One of Neville Ward’s comments is interesting. He accepts that it is not, in general, possible to ‘meditate discursively’ whilst saying the Rosary (certainly not if one is saying it out loud, publicly); a comment which I personally find entirely accurate.
What I find even more interesting, though, is his suggestion that ‘It is enough to have a single thought in connection with each mystery, or simply to look at it in love and faith. But the saying of the Rosary is infinitely deepened in value if at other times we think about these great themes, penetrating as far as we can into their meaning.’
In other words, there is merit to considering the Mysteries of the Rosary at times other than when one is actually praying it; and I have to admit that, although I don’t do it all that often, I have found that this is both true and – in an odd kind of way – rewarding, as it slowly, over time, gets one’s mind into step with the whole rationale of the Rosary, and of its Mysteries.
At the same time, he makes another comment which I find both interesting and, in a way, rewarding and reassuring : As one becomes familiar with the Rosary the prayers gradually recede to form a kind of ‘background music’, and the mystery is before the mind as thought one is looking at a religious picture or ikon.
In other words, as one gets used to the idea of trying to pray one set of prayers whilst at the same time thinking – even slightly – of something else slowly develops into a method whereby both elements exist, and have merit, but perhaps somewhat independently of each other. Indeed, he points out that the balance frequently changes, and the prayers occupy the foreground of the mind for a time, and this may lead to a form of simple attention to God which is more like contemplation. If one finds one’s mind being led into a stillness and concentration of this kind it is good to let it happen.
Indeed Neville Ward recognizes, and teaches us, that it is a fact of Christian history that the saints put their money on contemplation rather than meditation for producing the longing for God. And the longing for God, if it is not the treasure itself, is certainly the field in which it is hidden.
. . . and if one knows the field, then surely one will have the inclination and the motivation to explore further until one finds it : which brings a whole new, and exciting, dimension to the use of the Holy Rosary.