Boone County woman writes guide to reciting the rosary

Jennifer Holland, a lifelong Catholic, wants others to better understand the rosary tradition that she says has fallen by the wayside.
Friday, August 29, 2008 | 12:00 p.m. CDT; updated 3:40 p.m. CDT, Monday, September 1, 2008
Jennifer Holland said too many Catholic schools are teaching the mechanics of the rosary without the context.

COLUMBIA — Jennifer Holland isn't too sure how she found the time to become an author. Taking her four children to soccer, gymnastics and scout meetings, running a child-care business from her home and writing a column in her church's newspaper keeps her occupied. Somehow, though, she found the time to write her first book, "A Crown for Mary — An Interactive Guide to Praying a Scriptural Rosary for Families."

Holland, a Boone County resident and lifelong Catholic, released the first version of in April and, after a few minor changes, released the official version in July.

Praying the rosary

As part of the Roman Catholic faith, the rosary is a form of repetitive prayer. Some Catholics use a string of beads as a physical reminder of the prayers they are reciting.

1. The Cross: Apostles' Creed

2. First large bead: Our Father

3. Three small beads: Hail, Mary for each bead

4. Space between three small beads and second large bead: Glory Be

5. Second large bead: Our Father

6. The remaining beads are separated into groups of 10 smalll beads with one large bead at the beginning of each group, also called a decade. Each decade represents a mystery or event in the life of Jesus. A prayer is said  at each bead and space.

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The book guides readers through the scriptural rosary - a form of repetitive prayer and meditation used by Catholics. Beads on the rosary are separated into five decades, each decade representing a mystery or event in the life of Jesus. According to Holland's Web site, "instead of just a recitation of the mystery at the beginning of each set of 10 ‘Hail, Mary's,' a short phrase based on Scripture is said before each prayer so that by the time the decade has been said, a picture of the mystery has been painted in your mind."

Holland said the scriptural rosary is a way to develop a relationship with Jesus.

The scriptural rosary came about in the 1400s, after the recitation of prayers became common practice.

"When Christians started forming brotherhoods, they would recite all of the Psalms in the Bible," Holland said. "But there were many people who couldn't read, and they didn't have all of the 150 Psalms memorized. Somewhere between 600 C.E. and 1000 C.E., people started saying ‘Our Fathers' instead of saying all of the Psalms. They had pouches with little pebbles in them, and they would throw out a pebble every time they said an ‘Our Father.' "

Other prayers, such as the "Hail, Mary," were later added to the prayers recited in the rosary.

Holland said that by the 1400s, "instead of having just a recitation of prayers, they added thoughts to go along with each prayer. That's how the scriptural rosary came about. While repeating the prayers is a nice form of meditative prayer, the people wanted something more than just saying prayers."

Holland said she wrote the book to give teachers and parents a tool to help pass on a Catholic tradition that she feels has fallen by the wayside.

"I feel that my generation is having a hard time passing the rosary on to our kids because nobody told us why we were praying it," Holland said. "My exposure to the rosary was ‘Here's how you say it, now say it.' One time, I don't remember what we (Holland and her three siblings) had done, but my mom was irate. She told us, ‘Go get your rosaries!' We had to sit at the table and say our rosaries that night. Well, that didn't help me appreciate it or give me something to pass on to my children."

Holland said lay people are crucial to the Roman Catholic Church. "The church doesn't belong to the priests in Rome; the church is the people. It's the lay people who are passing on the faith."

Holland's background as a kindergarten teacher at a Catholic school helped her develop a book for people who "don't want to look up words." While writing "A Crown for Mary," Holland wanted to avoid using words and phrases that could only be understood by people with degrees in theology.

"I had a book on how to pray the rosary. It added a prayer before every mystery. That kind of put the idea for the book in my head," Holland said. "It wasn't a very family friendly book. I had to look some of the words up. There was a phrase that said, ‘Mortify your senses,' and I thought, ‘What are they talking about?' " Holland said she is glad she came across some advanced-level books because they inspired new ideas.

Holland said she has one in the works. "I've got a game I'm working on. I call it ‘Trinity,' " Holland said. "The idea came from my son's Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. I was flipping through them, and there was a card on Joan of Arc, who happens to be a Catholic saint. I thought of creating a game about traditions of the Catholic church using trading cards with a good vs. evil theme." She recently presented the idea to someone involved in marketing who loved her idea and wanted her to finish creating "Trinity."

Since she recently decided to end her child-care business, Holland said she will have more time to focus on writing and other goals. She will continue to publish a column for "Heart of the Matter," the newspaper published by Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Columbia. She also would like to post weekly prayer reflections on her Web site and give presentations to Catholic schools and churches in Missouri. Getting the word out about "A Crown for Mary" also is on Holland's agenda. She has passed it along to friends and members of her church and the response has been positive.

"I really liked the book. It was easy to follow which reflection to read and focus on for each mystery," said Carolyn O'Laughlin, one of the owners of KEXS, a Catholic radio station headquartered in Excelsior Springs. "I liked that I could recite the prayers and know just where to go next. (The book is) an excellent guide for the family rosary or the individual, and it's great for beginners."

Holland concluded: "It's been really strange for me lately. Between the book and the column, I'm getting a lot of affirmation, and I'm not used to that. It's good. It lets me know I'm on the right track."

"A Crown for Mary" is available at

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