to our laziness and lack of devotion in general, but it is due as well to a lack of understanding what mental prayer is. We often imagine it to be something very complicated or so elevated that it is beyond the reach of the ordinary faithful, reserved to priests and religious. The falsity of this idea is shown by the fact that Our Lady asked everyone (not just priests and religious) to do fifteen minutes of meditation of the mysteries of the Rosary as one of the things we should do to console her Immaculate Heart on First Saturdays. May this little text help you to do that and thus receive abundantly the fruits this marvellous prayer which Our Lady gave to the world through Saint Dominic.
Here follows Fr. Perinelle's work on "How to Pray the Rosary as Mental Prayer":
“Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart” (Lk II, 19)
The Rosary is familiar to you. (…) You can make it a mental prayer as long as while saying it you enter into communion with its mysteries and, in order to do that, you ask the Blessed Virgin to teach you.
In order to enter into communion with the mysteries, take hold of them in their historical reality and in their present power.
Take hold of them in their historical and above all human reality. It is only then that they will make Jesus a real living person for you ; it is only then that they will speak to your imagination and your heart and will be able to excite your fervour.
Don’t, however, try to go through all the details. It will be very useful for you, obviously, to know them well and, for that reason, to study them carefully. But each thing at its own time : during prayer what you have to do is use this study, not continue it or start it again. During it gaze peacefully upon the different scenes that the Rosary puts before your eyes, taking advantage of the shift from one to another to reawaken your attention.
Support yourself firmly on the concrete, human, earthly images of each mystery, but at the same time go further. By means of these scenes, grasp by your faith the mystery of Christ, the double mystery of His divinity and of His present action upon you. He who lived these facts is not just any man. He is man but He is God ; He is the man-God. In each of these mysteries the very Person of the eternal Word is present ; in each of them He offers Himself to the gaze of your faith. Never forget it.
Also, Christ is not a figure of the past, He is the great Living One seated at the right hand of the Father and continuing in glory His work of salvation. From heaven and in the Eucharist He envelopes you in His tenderness, He penetrates to the most intimate recesses of your being, seeks to incorporate you perfectly in Himself. Take into account this present union that unites you to your Saviour, and, contemplating the mysteries of His earthly pilgimage, turn to Him in the depths of your soul.
Turn to Him in the mysteries themselves. For even though they belong to the past in so far as they are historical events, they remain present by their power. The glorious life of Christ returned to the Father remains in continuity with them. He is still He who was born at Bethlehem, died on the cross, rose on Easter morning. All these events left their mark on His soul and remain inscribed there. In them, even unto death He has merited for you and by His present action on you He communicates to you their merit. They continue to act thus upon you and produce in you the effect of their holiness.
A great and consoling truth, one that must incite you to draw towards yourself their beneficient power — "How ?" you ask ? — By putting ourself in spiritual contact with them. — How ? By faith. Mysteries of Christ, they are part of Him and it is by faith that you have contact with Christ. "He touches Christ who believes in Him" says St. Augustine. Thus in contemplating these mysteries, open yourself to their influence as to an everliving force. Aspire to their grace by your desire and Christ present in you will give it to you. Offer yourself to them like a mirror, and they will engrave in you their likeness.
Too often, perhaps, you consider them as past events ; too often, perhaps, you consider in them Jesus as a model exterior to you. Thinking above all of the fruit of each decade, you do a sort of moral prayer, and this moral prayer often has the defect of being quite superficial and without any real relation to the personal needs of your soul.
If you want to make your Rosary a theological prayer, enter farther into the living reality of these mysteries, turn to them in the depths of your soul and breath in their spirit.
The recitation of the Aves serve to maintain you in this spiritual communion. (…)
Also and above all, by this recitation you ask Mary that she introduce you herself into communion with these mysteries. No one can do this as she can, for no one has ever had this communion as she has.
On the blessed day of the Annunciation, she conceived Christ in her spirit before she conceived Him in her flesh. He waited to become incarnate in her until she had given her consent (…) What would have become of us is she had said no ?
But she said yes, a yes more total and ardent than any fiancée giving her life to him whom she loves. Only then did the great miracle announced by the angel take place : in the womb of the Virgin, by the work of the Holy Ghost, the Word becomes incarnate. He becomes incarnate there for us, for our salvation. Mary knows it and, with her whole heart, she associates herself to this great plan of mercy. It is in order to deliver us from sin that she gives birth. She gives Him human life so that we might have divine life. She becomes at the same time His mother according to nature and our mother according to grace, and these two maternities are inseparable in her.
Then, from that day on, she remains united with all the strength of her soul to this son who owes to her and her alone His body. (…)
As He accomplishes the mysteries of our salvation, she engraves them in her memory and meditates upon them longly in her heart. During their long, sweet intimacy at Nazareth, He instructs her about them ; on Calvary, He makes her participate in them by her ardent and heroic compassion ; in heaven, sharing in His glory, she sees them in full light.
Ask her then with filial confidence to obtain some understanding of them. Enter into her Immaculate Heart as into a peacful oratory. Envelope yourself in her recollection. Throw yourself into her as into a perfect mould, fashioned by the Holy Ghost in order to form you in the image of Christ. Pray to her to show you her son as at Bethlehem she showed Him to the shepherds and the Magi.
We feel ourselves so awkward, so clumsy in our efforts to find Him, to discover His divine countenance ! But she is always there, sweet mother of the sinners that we are, full of delicacy and loving comprehension for us. She will give you a truer, warmer knowledge of Jesus more adapted to your needs than anyone else could ; she will reveal to you the hidden sense of His mysteries ; she will help you draw into yourself their spirit and make of them the light of your life.
Many of the faithful, in cloisters or in the world, have sweetly experienced this. Without thinking about mental prayer perhaps, they tried to say their Rosary well. Not without effort, certainly : at the beginning they had difficulty sometimes to go farther than the material recitation of the Aves. But little by little, Mary introduced them into divine intimacy.