Friday, April 16, 2010

Swimming the Rosary and Walking the Via Dolorosa

I have tried, and often failed, to pray the Rosary while I swim laps at the pool.  I'm learning a new stroke technique, and adding the Rosary seems to give me too much to think about.  Since I suggest swimming as a mode of exercise to incorporate into my program in The Rosary Workout, I felt compelled to master this combination.  I headed to the pool today, determined to come up with a suitable method.  (If you're not a swimmer and never want to be, then just skip the next four paragraphs.)

I warmed up at an easy pace as I prayed the prayers on the Rosary pendant chain:  The Apostles Creed, Our Father, 3 Hail Marys. Glory Be and Fatima Prayer.  I found that I could pray an Our Father during one length of the 25-yard pool, but a Hail Mary was finished before I reached the wall.  That was actually a good thing, as it would give me a few extra seconds to really focus on the mystery upon which I was meditating.  The Glory Be, Fatima Prayer and the first mystery announcement took another length. 

So far, so good, but the problem I faced was how to keep track of 10 Hail Marys?  The pace clock was broken and I didn't have a watch, so I couldn't rely on timing.  I stopped to think about it as I stretched for a minute or two.  An idea finally came to me-- I could vary the type of stroke done every two lengths.  With 5 different strokes in a specific order, I would not have to distract from my prayer by counting.

I swam the first two lengths with a kickboard and Zoomers (short swim fins).  The next two lengths were freestyle, leaving the Zoomers on.  Then I kicked off the fins and swam two lengths of freestyle, followed by two more of backstroke.  I finished with another two lengths of freestyle.  I transitioned to the next decade  by praying the Our Father, Glory Be, Fatima Prayer and second mystery announcement during two lengths of breaststroke.

I found that this combination allowed me to focus on meditation, with the added benefit of being a fun swim workout.  I didn't have to try to recall my total swim distance either.  Not counting the warm-up, this workout would be a total of 60 lengths of the pool, or 1500 yards/meters, depending on your pool.  That's almost a mile of swimming!  If you're a swimmer and have a different idea, please post it in the comments!

Unfortunately, I was kicked out of the pool by the Senior Swim Club before I could finish all five decades of the Sorrowful Mysteries.  I prayed the last two in front of the Blessed Sacrament after Mass.  I glanced at the familiar plaques showing the Stations of the Cross as an aid to my meditation.

A few years ago, I made an extra effort to start praying the Stations every Friday after reading about the blessings and benefits associated with this devotion in my beloved Pieta Prayer Book.  (Learn more at this link-- scroll down about 1/2 way to the title "14 Promises") 

The Stations of the Cross allow us to walk alongside Jesus on the Via Dolorosa (the "Way of Grief or Suffering").  As with the Rosary, Mary is our guide.  Tradition has it that the devotion to the Stations of the Cross began with the Blessed Mother's daily routine of walking the route her Son took to Calvary.  Later, pilgrims emulated the practice, and eventually the devotion spread to every Catholic church in the form of plaques on the wall, depicting 14 different scenes on the route.

I have many different books and pamphlets with various meditations on the Stations, but today I simply asked Our Lady to walk with me as I honored Christ's suffering and death.  As always, she was the perfect companion.


Rock Farm said...

That would totally work! Until I started working with a coach it was easy to mindlessly swim laps and kind of keep track of the rosary. When she told me how to focus on my technique it became too easy to focus only on myself, and my hands, arms, feet, core, kick. This is a great way to drill and swim without becoming self-centered.

Peggy Bowes said...

Thanks for your comment, Rock Farm. Of course it is important to focus on your technique now and then so you don't develop bad habits, but the laps go by so much faster when I pray the Rosary. Plus, when I'm tired, I just think, "Well I can do one more decade..." God bless!