Today I want to share with you a tool I used to use. I say ‘used to’ since at present I no longer use, but I wanted to recommend it for the reasons I will explain later.
Some years ago, perhaps during 2011 until early 2013. I used this tool that helped me out a lot before being Catholic, and I think that it was one of the main reasons why I converted to the Catholic faith.
Without further ado, here is a photo that is identical to one I used personally.
This is a simple counter which can be found at the hardware store. People usually use it to count cargoes at work, for example, it is helpful for when someone needs to determine if the number of bricks that are being sold to them is exactly what was agreed, without slowing down the mobilization of cargo.
In my case it occurred to me that it could function as an aspirations (short prayers) counter, and it actually turned out to be really useful for that purpose. I had come to the conclusion that I wanted to truly pray as much as I could (literally anywhere I had a chance) but nobody had told me of the importance of the Holy Rosary, or the need to pray the 15 mysteries every day, I just prayed five mysteries each day (and sometimes I think even less than that). It was during the time that I was already going to Latin Mass, so many of the true things about the importance of prayer in general I had already had the chance of hearing and reading from books of saints. So I said to myself, “If prayer is so important, and I’ve wasted so many years of my life without ever praying anything, it would be really silly if I were not to pray everything humanly possible from now on.” So I started looking for an appropriate tool to do so.
As at that time I was not Catholic, nor did I have contact with any Catholic, no one told me that there were rings to pray the Rosary, nor how important it was to pray as much as possible. That’s why I had to search for an intuitive solution on my own. Which ended up being the counter for praying aspirations (short prayers).
I personally recommend the counter for the following reasons:
1. Because it does not require very much attention to maneuver.
2. Because it has physical memory, that is, it does the counting for you, which can be used to pray in order to not have to direct too much attention to it. This might sound counterproductive if your goal is to pray with great attention when you are at home when you have the allotted time to pray exclusively, but when you are doing something that does not require much attention, for example, buying food at the super market, your attention must be focus to a certain degree to what is part of your everyday life, in this case using the counter is indeed beneficial.
And with that, dozens of opportunities to pray will open up and you can more easily achieve the desired goal of praying without intermission, just as Padre Pio.
You will quickly notice that you can pray while you walk when you go to work, while waiting for the bus stop, while you’re on the bus, etc., etc.
Now, I point out at the beginning of this article, that I no longer use this object but I still wanted to recommend it and I recommend it especially for people new to these subjects.
Let me explain in more detail as to why.
3. The reason I no longer use this object is because I have now turned my focus on praying the Rosary more with these two pious tools:
However, this requires more attention than the other object (from what I remember) and if you are in the middle of a count, you have at least two fingers busy. This does not happen with the counter, because you could simply stop counting if you need to use your hand to do something.
An additional reason for why I recommend the counter is that in this era of the Great Apostasy it is much more likely to find a counter anywhere in the world than a ring to pray the rosary, or a decade of the rosary. I live in Mexico, which was until recently a Catholic country (and was land of martyrs even as recently as the 1920’s). Here there are entire stores dedicated to selling all kinds of Catholic objects. And yet, by weak demand, some items are hard to find, especially rings to pray the Rosary or decades of the Rosary.
4. Another reason (useful for beginners) is that the counter indicates how much you have prayed (approximately) in the day, which can be helpful in inspiring you to pray even more when you see that you are making progress, which is what worked with me. I realized that when seeing the amount, it encouraged me and wanted to pray even more the next day, trying to break my own records of prayers. This helped me a lot in general.
5. Also, this method is useful for beginners as it helps to not be distracted too much or too easily.
As an example I will share my story about it, it so happened that at the beginning of my journey towards the Catholic Faith, without knowing what to do or how to pray, and with my head full of memories of past sins and spiritual darkness in general on account of not being Catholic, it so happened that I was quite easily distracted while praying. This happened to me even after just seconds (that’s right, seconds) after I was intended on praying. As this became so annoying for me, I sought to find a remedy and the counter turned out to be the perfect cure.
The counter makes a distinct “click” sound each time it is pressed, so the sound really also serves the purpose of a spiritual alarm clock, a kind of notification that you are praying and you must continue to do so. Also, the counter requires moderate physical effort, but it is remarkable enough to keep you focused on it. This is highly useful for a beginner, especially if you are someone who falls asleep when praying.
In addition to this, the counter is the perfect neutral version of a pious object. Which is useful in order to be able to pray in public without raising almost any suspicion. For, in this final time of the Great Apostasy, if people see you carrying (and praying) a rosary in public, it so might happen that they will blaspheme or even (depending on the environment) attack you for it. This may be especially true in countries with a constant anti-Catholic tradition, such as Protestant or Muslim countries. So when using the counter, you avoid any distractions in that regard, focusing only on what’s important: Praying.
Finally, I point out that this tool for me was ideal for praying aspirations (short prayers), and this was something partly providential and partly something I thought as the best option. As no one else had mentioned to me how important it was to pray the Holy Rosary, it never occurred to me to pray more of it. This was perhaps also a temptation of the devil and therefore I concluded that to pray much meant in this case, to pray aspirations (short prayers). However, I still think the aspirations may have their place in the life of a Catholic or a person who wants to convert, especially if they have problems in forming a habit to pray.
The reason is simple, the aspirations take between 5 to 10 seconds to say and the smaller ones take even less, like two seconds. Therefore, the willpower needed is much lower, which is exactly ideal for a beginner and it personally helped me a lot at the time. Since it is similar to taking many small steps, rather than running with long strides. Which it is very useful when your soul is exhausted (and indeed dead) from so many mortal sins that people often commit in this day and age before converting to the true faith.
I also believe that the aspirations have their place in the Christian life because with these short prayers it is much more easily to fill the gaps of downtime. For example, suppose I’m in my house praying the Rosary with attention. I ended the section that I was praying and then say to myself, “I will climb to the roof to read a little pious book”. In going upstairs, I spent maybe a few seconds (maybe less than two minutes) which is what it takes to walk upstairs and find the book, so the opportunity to win graces would have been lost. When I realized this, I found that the aspirations were ideal for this kind of event, and so, rather than a two minute walk, they would be two minutes of walking and saying 30 to 60 short prayers.
And if you extend the flexibility of saying aspirations to fill these down times, then you will find that praying all day without intermission is something possible, even as a beginner, because you’ll be taking one small step at a time, getting encouragement when seeing your progress, and filling the spaces of downtime, as well as receiving a distinctive sound each time you finish a prayer.
So this is a great tool for spiritual progress, particularly useful for beginners, but also for people who are presumably in the state of grace and have a strong prayer life, that may want to apply this tool to their life on certain occasions.