As Catholics, we believe in the power of prayer. We pray when we're happy, we pray when we're sad or worried – and we pray when we're feeling the gamut of emotions in between.
We pray because we know it works and because we want a deeper relationship with God. But there is another benefit to praying, as well: it is also good for our physiological health.
A study from the University of Pavia in Italy found that balance between our various body rhythms – heart rate, blood pressure and blood flow to the brain – is an indicator of good physical health. As part of his research, Dr. Luciano Bernardi tracked the conditions that lead to a temporary disorganization of these body rhythms – and then examined the ways the body then recovers its "equilibrium."
Since his subjects lived in Lombardy, a very Catholic region, he had them recite the rosary in order to attain this balance. The result? The smooth, harmonious pattern of praying the rosary resulted in a perfect synchronization of the biological functions being studied.
This is good news for the faithful. When we're stressed and our body rhythms are out of whack, we can centre ourselves spiritually and from a physical perspective, too – through prayer.
As we strive to pray more this Lent, let's keep in mind the words of St. John Paul II, who said: "The rosary is my favourite prayer. A marvellous prayer! Marvellous in its simplicity and its depth. In the prayer, we repeat many times the words that the Virgin Mary heard from the Archangel, and from her kinswoman, Elizabeth."
We can all find greater balance this Lenten season, spiritually and physically, through prayer.