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Food for the Poor Godspy.com: Faith at the Edge


Brian Pessaro | 10.26.08


Struggling with the Rosary

Struggling with the Rosary

The Rosary is excruciating. There I said it. Archbishop Fulton Sheen said it was the most perfect prayer because it takes 19 minutes, which is the maximum time the average person can maintain a state of concentration. The truth is the Rosary can be a real chore. St. Thérèse, the Little Flower, was being more honest when she said, “I am ashamed to confess it, but the recitation of the Rosary costs me more than to use an instrument of penance. I feel I am saying it so badly. Try as I may to make myself meditate on the mysteries, I never manage to fix my thoughts on them." Amen sister. I’m with you. And yet, like St. Thérèse, I wouldn’t give up the Rosary for anything.

I’ll admit I’m not always perfect about making it my top priority. I’ve often flopped into bed late at night only to realize I hadn’t done it yet. I groan as I slide out from the sheets and reach for my beads on the nightstand. Those next 19 minutes are a far cry from the “perfect prayer” Archbishop Sheen described. I can barely keep my eyes opened much less my mind focused. To be honest, it’s not much easier when I’m wide awake. I stink at contemplating the mysteries. The best I can manage is to visualize a picture from one of my Rosary booklets or a scene from The Passion of the Christ. Distractions? Don’t get me started. On my way home from work, I’m bombarded with thoughts of everything but the mysteries. “The third joyful mystery is the… now what was it I was supposed to pick up from the grocery store… Was that my 9th Hail Mary or my 10th? Oh man, I just ran a red light! Sorry Mary.”

So why do I persist if it’s such drudgery? Simple. I wouldn’t be where I am today had it not been for Mary’s intercession. This is my story. Since the age of 11, I was addicted to pornography. It began simple enough with sneaking peaks at my best friend’s father’s Playboys in the basement of his house. But by the time I was 25, I was so hooked on Internet porn that I would itch for my wife to leave the apartment so I could secretly jump online. Several times over the years I tried to quit. Each time, not only did I fail, but the addiction got worse to the point where I gave up resisting.

Then a friend of mine, who knew nothing of my addiction, loaned me a book on Mary and her supposed apparitions in Međugorje. I’m undecided about whether those apparitions are real. I’ll leave that to the Church to decide. However, I can tell you what is real. That book was what finally led me out of my addiction. It was as if Mary reached up from the pages and grabbed me by the collar. I felt her say to me sternly, “Brian you’ve got to stop looking at that garbage. Starting now!” My earthly mother hardly ever scolded me when I was younger. I was always the “good son.” But here I was at age 30 getting chastised by my Blessed Mother in a way I had never experienced. “What do you want me to do?” I asked helplessly. I turned the page. Pray the Rosary and wear the Scapular. I groaned. “Rosary? I’ve tried that before. It’s boring. It doesn’t work for me.” But Mary wouldn’t take no. “Try it again,” she insisted. What about this scapular thing? I had no idea what a scapular was. I thought it had something to do with shaving your head like the monks of the Middle Ages. (I had confused the “scap” in scapular for “scalp”, as in head.) “I’m not shaving my head Mary.” I read on and embarrassingly realized my mistake. “Oh. OK. I can wear that.”

That night I went online and ordered a Brown Scapular, and then I went to my bedroom dresser and pulled out my grandmom’s old rosary. It had been in there for years, nothing more than an heirloom. I got on my knees, and I began to pray. The next night, I did it again. Two nights in a row became three, then four, until before I knew it I had prayed the Rosary every night for a week. Well it’s been 7 years, and I’m still going strong. I can count on two hands the total number of times I’ve missed.

OK so I pray the Rosary and I kicked a nasty porn habit. Ho hum. Big deal you think. Yes it is, because I should explain that when I say the addiction went away, I don’t mean gradually. I mean it vanished that first night. It was like someone reached inside my brain, found the switch for porn addiction, and turned it off. I can’t explain it. I’m not a sex therapist, but I know that’s not supposed to happen. You don’t just put down a 19-year porn addiction like yesterday’s newspaper and walk away from it. A lot of it has to do with a hormone called epinephrine that’s released in the brain each time you view pornography. It produces a high similar to cocaine. Epinephrine is the gift that keeps on giving because it has a nasty side effect of burning the images into your brain. That’s why even when I was in my late twenties I could still see those images from when I was eleven as if it were yesterday. And now they’re gone.

That brings me back to why I pray the Rosary daily, and why I think everyone should too. It’s because of who made the request. Mary is our Blessed Mother, and she’s asked us to do this. If she wants us to pray the Rosary, it doesn’t matter if we don’t “get” anything out of it, and it doesn’t matter if we don’t understand how it “works”. The only thing that matters is that Mary is the one who asked. She says she needs our help, and the way we can help her is to pray Rosaries. Let her worry about the mechanics. Did the servants at the wedding at Cana need to understand how Jesus was going to solve the wine shortage? No, they just needed to follow Mary’s advice. I hope Mary doesn’t mind if I borrow her line and say when it comes to praying the Rosary, “Do whatever she tells you.”

