Summary of The Contemplative Rosary: With St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila by Dan Burke and Connie Rossini

The Contemplative Rosary: With St. John Paul II and 
St. Teresa of Avila by Dan Burke and Connie Rossini, 
EWTN Publishing, Irondale, Alabama, 2017. Kindle Edition.

What is the Contemplative Rosary?

The Contemplative Rosary is an approach to praying the Rosary that “unites vocal prayer and mental prayer in a way that can, by God’s sacred action, lift our hearts to the heights of contemplation” (Introduction).

“The Contemplative Rosary is not just for those who have reached a high state of prayer. It is for everyone who desires to live a more contemplative life, a life centered on pondering the mysteries of our Faith and making ourselves more present to God, so that He may be more present to us.”

In his apostolic letter on the Rosary, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, St. John Paul II affirms that the Rosary, precisely because it starts with Mary’s own experience, is an exquisitely contemplative prayer.

“Without this contemplative dimension, it would lose its meaning, as Pope Paul VI clearly pointed out: “Without contemplation, the Rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation runs the risk of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas, in violation of the admonition of Christ: ‘In praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think they will be heard for their many words’ (Mt 6:7). By its nature the recitation of the Rosary calls for a quiet rhythm and a lingering pace, helping the individual to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord’s life as seen through the eyes of her who was closest to the Lord. In this way the unfathomable riches of these mysteries are disclosed.” (Marialis Cultus 47, qtd in RVM 12).

By praying the Contemplative Rosary, our vocal prayer, now prayed with attention and devotion, becomes enriched and rises “to the level of mental prayer that simply uses words composed by someone else” (Dan Burke). In addition, our mental prayer, having meditated well on the mysteries of Christ’s life, becomes enriched and helps us to continue to reflect on Christ throughout the rest of our day.

“The Contemplative Disposition”

In order to pray the Contemplative Rosary, we must try our best to adopt a “contemplative disposition,” that is, an attitude of heart that prepares us for infused contemplation.

#1: Christocentric focus.

The “contemplative disposition” requires an authentic Christocentric focus. We must:

  1. acknowledge His presence with us, in us, in each mystery, and in every uttered prayer;
  2. yield to His work in us and for us as we pray. Since the purpose of the Rosary is intimacy with Christ, we must always be attentive to His prompting during our recitation of the Rosary.

In the Contemplative Rosary, we enter into “the school of Mary” as she teaches us how to ponder in our hearts the “mysteries” of her Son. By gazing upon Christ with Marian eyes, we come to see the face of Christ in a way we could never achieve on our own.

Tip: Whenever you are struck or moved by an idea, thought, or insight while praying, pause for a moment and focus on receiving whatever God is revealing to you. Once this has subsided, gently return back to praying the Rosary.

Tip: While reciting the Hail Mary, realize that Jesus’ name is “the center of gravity” of the entire prayer, the hinge that links the two halves of the Hail Mary. Say the name of Jesus with reverence and clarity. Add a brief statement of faith related to the mystery you are meditating on as well (eg. “who was conceived in you by the Holy Spirit” while reflecting on the Annunciation).

#2: Solitude.

The “contemplative disposition” requires a constant pursuit of solitude. We must:

  1. set aside anything exteriorly that would distract us from an encounter with Christ. Ex: Turn off any electronic devices. Try to be in a quiet place. Avoid engaging in activities before prayer that distract you as well (watching TV and using your iPhone, etc).
  2. set aside anything interiorly that would distract us from an encounter with Christ (NB: Only set aside thoughts that distract you from contemplating Christ). Ex: Consciously put aside your daydreams, plans, and all reflections that have nothing to do with this time of prayer.

“Dealing with Distractions”

Although we are called to focus exclusively on Christ with devotion and attention through exterior & interior solitude, distractions will come.

#1: Keep your peace. 

But do not worry. As long as we are trying our best, we should remain peaceful and simply draw our minds back to focusing on Christ.

“In the end, it is better to pray one decade of the Rosary well than to spend hours praying the Rosary in a manner that reflects only minimal engagement of our hearts with God.”

#2: Use your imagination.

When distracted, St. Teresa of Avila recommends using your imagination, rather than your intellect, to refocus. An image of the mystery you are meditating on can be of great aid here.

“The best remedy I find is to strive to center the mind upon the one to whom the words are addressed. . . . Represent the Lord Himself as close to you, and behold how lovingly and humbly He is teaching you. . . . I’m not asking you to do anything more than look at Him.” – St. Teresa of Avila

Since Jesus Himself is the icon of the Father, it is fitting to use images to help us come closer to Him (RVM 29).

#3: Use a prayer book.

Another great piece of advice from St. Teresa of Avila is to use a prayer book with guided reflections. There are many scriptural rosary booklets or other guided meditation resources you can find online to help with this. This reminds us that prayer is not only about speaking to God but also about listening to Him. We listen to His Word and then respond to it as we say the prayers for each mystery.




  1. margaretha says:

    Dear Father Richard Conlin
    May I translate this article into Indonesian and I will post it on the community site and write your name as the author.

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