by Fr. Andy Sensenig, OMI

As the month of October – a month dedicated to the rosary – crashes into us, we are preparing to give honor to Our Lady through reciting the rosary and are reminded how this beautiful devotion leads us to Jesus through Mary. And yet, I have found a new way of reciting the rosary, in which I can meditate on the mysteries and feel each mystery become part of my breath, my heart beat and every step. Of course this is a not a new thing, but a practice that began when I started my journey of going from 277 pounds to now 185 pounds.

Anne Morris (St. Gregory DRE) and Fr. Andy Sensenig, OMI, pray the rosary while walking and running in Sitka, Alaska.
Anne Morris (St. Gregory DRE) and Fr. Andy Sensenig, OMI, (pastor of St. Gregory’s parish) celebrate October and pray the rosary while walking and running in Sitka, Alaska.

That journey started when I was serving in Soldotna, and I started a walking program to keep myself focused on the goal of taking care of the Lord’s temple (the gift of my body) by walking every day. I tried in vain to keep on track and to make the “most” of the my time by carrying hand weights and listening to music while I trotted around the good city of Soldotna, but I looked like someone who was trying to do too much too fast and I would start skipping a day, then two days, then a week and I was off track and back to gaining weight.

So, I pondered, what am I to do? I came upon the answer while I was praying in our Soldotna parish — as I heard the pew I was sitting on give a complaining creak — that I could pray the rosary while I walked. I could turn in my hand weights for a finger rosary. And that is what I did and lo and behold, I started my journey to health, wellness and prayerfulness.

As I progressed, I started to go back to running and got more pounds off, but I turned in my rosary for saying the Jesus Prayer, because it was shorter and allowed me to embrace my new way of keeping fit for Jesus. But as things worked out the rosary has come back as I am settling in a new mission here at Sitka. Maybe because, as I discovered when I was in Soldotna and now here, the people of Alaska have a profound love for the rosary.

It has been a good rediscovery. I start out my run with saying the Apostles Creed and let each mystery, each ‘Our Father,’ each ‘Hail Mary’ sink into each breath, each step, each beat of my heart. As I journey about Sitka, I pray for the people here and know that God and the good people of Alaska are great companions.

I have even learned a new way of praying the ‘Hail Mary’ while I strike out running on the many beautiful trails here in Sitka and that is, “Hail Mary full of grace, help me not to fall on my face!”

One day as I was crossing the bridge in Sitka, I saw a person wearing earplugs listening to music while running. As I passed the person, I heard the song by Van Halen: “Runnin’ with the devil!” I laughed to myself, because I don’t run with the devil, but I do run with the Mary as we journey together toward her Son, Jesus.

This year’s dedication of praying the rosary is for an increase in vocations for the Diocese of Juneau and for the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. How do you pray the rosary?