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Contemplation aided by great art and music and many quotations
By Deborah Gyapong-Angelina and Dennis Girard with their Divine Mercy Rosary DVD and poster. Deborah Gyapong / CCN.
Dennis Girard has come a long way since he blocked a Marian grotto with a big white cross on the property of the Christian retreat centre he ran in the early 2000s.
On Divine Mercy Sunday, April 27, Girard and his wife Angelina released the Divine Mercy Rosary DVD to help Catholics deeply contemplate the mysteries of the Rosary through the use of great art, a meditative original musical score and quotations from Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and various saints.
Born in Ottawa in 1961 and raised Catholic, Girard drifted away from the faith during years he toured as a musician and, in the 1990s “came to know the Lord” in evangelical circles. After his conversion, he said he fell into an “anti-Marian mindset.”
When he put the cross in front of Mary, he reasoned, “Mary was behind Jesus, 100 per cent,” and hoped by covering the Marian grotto his centre would appeal to both Protestant and Catholics.
“It really is a complete 180,” he admitted.
Girard spent a half a year of full time work producing the DVD, looking at hundreds of images of traditional Catholic art and mosaics that are in the public domain, choosing quotes to go with each one of the images. “All these images kept popping up in my head, in church situations, praying the rosary with others,” he said. “It’s like a spiritual washing machine!”
“That’s what’s really exciting about praying with it,” he said. “It really helps to combat all that visual imagery out there.”
“I’m really hoping that it’s going to help men and women with pornography issues,” he said. “I really believe this will wash their minds of it.”
Girard also he hopes the DVD will catechize, evangelize and bring about what the Catechism calls the “radical reorientation” or second conversion all baptized Catholics need to experience.
When he and Angelina married in 1999, Angelina was deeply seeking relationship with God. By 2001, they were operating the Abundant Blessings retreat centre in Val des Bois, Quebec, in the Laurentian foothills. Girard was licensed as a pastor with the Canadian Fellowship of Churches and Ministries (CFCM) and many came to the centre to find spiritual refreshment.
In 2002, after a series of written exchanges with a Catholic friend and fellow musician David MacDonald, Girard returned to the Catholic Church and Angelina crossed the Tiber. MacDonald had told him he would come to the retreat centre if he took the cross away from blocking the grotto.
“I guess Mary didn’t like that cross in front of her,” Girard joked.
But even after returning to the Church, the Rosary did not appeal to him. “I found it repetitive and boring,” he said.
Though he knew one was supposed to focus on each mystery while praying the beads, he preferred Bible-based praying. “As Protestants, we spent a lot of time in the Word,” he said. “I just preferred to do that.
His love for Scripture “definitely impacted the production” of the DVD, he said. He hopes the use of Scripture will help evangelicals better understand what the Rosary, and Marian devotion in general, is.
“The rosary really is a journey through the life of Christ with Mary,” he said. “Mary is like the premier disciple.”
He used an analogy: “If you were at the edge of a river and on it were two people in two boats-St. Paul or Mary-and you could only get into one boat to learn about Jesus, as much as I love St. Paul and his teachings, I have to say, of course, I’d go in the boat with Mary.”
“The Rosary is an incredible ride with her to learn about her son, through her experiences, through her eyes,” he said. “I’ve also found she does a good job of softening our edges.”
Girard also hopes the DVD will build bridges with Protestant and evangelical brothers and sisters. “It seeks to educate on the proper understanding of Mary’s role in the Church.”
The Girards’ interest in the Rosary began in 2010 after Angelina followed St. Louis de Montfort’s 33-day consecration to Jesus through Mary. A year later, Dennis made the same consecration.
“Obviously, that’s a huge turn around,” he said.
Both Girards are musicians who play in a worship band at Blessed Sacrament parish in Ottawa. Both sing. Dennis plays guitar and bass and has written and produced several worship songs, and CDs of his original compositions, available at his website http://www.surrender.ca
They also had become attracted to the Divine Mercy devotion of St. Faustina and, in 2012 produced a YouTube version of the Divine Mercy Chaplet that has been downloaded thousands of times.
In 2013, they came across Fr. Michael Gaitley’s book 33 Days to Morning Glory, which offers a consecration to Jesus through Mary reflecting not only on the insights of St. Louis de Montfort, but also on those of St. John Paul II, St. Maximilian Kolbe and Blessed Mother Theresa. Both Girards eagerly began promoting this book and encouraging people to make the 33-day consecration.
Gaitley had written about the “mysterious graces” in praying it, Girard said. He was feeling frustrated in finding a version of the Rosary that helped them contemplate the mysteries with the prayers. After having done the Divine Mercy Chaplet for YouTube, he thought, “Why not do a version of the Rosary that would line up with each of the mysteries?”
“My intention was really to do a few YouTube videos to complement the Divine Mercy Chaplet I had already done,” he said. “The chaplet online is very popular. There are other people like me who would appreciate praying to this kind of production.”
A chance encounter with a friend changed his course. Girard had at that point had only done four decades of the sorrowful mysteries. After showing his work so far, the three of them prayed. The Lord seemed to be saying, “Let’s take this to another level,” Girard said. Later he realized the computer screen had frozen with the image of Divine Mercy superimposed over a Crucifixion. “That became the [DVD] cover.”
“Fr Michael Gaitley talks about the battle of prayer, constantly having an issue of fighting distractions,” he said. “Praying with this DVD really helps with all of that.”
“There’s so much going on, it’s easy to stay focused and in the moment and really go deep with the Lord with it,” he said.
The musical score came together quickly, too. He was building a home studio and had ordered a keyboard. When it arrived, he started playing it and saved two sounds that he liked, without knowing they would eventually end up on the DVD. He had also saved a guitar composition.
He wondered “if those parts would work and they did.” “The musical score is meant to not be distracting,” he said. “It sets the stage; it helps move it along. The music is appropriate for the different sections, the announcement of the mysteries, the actual decades. It fell together very, very easily.”
“It’s been an adventure for both of us,” he said. “We’re now praying as a couple. I was very reluctant to pray the rosary with her. It’s made that a reality.”
“It’s wonderful to be praying that as a couple,” he said. “We’re hoping it inspires other couples to do it. I hope it inspires a lot of people to begin engaging in praying the rosary and discovering the gift it is to the Church.”
It makes praying easier, something that’s “a difficult thing for a lot of us,” he said. “God gave us all these senses; it’s engaging all of these senses if you pray along with it.”
“Also, even folks that aren’t believers are drawn to watching it because of the art work,” he said.
“I got lost in it,” he said. “I got found in the process. This is definitely grace-filled. It’s the most exciting, meaningful project I’ve ever worked on bar none.”
Girard is charging a low $5 price for the DVD so people will buy multiple copies to give away. They are seeking a distributor for the DVDs, but in the meantime they can be ordered or downloaded from http://www.divinemercyrosary.com.