So there I was, arriving early at daily Mass just in time for the group rosary to start. I enjoy saying the rosary in a group setting from time to time, but I definitely prefer to say it solo most of the time. An older gentleman came and sat down behind me. When it was time to start, I knew trouble was brewing within me from the first "Our Father." This man was one of those people who rush through the prayers before the rest of the group, so that the timing is way off. Instead of a steady cadence where we were all saying the lines at the same time, he would race through the sentence so that he would finish up several beats before the rest of us. When all of us were slowly saying "Holy Mary, mother of God," the man was already a couple of steps ahead of us on "Pray for us sinners..."
I inwardly cringed. This was going to be a loooong rosary. I have noticed that with responses at Mass as well, and it makes me wonder why people do this. It really messes up my concentration and I forget where I am supposed to be: with the rest of the congregation and the priest, or with the man or woman beside me who is in a hurry? Racing through the prayers is not going to have Mass end earlier. This has always puzzled me. Yet, here was a perfect opportunity for me to work on the virtue of patience!
I wondered how I was going to get through this rosary with the patience I knew I was going to need...for five decades. I sent up a silent prayer that I would not be distracted, that I would not be irritated by this gentleman behind me. After all, maybe there was a reason he was racing through it. Maybe he was hard of hearing and couldn't hear the cadence. Maybe he was so wrapped up in the prayer that he wasn't understanding the cadence. I turned to him and he smiled at me. He seemed sort of lonely, and I wondered if his wife had passed away since he was alone. Maybe his rosary intention was for something very dear to his heart, just as mine was. Then I started to wonder what things I did that others found annoying. I smiled back, feeling bad, and decided that I could accept this minor annoyance. I could offer it up. I could let it sanctify me! We continued to pray the rosary slowly as the man behind me raced ahead, and I found that, surprisingly as the decades progressed, I was becoming calmer, not more irritated! By the end of the rosary, I realized that I had experienced something very profound, and it had come from the Holy Spirit. Instead of feeling crabby and irritated about the whole thing, I had come to have compassion for the man. After all, he was praying: What was wrong with that?!
The next time you are tempted by the evil one to be irritated and distracted, ask the Holy Spirit to help you. And be grateful for the opportunity to turn it into something good for your soul!
"Don't say: 'That person gets on my nerves.' Think: 'That person sanctifies me.' "
—St. Josemaria Escriva