“Our Father Who art in heaven hallowed be Thy name … The saddle and the bridle also?”
I’m certain that most of you have heard that story told of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and his offer to a man who boasted he was never distracted in prayer. The story relates how that man was distracted during his prayer by the scope of St. Bernard’s offer.
I remind you about this to point out that distraction in prayer is the work of Satan, and a big problem for all of us. How can we correct the problem and give greater significance and meaning to our prayers? After praying on the problem, I had an idea that could help.
Now if distraction during prayer is not a problem for you, you are one in a million and you can stop reading now. But if you do have a problem, read on. I believe praying with energy and “hand action” demonstrates where your heart and thoughts are. Much the same as when we make the Sign of the Cross. Our hands go from head to heart to shoulders, demonstrating our thoughts and devotion to the Crucifixion of Our Lord. Why not use the same energy and attention-provoking action when praying … say, the Rosary?
At Fatima Our Lady stated there will come a time when you will have only the Rosary and her Immaculate Heart. She could be referring to now as we suffer through the great crisis in the Church.
The action I am suggesting should be “hidden”. You wouldn’t want to distract others praying with you. If you can, schedule your prayer at a time when no outside noise and activity will distract you.
Let’s start with the Rosary. Pray all prayers except the Hail Marys with your hands open, facing up, about one foot apart, forming a “holy channel” to heaven, much as the priest does saying some parts of the Mass. The Rosary is in one hand, keeping track of your progress. At the Hail Marys, your hands are back to the usual position, but at the words "Fruit of thy womb, Jesus" you bow your head and your free hand touches your chest when you say “Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death,” demonstrating you are a sinner and that the Blessed Mother’s prayers now and at the hour of our death are most necessary.
Praying with this thought-provoking extra effort and energy, and with your attention for sure on the significance of each Mystery, should reduce your thoughts drifting to the distracting events in your life.
Keep in mind that you are talking to your Creator, and that distraction calls for an additional effort to keep your mind focused. While visiting Fatima and a friend who moved there with his family, I recall him saying, “when the Blessed Mother asked us to pray the Rosary, she meant all 15 Mysteries each time”, or so he believed.
When you pray the rosary and other prayers, I recommend that you try this method to help you pray more earnestly and with more recollection. You will see your efforts have borne fruit when your prayers are a more intimate conversation with Our Lord and His Mother.