How To Pray The Rosary — Even As A Non-Catholic Or Non-Religious Person

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Learning how to pray the rosary can bless and benefit your life, even if you're not Catholic — or not that religious at all. How does that work?

If you’re anything like me and about 26 percent of Americans (according to a 2018 Pew Research Center poll) you're not affiliated with any religion.

What can't be captured in a poll, however, are the aspects of spirituality that are far less likely to track or define.

There are traditions and rituals from religion that can seep into these "free-range" (to use a term from my podcast co-host Julienne Givot) spiritual practices that anyone, from any background, may find themselves attracted to.

Enter the rosary.

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Why should you, a non-Catholic or unaffiliated with any religion, learn how to pray the rosary?

The timely release of "The Way of the Rose: The Radical Path of the Divine Feminine Hidden in the Rosary" by Clark Strand and Perdita Finn on November 5, 2019 seemed almost to appear as a guide before a year none of us will ever forget.

The couple, authors together in the writing of the book, are themselves unaffiliated with the Catholic church or even institutionalized religion of any kind, albeit Zen Buddhism.

Their book, steering clear of the Church, aims its message for those living in this age of ecological distress.

A vision of who they call the "Lady" emerges with a vibrant message about the power of the rosary prayer, not just for anyone but for everyone, to return to a reverence for the Goddess particularly in her manifestation as Mother Earth.

What can this mean for someone like me? I follow no religion, especially not Catholicism.

I like the new Pope, but I can’t sign up for the whole package.

I like to follow the rhythms of the earth — its new moons, full moons, waxing, and waning. I like to follow the solstices and equinoxes.

I like to believe in Goddesses and Gods as the natural forces we feel within ourselves and all around us.

These rhythms can be felt in nature but also in the pulse of people and their waves of worldliness.

The closest I’ve come to a regular spiritual practice is meditation.

The Way of the Rose opened up, for me, a balance to this practice, which is more on the "yin" side of things (a.k.a. the feminine).

Meditation is, in its essence, honed from a hunter’s viewpoint — it's about stillness, silence, pinpointed awareness, and readiness, in the moment.

There's precision as well as perfection as goals.

"Bead practices, on the other hand, seem to have evolved from the gathering behaviors of women as they collected seeds and nuts and berries. If the hunter is quiet and concentrated, the gatherer is a multitasker — chatting, muttering, moving about, and communing with others… Children can be tended, old people cared for, the carrots chopped for dinner, all while staying in conversation with the Lady," says Strand and Finn.

Catholics aren’t the only ones who use prayer beads.

Prayer beads are also used in Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Shinto, Islamic, Umbanda, and the Baháʼí Faith. Native American traditions honor the spirit beads intentionally included within their talismanic patterns.

I’m not part of any of these traditions either, so why me? And why beads? "The Way of the Rose" would argue that the rosary is exactly what I need.

The "Hail Mary's" and "Our Father's" create "an inner balancing of light and darkness that recalibrates all aspects of our lives… the rosary acknowledges that it is within the body of our Mother that we are conceived, transformed, and nourished."

But what about all this "Mother-Father" stuff?

In this new century, we are re-investigating the polarity of these opposites and seeking new forms.

For all who may be struggling with the religious bit, the gender bit, and general uncertainty bit, there are some "rosary for the rebel" advice and seeds of wisdom that have worked for me and may work for you.

RELATED: What It Means To Be A Spiritual Person Vs. Religious

Here are 6 ways to pray the rosary as a non-Catholic or non-religious person.

1. Let go of perfection.

There's no wrong way to pray the rosary or use prayer beads — this is stated in the book.

Instead, you can relax and begin a new practice. If there’s no wrong way to pray, then there's no way to mess this up!

Let go of perfection and leave that for meditation — or abandon it altogether.

2. You can depart from the traditional prayers.

You can remove the word "sinner" like I do as well as other words or names that don’t resonate.

The prayer circle I joined with my friend and "free-range priestess" Julienne uses other translations for the prayers. Sometimes, we say them in Spanish and she also tracked down a beautiful version of the "Our Father" prayer in the original Aramaic.

3. Use any chant.

Just not into the "Hail Mary's"? You can use any chant.

I learned a few in my training as a yoga teacher that I still adore. Chant through your blockages with Ganesh or simply chant the universal sound of Om.

4. Bring it to the breath.

Quarantining in a cramped living space? Would your roommates or partner look at you askew while chanting?

You can simply sit with your prayer beads. Handle each bead as you chant within your mind or simply link each bead to an inhale, exhale, or full breath cycle.

5. Pray during a walk.

No time for prayer? One night, I wanted to show up to my prayer circle but felt like I had to choose between that and going for my daily walk before sunset.

Being a Gemini, I chose both, of course. I zoomed in to the prayer circle and announced that I would be attempting my first rosary walk.

I muted myself as I became pretty breathless, following the trail next to the ocean and hiking a hilltop. As the moon rose, I was led right to a local spot that had become, over time, a Mother Mary altar.

It was right at that place we finished our loop around the rosary. You might find your own synchronicities once you try a rosary walk. I’ve already had a couple.

6. Find your beads.

I got lucky with a friend who recently started making beautiful rosaries. She gifted me one of her first renditions but I had already purchased some prayer beads elsewhere that didn't follow the 59-bead pattern.

I use both — one for when I do a traditional rosary and the other for atypical chanting or breathwork. Just as there's no wrong way to pray, there's no wrong rosary.

The most recent rosary, itself, has a long history of how it got to the 59-bead standard.

"Until recent centuries, the rosary was mostly a do-it-yourself affair. You strung as many beads as you wanted onto a cord and improvised your own format of praying with them," explains Strand and Finn.

If it’s doable and meaningful, make your own! If none of this is feasible, use your favorite necklace or even bracelet, which is handy because you can wear them around.

Hopefully, these approaches can help you to begin your prayer bead journey. At the end of this tumultuous year, the world could use your prayers more than ever.

Blessed be!

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Cyndera Quackenbush, MA, is an author, speaker, and educator in the Bay Area, California, and the creator of the Story Through Stone Reflection Cards and the Story Through Stone Reflection Card Reading method. For more information, visit her website: Story Through Stone.