Brian Pessaro writes from Temple Terrace, Florida. Two of his essays are included in the Godspy anthology, Faith at the Edge: A New Generation of Catholic Writers Reflects on Life, Love, Sex and Other Mysteries

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By Dave AT 10.27.08 05:34AM


Man I really needed to hear that.

Thanks for the article Brian.

By MikeinJersey AT 10.31.08 12:24PM



I cannot begin to tell you how similar of a situation I am facing as with you in your story. In fact, literally, half-way through your article I asked myself “Did I write this???”.  I have great difficulty praying the Rosary. Prior to my spiritual conversion back in 2001 I had a serious sex addiction. Then I started praying the Rosary daily and the addiction went away for 5 years. Then, I gradually stopped saying the Rosary and wearing my Scapular, and so now my addition is back… this time its a porn addiction.  Coming upon your article was God’s way of communicating with me… telling me to get back to praying the Rosary, wearing the Scapular, and entrusting myself to the His Handmaid, the Virgin Mary. 

Thank you!

By faustina1 AT 10.31.08 02:01PM


Very timely article. Thanks. A thing like this happened to me years ago when I was involved in an affair and had no desire to stop, other than I knew it was wrong. I prayed the rosary for 21 days and that did it. I wanted nothing more to do with this person, and my marriage was healed and is stronger than ever.

By John Paul AT 10.31.08 03:39PM

John Paul

I overcame alcoholism through the Rosary, and I have not had a drink in five years.

Thanks for the article and Thank you Blessed Mother.

By 1234 AT 10.31.08 05:24PM


Thank you for sharing your story. I started saying the Rosary again about a week ago (after a months-long hiatus) and I have been praying for the Blessed Mother to let me know why I need to continue. Your article is my answer.

I thank Jesus, Mary, St. Jude and St. Faustina for helping me to stop looking at pornography, to stop using tobacco, and to stop drinking alcohol and caffeine (all within about a year and a half).

While reading your words, I started eating a piece of chocolate that a co-worker gave me this morning, but I am going to give the rest away…

By AT3_Steamboat AT 10.31.08 05:38PM


Thank you for this article!  People need to hear your story!  Take care and God bless!

By chassup AT 10.31.08 06:29PM


My family is praying the rosary nightly in particular that voters do the Lord’s Will and reject pro-abortion candidates.  My children, as do I, sometimes allow their minds to wonder, but just going through the motions is far better than being indifferent.  A very good priest advised me once, after I admitted that some days my daily prayer was nothing more than force of will to do the absolute minimum, that just doing that is pleasing to the Lord.  Keep up your prayer life, it is our best weapon against evil and the best way to know and follow God.

By rosepitt AT 10.31.08 06:51PM


I love the rosary! It brought me back to the Church after a 25 year absence.
Here are 15 wonderful reasons to pray the rosary - our Mother’s promises.

By chassup AT 10.31.08 07:28PM


ROSEPITT,  What made you pray the rosary if you were “away” from the church?  Fallen away Catholics often seem to have particular loathing for Mary and the rosary.  Thanks for the link.

By Bob in Topeka AT 11.01.08 02:44AM

Bob in Topeka

Good stuff!  Makes me feel that I’m not alone in this.  I recall praying a “ten-finger” Rosary in my car years ago and having trouble concentrating because of the traffic and other stuff.  I said, “Am I praying or am I just saying words?”  A still, small voice immediately told me “You are praying.”

I asked the Blessed Mother today to help me with a wrong attraction.  I’m not troubled anymore.

By JudithJack AT 11.01.08 03:30AM


I can relate.  I like to use a Rosary CD.  I have one for the car and one for my laptop.  I can literally surf the net and listen to the Rosary at the same time. This totally suits my multi-tasking needs!I feel like I’m saturating the atmosphere with prayer. You can order it free from the Mary Foundation.  http://www.catholicity.com
The Divine Mercy is on it(as well as common Catholic prayers, like the St Michael prayer and the Guardian Angel prayer) and what makes this the uber-Rosary for me,is this Rosary is said by a priest and at each decade all 4 mysteries for that station are stated and I think this has to be a special dispensation of 4 Rosaries being said at once!!!!  It is suppose to be America’s #1 Rosary recording. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

By kjunlandr AT 11.01.08 04:40PM


I struggled with breaking free from p*rn for 40 years. It was not until I was knocked to my knees by the l*st addiction and I became desperate enough to go to any length to break free. I had to get active in SA, True Knights Purity Forum for men and start on a daily spiritual fitness program of praying the rosary , at the exact moment of each and every temptation, working the Twelve Steps,accountability and living the sacramental life of the church.
I attempted, starting in the 1980’s, trying to break free just me and God. It did not work. Not until I was in fellowship with others doing the same did I start to see results.
If all it took was “just” praying the rosary, I would have been freed many years ago. But for some reason, at least for me, I needed to be in a recovery program in order to break free.
If the addiction was truly removed in one night as you claim, I would say that is a miracle, and if so God bless you, but for most addicts it is a long tough road to recovery.

