Just as it is helpful for women to talk to women now and again regarding the spiritual life, the same holds true for men! David N. Calvillo’s book, Real Men Pray the Rosary: A Practical Guide to a Powerful Prayer, is a forthright conversation with men (and us women who sneak a peek) about his own surprise and subsequent delight in discovering the Rosary, otherwise known as a prayer he had almost mistakenly written off as “for old ladies and funerals.”
What comes across in Calvillo’s writing is a likeable, honest, work-in-progress kind of guy who admits his former bias, and now moves ahead with Spirit-filled enthusiasm for the power –capable of doing some heavy lifting when it comes to life’s problems — that comes from prayer, especially the Rosary. Admittedly transformed by his faith, this husband, father, and lawyer by trade, offers deep reverence and appreciation for what he was missing… a real life-changing encounter with Christ. He found it, of all places, sitting in the early morning mist, surrounded by 80 men praying a Rosary outside a Benedictine retreat house…
I wept at the reality of eighty rough-looking men from all walks of life, humbly and sincerely raising their hearts and minds to God… I felt a prayerful happiness, a warm comforting presence.
As weird as it sounds… I felt as though I was praying with everyone who had ever prayed the Rosary. I felt my grandmother Vera praying with me. I felt my mom. I felt the hearts of those eighty men. I felt like I was praying with and to Jesus himself…”
After a healing encounter with Christ on retreat, Calvillo confesses, “The Rosary was the path vividly open for me… and my mom’s previous lessons that I had previously ignored were now front and center.”
The rest of the book is an accessible how-to for Rosary beginners and novices alike, with an unpacking of Rosary’s wisdom gleaned from the Scriptures, the many popes and saints who’ve written extensively about the Rosary through history, and real-life stories of contemporary men who’ve inspired Calvillo’s on-going conversion and his subsequent apostolate from which the book draws its name, Real Men Pray the Rosary (RMPTR).
I enjoyed Calvillo’s personal narration of what’s inspired him as he encountered these truths about the Rosary, especially the idea that prayer is a dialogue with God, not a monologue, or a “saying” of prayers, but a true entering into them. He captures, also, what has been my longtime experience of the Rosary, that within that prayer is a Mother who wishes to draw us closer to Jesus, like a personal spiritual director or mentor.
The Rosary has a body and a soul. The body of the Rosary is composed of the prayers. Some of those prayers are prayed in groups of ten, called a “decade”. The Rosary invites us to contemplate twenty important points in the life and teachings of Jesus and his mother, Mary. These points make up the Rosary’s soul and are referred to as the Rosary Mysteries. As we pray the Mysteries, we contemplate how the biblical messages apply to our daily lives — therein lies the Rosary’s transformative power…
Pope Leo XIII had described the familiarity of those prayers… over a hundred years ago: “The Rosary… floods the should of those who recite it devoutly with an ever new sweetness of piety, giving them the impression and emotion as if they were hearing the very voice of their most merciful Mother explaining these mysteries to them, and conversing with them at length for their salvation…”
The familiarity evolves into an intimate dialogue with our Blessed Mother. Thus, when one is in the midst of deep prayer in the Rosary, Mary becomes spiritually present to meet us and lead us by the hand through each of those important points of meditation know as the Mysteries. When we pray the Rosary, we are permitted to live those mysteries through her eyes, through her perspective. That is the beauty of the Rosary: to understand and live those twenty salient points in the life and teachings of Jesus and Mary, with Mary’s familiar voice narrating the way.
Besides chapters covering the basics for learning the Rosary, and how a man might meditate on its Mysteries, at the end of each chapter the book offers a ”Tool Box” with practical suggestions for making it all real.
Calvillo offers this advice: “Real men pray for women” and he even hands a chapter over to his wife, Valerie, for insights from a feminine perspective on the being married to a man who prays the Rosary, and ways to encourage other husbands to take up this practice. Valerie Calvillo’s advice is for women to embrace the Rosary, too, and develop Mary’s virtues in their lives.
I have seen firsthand that when women live Mary’s virtues, real men respond. Women can live Mary’s virtues by meeting chauvinism with ardent charity and by meeting intransigence with heroic patience. We can do it by meeting materialism with unceasing prayer and by meeting selfishness with constant self-denial. In short, when we meet our own shortcomings and those of the men in our lives by being a living Mary to them, they will respond, “Ave Maria.”
Like an encouraging personal trainer who wants to pump up one’s spiritual muscles, David Calvillo issues men a challenge to take the Rosary on for 33 days. If after 33 days a man still remains unconvinced of the Rosary’s efficacy and power, David extends a personal offer for a man to get in touch with him through his ministry, Real Men Pray the Rosary.
This is a book I can highly recommend. Give it as a gift for the men in your life, or buy some copies for your parish priests to share with the men in the parish.