“The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at the heart a Christocentric prayer”—St. John Paul II
By F. K. Bartels
25 June 2009
“The Rosary of the virgin Mary . . . is a prayer loved by countless saints and encouraged by the Magisterium. Simple yet profound, it still remains at the dawn of this third millennium a prayer of great significance, destined to bring forth a harvest of holiness. . . .
“The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at the heart a Christocentric prayer. In the sobriety of its elements, it has all the depth of the Gospel message in its entirety, of which it can be said to be a compendium. . . . Through the Rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer” (Apostolic Letter of Pope John Paul II, On The Most Holy Rosary, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, Pauline books and media, introduction, p. 7-8).
The Rosary is made up of mental and vocal prayer, and is none other than meditation on the chief mysteries of the life of Jesus Christ and his Blessed Mother. When reciting the Rosary, one meditates on these mysteries: the Joyous Mysteries, the Sorrowful Mysteries, the Glorious Mysteries, and, instituted by pope John Paul II, the Luminous Mysteries. The Rosary consists of fifteen decades, each containing an Our Father, ten Hail Mary’s, and one Glory Be. Thus, in reciting the fifteen decades of the Rosary, a total of 150 Hail Mary’s is said, along with the associated Our Father’s and Glory Be’s. The 150 Hail Mary’s correspond to the total number of Psalms contained in the Book of Psalms in the Holy Bible. It is common for Catholics who recite the Rosary to say five decades at one time rather than the full fifteen.
While St. Louis De Montfort tells us that since the Rosary is composed of the prayer of Christ and the Angelic Salutation it has been in use from the time of the apostles, it was in the year 1214 that holy Mother Church received the Rosary in its present form as it is recited today. It was given the Church by St. Dominic who had received it from the Blessed Virgin as a powerful means of converting the Albigensians and other sinners. The following is an account of how this occurred.
St. Dominic saw that the gravity of peoples sins were hindering the conversion of the Albigensians, so he withdrew into the forest to pray. He remained there three days and nights, praying ceaselessly and doing harsh penance and mortification to appease Almighty God. It was then that our Blessed Mother appeared to him.
Mary said, “Dear Dominic, do you know which weapon the Blessed Trinity wants to use to reform the world?”
“Oh, my Lady,” answered Dominic, “you know far better than I do because next to your Son Jesus Christ you have always been the chief instrument of our salvation.”
Our Lady replied, “I want you to know that, in this kind of warfare, the battering ram has always been the Angelic Psalter which is the foundation stone of the New testament. Therefore if you want to reach these hardened souls and win them over to God, preach my Psalter.”
Dominic arose, and, filled with a zeal for the conversion of souls, went to the Cathedral. Unseen angels rang the bells to gather the people together. At the beginning of his sermon, a severe storm broke out; there was a great deal of thunder and lighting, all were afraid. The congregation’s fear increased when, looking at a picture of Our Lady in a prominent place, they saw her arms raised to heaven three times to call down upon them God’s chastisement if they failed to be converted, amend their lives, and seek the protection of the Mother of God.
At St. Dominic’s prayer, the storm ceased. So fervently and with such great love did he explain the great value of the holy Rosary that nearly all the people of Toulouse embraced it and renounced their false beliefs. In a short time, the people began living the Christian life, and, as a result, there were great improvements in virtue seen in the town (De Dignitate Psalterii, The importance and beauty of the Holy Rosary, by Blessed Alan de la Roche, O.P.).
Mary Is To Be Honored As The Mother Of God
It is important for all the faithful to realize and understand the honor due the Blessed Mother; for the many graces Mary has won for us, the manner in which she ushered in our Savior and, hence, our salvation, and the many intercessions and saving prayers she has offered to the Father for men during her life in heaven require of us to address her with the utmost respect and love. She is truly our Mother; a Mother who loves and protects far more than any earthly mother. It has been rightly said that if it were not for the Virgin Mary’s prayers all men would perish in hell. Of course it is so, for it is by her grace and prayer, her participation in God’s will, that we have our Savior’s passion, death, and resurrection as the treasure of our lives. Mary gave us Christ; she bore him into the world. Mary is our Spiritual Mother. If it were not for Mary our salvation would not be.
Mary is raised above all other creatures as God’s favored one: the angel Gabriel was sent to Nazareth, to a virgin whose name was Mary, and he said to her, “Hail favored one! The Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28).
Mary is most blessed among women: “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Lk 1″: 41-42).
And Mary said:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
“From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name” (Lk 1: 46-49).
God willed that the Rosary exist as a weapon against evil, a treasure of which the faithful should diligently avail themselves, and it was Our Lady who handed it to us. Mary gave us her Son; she gives us her Rosary to bring us, with her protection, to her Son. The Rosary is a “genuine training in holiness” (Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter On The Most Holy Rosary).
The word “Rosary” means “crown of roses”. St. Louis De Montfort calls the Rosary “the mystical rose tree of Jesus and Mary in life, death, and eternity.” He tells us that reciting the Rosary produces spiritual roses which will “never wilt or die, and they will be just as exquisite thousands of years from now as they are today.” In regards the worth of saying the Rosary, he professes it to be a “priceless treasure which is inspired by God.”
Brother Alphonsus Rodriguez, a well-known Jesuit, said his Rosary with such devotion that he often saw a red rose come out of his mouth at each Our Father, and a white rose at each Hail Mary.
The chronicles of St. Francis tell of a young friar who had the praiseworthy habit of saying the Rosary each day before dinner. One day he forgot to say it, and asked the Superior to allow him to recite his Rosary before coming to table. He was given permission, and retired to his cell to pray. After some time, the Superior sent another friar to find him. What he found was the young friar bathed in heavenly light, facing Our Lady with two angels accompanying her. At each Hail Mary, beautiful roses issued from his mouth, which were placed on the Virgin’s head who smilingly accepted them. Two other friars were sent to see what had happened to the first two: both witnessed the same scene.
