The short answer is YES, you can. I asked this very question ages ago when it became impossible for me to pray the rosary daily using my vocal chords.
From Miming to Mind
My usual way of praying up until 2 years ago was always to mime the words. Whatever prayers I was praying, praying in my mind was always very difficult for me and unnatural. However, I struggled a lot with praying using my voice, even very quietly. It would result in a lot of discomfort for my throat.
On numerous occasions, I ended up getting an ulcar in my throat as a result. These were painful and made praying with any kind of use of my vocal chords unpleasant.
In short, I had to find a way to pray without using any miming or any use of my mouth at all.
So I got online and did some research about praying in my mind. Is it legitimate to pray the Rosary this way? That’s what I wanted to know.
I came away with the conclusion that yes, this is absolutely fine.
Of course, it should be taken for granted that praying in your mind is 100% legit and acceptable if you cannot pray using your vocal chords or mouth. That’s a total given, since God never asks us to do what we cannot do, only what we can do. It’s always worth remembering this all important Catholic principle.
However, even without any issue, even if you could pray with your mouth and vocal chords, the bottom line is that it is still acceptable for you to choose to pray in your mind.
People should pray as they feel most comfortable. And what works for you may not work for someone else. If praying the Rosary in your head helps you concentrate better, or helps you commune with God more effectively, then go for it!
What the Church says about praying in your mind
Researching how to pray the Divine Office also helped. I knew the Church obligated all priests to pray the Divine Office daily. But what I discovered was that there is no obligation for priests to mouth the words or say them audibly. It is sufficient for priests merely to READ the words of the Divine Office daily.
I even asked a priest about this and this was his own practice, though he said it’s more than simply reading, it’s also talking to God. It’s hard to explain. He also prays the Rosary this way.
I discovered many people pray the Rosary simply in their minds, without ever miming the words or saying them audibly.
I read somewhere of one nun who couldn’t even pray the Rosary herself for a long time because she was suffering so much. So she asked Mary to pray it for her.
I read in St Louis de Montfort’s amazing book ‘The Secret of the Rosary’ that it is fine to pray the Rosary silently, just in your mind.
This same document on Indulgences also states that we get a partial indulgence if we spend some time in mental prayer.
All in all, there was just no way to be certain that praying the Rosary in one’s mind meant you benefit less from it, or don’t get the indulgences attached to it.
On the contrary, it seemed that praying the Rosary in one’s mind was a common practice, and one which the Church doesn’t mind.
The Confraternity of the Rosary
Please remember, also, that there is a universal Confraternity of the Rosary, which goes back many centuries. Many saints have been – and still are – part of it.
Any Catholic can join this Confraternity, so long as you just try to pray 3 rosaries a week. That’s all that is required, and failing to keep to it IN NO WAY means you have sinned. You simply try to attempt to do this weekly.
The beauty of being part of the Confraternity is that the question of this post almost becomes pointless. Because simply by being a member of the Confraternity, you gain ALL the spiritual blessings of the entire Confraternity, and of the ENTIRE Dominican order – just because you are a member!!
Is there any financial fee to join? NO!
I mean, this is like winning the spiritual lottery!!
In other words, the OTHER members can carry you by their prayers. The millions of recitations of the rosary all over the world benefit YOU individually constantly. So you hardly need to do anything, other than just try to pray 3 rosaries a week.
Contemplation – the Highest Form of Prayer
Lastly, St Therese of the Child Jesus said that prayer is a silent lifting of the heart to God. This has been taken up by the Church officially in her Catechism, and so it is part of official Catholic teaching. This is the highest form of prayer, it is contemplation, where prayer goes even beyond words.
So it would seem that praying the Rosary in complete silence is indeed an extremely noble way to pray it.
Perhaps this is even the most perfect way to pray it.
Prayer and the Heart
My priest once told me, ‘God isn’t interested in particulars so much; he’s interested in your heart.’ This is exactly what Holy Scripture teaches us in 1 Samuel 16:7: God looks at the heart, not the outward appearance.
We tend to fixate on rules, regulations, laws and external commands. This is not the higher way of the New Testament order. Rules are vital, of course they are, but LOVE needs no commands.
The Holy Spirit is in our hearts and he cries ‘Abba, Father,’ to God all the time from within us. All we need to do is step into that. Which means going within ourselves and finding the place of the heart, finding God within us.
So I concluded that there is no issue with praying the Rosary in your head or mind, especially if this is the only way you can pray consistently.
If you ARE perfectly able to pray the Rosary audibly, or by moving your mouth a little, or miming the words, then PERHAPS it would be a good practice for you to do that.
But I really don’t know. I think God and the Church just want us to pray, whatever that looks like for each of us.
I hope you found this post helpful.
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God bless you, through Mary Immaculate, Queen of heaven and of earth!