Home / Books / Book Reviews / Book Review: Hail Mary and Rhythmic Breathing – A New Way of Praying the Rosary by Richard Galentino

Book Review: Hail Mary and Rhythmic Breathing – A New Way of Praying the Rosary by Richard Galentino

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Incorporating meditative breathing exercises into Catholic prayer is a fascinating concept, but is it useful, licit and the key to world peace? The answer is maybe, not exactly and sort of, but Richard Galentino makes a fairly strong and surprisingly poetic case for “yes.”

The book begins with a short history of Yoga and the rosary, as well as information outlining some historical connections between yoga and Catholicism. The flow of the language and Galentino’s writing style are often both moving and inspiring, such as when he reflects that “every breath is God’s gift of life to us.”

While the prose is impeccable, the book is pretty light on information. There are many places that would benefit from being fleshed out, especially for the reader who’s familiar with Catholicism, but not familiar with the practice of yoga.

There’s a good mix of inspirational message and practical how-to information, including both the mysterious origins of the rosary and the benefits of meditation on the heart and respiratory system. But the grandest claims made in this book are that meditation is the key to world peace, and that the Hail Mary prayer is best used as a mantra.

It is traditional Catholic thought that individual prayer is the beginning of world peace. Peace begins within, to a certain extent, and Galentino uses the lives of Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi to illustrate how prayer and meditation can give someone the divine energy and purpose to act “humbly with authority,” as they both so famously did.

The book is written in building-block style. In the beginning Galentino makes a very strange and unexplored assertion that people "like war" because they “like the feeling of community…” And he begins his solution to this by asserting that the simple act of exhalation (as opposed to action of any sort) is the secret to affecting world peace.

Fortunately, he does expand on this idea. The breath is only the beginning, which leads to conversations with God, which leads to action when the meditation is ended. Mother Teresa, as an example, didn’t stop at the exhale. She took her conversation with God into the world and made a difference, both in the lives of the people she served through her charity work, and in the lives of the people she inspired during her lifetime and will continue to inspire long after her death.

The practical sections follow a similar path. The beginning of this part seems bizarre, if you know that the rosary already is a tool of meditation and prayer. Generally Catholics meditate on the mysteries of Christ, but Galentino recommends instead meditating on one’s breath. Which is an interesting twist and not entirely compatible with Catholic theology. Catholics are to look to Jesus for strength, peace and clarity, not themselves.

But again, he goes on. Instead of "joyful mysteries," "sorrowful mysteries," etcetera, he suggests meditating on “the birth,” “the resurrection,” and so on. The meditations become increasingly complex and longer. They all include 10 to 40 Hail Marys, and begin and end with a Hail Mary said aloud. Why the rest of the rosary prayers are ignored is not addressed.

From a Catholic perspective, this could be a good addition to a God-focused prayer life. The meditations seem to be focused on discerning God’s will, and are more akin to the idea of praying to better oneself than praying as an act of worship. Some of the meditations end with suggestions for action to take after finishing based upon clarity attained during the meditative process. Interestingly, the meditation for “breathing peace into the universe” does not.

This is a fine resource for people who already make prayer and/or meditation part of their lives and are looking for a way to deepen or expand upon what they’re already doing. It’s probably a bit much for someone just starting out. Many book recommendations are included at the end for those who want to study further. For those not familiar with yoga, a primer would be helpful.

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About Staci Schoff

  • This article has been selected for syndication to Advance.net, which is affiliated with newspapers around the United States. Nice work!

  • Pat

    Pope Benedict XVI, when he was the head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith warned against using techniques for prayer that set aside the person of Jesus. Quoting St. Teresa of Avila he said that this type of meditation is “always of form of betrayal.” Strong words. Meditating on ones breath is a barren gesture and would be a perversion of the beautiful prayer of the Rosary, which is fruitful meditation of the life of Jesus Christ.

  • Nancy

    Have to agree w/Pat & Pope Bennie: if you’re going to bother to do the rosary, the focus should be the meditation subject itself, not your breathing. Otherwise you might just as well recite any old thing. Still, if whatever works ….

  • normaann

    Yoga is not anything close to praying the rosary.

  • Joachim

    The Rosary is where the East meets the West.
    We are treated to an Eastern form of meditation
    yet with the Western structure to hold us secure.
    We have the best of both worlds.
    We let the birth, life, death, and ressurection of Jesus fill our minds and hearts to refresh and
    renew us. As we pray the Hail Mary’s she leads us to Jesus. We watch each mystery unfold in our imaginations. We, of course, breath as we pray but do not concentrate on breathing per se. That would almost defeat the purpose of this peace prayer. Our breath is slow and regulated almost like a chant. This prayer can be chanted too. It is most beautiful when chanted even in the most simple Gregorian style.
    The Holy Spirit is present to console and direct us.
    Emptying your mind during a yoga session could open you up to evil influences entering in because that excersise leaves a void that could be filled with anything. With the Rosary we are assured of Holy influences and growth in the spiritual life without worry, and with great trust and confidence in the Mother of God to help us find God and live His commandments. We feel refreshed and overshadowed by Goodness.

  • Baronius

    These are some great comments. One nitpick with Joachim: I wouldn’t call the Rosary a particularly Eastern meditation. There’s an incredible world of Western meditation that’s largely been forgotten, which is why Westerners often turn east for their spirituality. Joachim’s right on the money about Gregorian chant and meditation.

  • Bob

    I don’t have a problem with breathing…I do it all the time! But breathing is not prayer. Prayer shouldn’t be turned into a technique or a method. When it is, it becomes a control issue, and then we start to think we’re in charge. Will God only come to us when we’re relaxed and in touch with our “center?” I think He’s bigger than that. We have to wait on Him, not vice-versa.

  • michael g.b.

    those of “the eastern church” (Orthodox Catholics) have long been aware of the practice of “prayer without ceasing” . . . and the living out of “The Jesus Prayer” – “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner” (with a classic writing concerning this prayer in The Philokalia collections and more popularly in The Way Of The Pilgrim” . . . and the “breathing” or one’s “breath” becomes incorporated into the very act of praying, so that our perpeptual breathing becomes itself a prayer. and to become aware of this as a prayer is a good thing.

    however, if one becomes too involved with or preoccupied with “the technique”, one can lose sight of just what it is we are doing and being conscious of . . . and the frustrations and exhaustions can in fact impede real prayer and even make us abandon prayer . . . so “all things in moderation” (except for prayer itself which is ceaseless).

    the traditional rosary, and the traditional “Jesus Prayer” are in and of themselves ever deepening wells of meditation and prayer . . . and if “our breath” makes us aware that it was God Who first “breathed a soul into Adam” and that all of our breath flows from God and His “first breath” and continues that now in time, then it can be our prayer.

  • Joachim

    Thanks, Baronius, for the addition of Western meditation to the arena. With the reports of New Age and Satanism emitting from the convents we need some better information or resouces to rediscover this lost world of finding and living the Way the Truth and the Life. Jesus.
    I also appreciate the remark from Bob who has hit on another strong point so commonly overlooked- that in humility and confidence we wait on God, not vice-versa.
    Rule of thumb:
    Watch to see how people act after meditation. Even if they have to deal with someone whom they believe has offended them.
    This will tell you if they are acting in humility, forgiveness and peacefulness or if the spirit of pride has overtaken them.