Christ gives a directive to priests to teach the Rosary. Our Lord Jesus Christ spoke to Blessed Alan de la Roche in the Eucharist. One day while he was celebrating Mass, Christ said to him, “how can you crucify me again so soon?” Blessed Alan, horrified, asked, “What did you say Lord?” Jesus answered, “You crucified me once before by your sins, and I would willingly be crucified again rather than have my Father offended by the sins you used to commit. You are crucifying me again now because you have all the learning and understanding that you need to preach my Mother’s Rosary, and you are not doing so. If you only did this you could teach many souls the right path and lead them away from sin – but you are not doing it and so you yourself are guilty of the sins that they commit.” After this terrible and shocking reproach Blessed Alan preached the Rosary unceasingly.
Our Lady’s Rosary is persecuted
Just as the Church is persecuted, so too the Rosary; for the Church is Christ’s Bride and her Mother is the Blessed Mother. There are many today who believe the honor and importance in which Catholics hold Mary to be inappropriate, even, some say, idolatrous. Marian doctrine is under frequent and unceasing attack by many anti-Catholics who adamantly insist on separating themselves from Tradition – those revealed truths Christians have held for twenty centuries – in favor of subjective, individualized Scripture interpretation at the cost of submission and obedience to the Magisterium of the holy Catholic Church which Christ founded upon St. Peter (cf. Mt 16: 17-18). The frontal line of attack is most often Marian doctrine, the Rosary, and, in fact, any veneration directed toward Our Lady, the Blessed Mother of God.
Yet one cannot know Christ as he should if he disgraces his Mother. To ignore the Rosary is to ignore the Hail Mary, which is to ignore the Angelic Salutation. The angel Gabriel’s words to our Virgin Mother presented the possibility of salvation to mankind; Mary’s trusting answer, “behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38), made at that moment our Savior’s Incarnation a reality, thus his redemptive acts were set in motion. To ignore Mary is to leave a great deal behind; to reject what the Church teaches in regards Mary is to yield to the Father of Lies; to despise the Rosary is to heap disrespect on Christ and to pierce his Mother’s heart with bitter thorns.
St. Louis De Montfort tells us, “Even though God has set his seal of approval on the holy Rosary by many miracles, and in spite of the Papal Bulls that have been written approving it, there are only too many people who are against the holy Rosary today. These freethinkers and those who scorn religion either condemn the Rosary or they turn others away from it. . . .
“It is easy to see they have absorbed the poison of hell and that they are inspired by the devil – for nobody can condemn devotion to the holy Rosary without condemning all that is most holy in the Catholic Faith, such as the Lord’s Prayer, the Angelic Salutation and the mysteries of the life, death and glory of Jesus Christ and of his holy Mother” (St. Louis De Montfort, The Secret of the Rosary).
To contemplate Mary is to contemplate the radiant face of Christ; through his Mother’s purity and obedience we are led to Christian perfection, the door to the light of Christ, who is the “way, the truth and the life,” is opened before us. Let us love our Mother! Let us make for her a crown of white roses from our very hearts.
Benefits of the Rosary
Our Lady with the Christ Child Jesus appeared to Lucia, a nun in a convent at Pontevedra, Spain, in December 1925. Lucia, as a young girl, was one of the three pheasant children of Fatima, Portugal, who saw the Blessed Mother in 1917. Fatima is the location of the wonderful and well-known miracle which involved the dancing of the sun. In 1925, the Christ Child and Our Lady both spoke to Lucia. The Christ Child first spoke, saying:
“Have compassion on the heart of your Most Holy Mother, covered with thorns, with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment, and there is no one to make an act of reparation to remove them.”
Our Blessed Mother then said, “Look, my daughter, at my Heart, surrounded with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce me at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. You, at least, try to console me and announce for me that I promise to assist at the hour of death, with the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months, shall confess, receive Holy communion, recite five decades of the Rosary, and keep me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me.”
St. Louis De Montfort tells of these benefits for those who devote themselves to the Rosary:
1. It gradually gives us a perfect knowledge of Jesus Christ.
2. It purifies our soul, washing away sin.
3. It gives us victory over all our enemies (it would seem this applies most importantly to spiritual enemies, those whose intent and purpose is to bring eternal damnation to the soul).
4. The practice of virtue becomes easy.
5. It sets us on fire with love for our Lord Jesus Christ.
6. It enriches us with graces and merits.
7. It supplies us with what is needed to pay all our debts to God and to our fellow men, and finally, it obtains all kinds of graces for us from Almighty God.
On October 13, 1917, seventy-thousand people had found their way to Fatima, standing in mud up to their ankles, for it had rained all the previous night. They stood in such a place due to the visions of three children; visions of Our Lady who brought them and the world messages from heaven. They were about to witness the “miracle of the sun”; they were soon to think the world’s end upon them. After the event, they would find their clothes dry, the mud gone, their lives forever changed. Just prior to noon, our Lady appeared to the three children and spoke these words:
“I am the Lady of the Rosary. I have come to warn the faithful to amend their lives and to ask pardon for their sins. They must not offend our Lord any more, for he is already too grievously offended by the sins of men. People must say the Rosary. Let them continue saying it every day.”
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Deacon Frederick Bartels is a member of the Catholic clergy who serves the Church in the diocese of Pueblo. He holds an MA in Theology and Educational Ministry and is a Catholic educator, public speaker, and evangelist who strives to infuse culture with the saving principles of the gospel. For more, visit YouTube, iTunes and Google Play.