By CarolAnn AT 11.05.08 06:22PM


This story will most likely hit home with many people.  I owe my own path back to the Faith through the intercession of Our Lady.  I had been a “non-practicing” Catholic for more than 20 years.  About 6 years ago, my job started to require lots of air travel.  I didn’t really have a fear of flying but had what I describe as a healthy concern for the state of my lost soul should my time be up.  I would start saying Hail Marys soon after I took my seat up until the point I felt we were “safely” in the air.  As my air travel increased and the Hail Marys kept pouring forth, I was drawn more and more back to reality - the necessity of a true, active faith evidenced by the way I lived my life. 

I too struggle immensely with the rosary, but believe that no matter how dry my spiritual well may be, Our Lady takes my pitiful efforts and presents them much more grandly to Her Son…. AMEN!

By Tyson AT 12.05.08 07:15PM


Wow great story!  Thanks for sharing with us, its amazing how the power of prayer can change so many things in different peoples lives.

By Jeff Johnson, Collegeville AT 12.21.08 07:58PM

Jeff Johnson, Collegeville

Thanks for this. 

I am on year 14 I think; at 49 I wish I had started much earlier in my tiny life as a Catholic.

One thing that helped me was attending to consecrating my soul to Mary.  If you look on line, and study the method offered by the great St. Louis de Montfort, you will more answers to your problems.  It takes 34 days, but you can get the booklet for free online…I get them every year for the sixth graders I teach in my parish faith formation program.  I plan on re-consecrating my soul…you must pick a “Start day” so it ends on a Marian feast.

By star AT 02.08.09 04:31PM


” To Jesus through Mary ” ! How blessed we are to have Mother Mary intercede for us to Her Divine Son! What joy to know that we get closer to the Lord through Mama Mary who is closest to His Heart! My kids are grown up and we missed praying the Rosary together as a family.  Am thankful that we could pray the Rosary together as a family in special occasions when they come home. Am reminded of a story to illustrate how Mama Mary intercedes for us. John died one day and as he knocks at the Heaven’s door, St. Peter won’t let him in. As St. Peter closes the door, he went back inside, and much to his surprise, he saw John inside! So he asked him how he came in and John replied, ” Mama Mary opened the back door for me! ”———-” O Mary conceived without sin, Pray for us who have recoursed to Thee.” God bless us!!!

By hope AT 03.03.09 09:56AM


Thanks to the Blessed Mother & the gift she gave me - devotion to her Most Holy Rosary.
I decided to devote myself in daily recitation of the Holy Rosary after having read the articles about the Virgin Mary & the many benefits of devotion to her in catholicbible101 site. I’m in my 5 weeks now of daily rosary prayer & in that span of time God banished my deadly habitual sins, & a MIRACLE happened. I have a sister in the community (back in Philippines) who’s 7 years married & couldn’t get pregnant despite of the couple’s sincere attempts, medicines & medical work ups. Until, one day (Feb-2009)while we’re chatting, she told me that she’s on a fertility work-up & expects that it will be a positive one. I promised to offer 7 days rosary prayer solely for her intention. I was surprised when she told me after 2 weeks (through YM chat) that God granted our prayers through the intercession of Mother Mary - SHE’S NOW PREGNANT.  She couldn’t believed it. She said that they (the couple) joined me in this 7 days rosary prayer spiritually. I’m in the UAE and the couple is in Philippines.  I remember my prayer before I started this devotion;I prayed that, like others who have testified the miracles happened to them & the benefits they’ve obtained from this devotion, I, too may have the same experience.  Now, I want to testify to the world that our Blessed Mother is a vessel of God’s grace; that we should pray to Jesus through His blessed mother as He listens so delighfully to her & God will grant our petition in Jesus’ name.

By jimbo432 AT 04.09.09 05:49AM


Ouch, hit me right between the eyes.  Thanks for the article!

By Anon AT 04.26.09 06:46AM


Our Lady kills lust.
She released me from temptation to pornography that used to hit me like a wave. But with her . . . I’m free.

. . and it is awesome.

I do not DARE miss daily Rosary.

She is the best. And the change is like the author said instantaneous, miraculous.

By Karen Edmisten AT 08.04.09 08:35PM

Karen Edmisten

Just perfect.


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