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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Holy Rosary - Allocutio - 8 Oct 2008

Emergence of the Rosary

The meditation of the Rosary has always been a universal belief, manifested in turning confidently to her as “all-powerful in prayer”, “hope of the world” and “empress of the angels.” Because the faithful realized their need for her help as the channel of grace, they created a multitude of popular and liturgical devotions.

Poetic souls never tired of invoking her, inventing names and titles to honor her, intoning song to her that abounded in tenderness and simplicity. Many of these verses were learned by heart; ordinary faithful recited them in the intimacy of their homes and on long journeys on foot. Before the 12th century, Church Councils began to recommend praying the Hail Mary. From St Bernard, we inherited his Memorare.

At the height of the middle ages, Alphonse the Wise composed Songs to Holy Mary, because he wanted to “write verse in honor of the Rose of roses and Flower of flowers.” Gonzalo de Berceo celebrated the Miracles of our Lady – the mercies of the Mother of God for sinners who called on her. There are but a few manifestations of a burgeoning and universal movement to honor the Virign.

Among these various devotions, the most outstanding and durable is undoubtedly the Holy Rosary. In the 13th Century England, a Cistercian abbot, Etienne de Sallai, wrote some meditations on the 15 joys of our Lady: the birth of the Virgin, her life, the Annunciation, the Conception, the Visitation, the Birth of Jesus, the visit of the Magi, the presentation in the temple, the loss of the Child in the temple, miracles accompanying the preaching of her Son, the Cross, the Resurrection, the Ascension, Pentecost, the Assumption and Glorification of Mary. Each one of these 15 meditations ended with a Hail Mary. Without yet being the rosary in its present-day form, this devotion was certainly an antecedent.

But it was St Dominic, also in the 13th century, who most contributed to the development and spread of the Rosary. “Venerable brethren, none of you is unaware of how many displeasures and bitterness were caused the holy Church of God, at the end of the 12th centur, by the Albigensian heretics, who, born of the sect of the last Manicheans, filled the south of France and other countries of the Latin world with their pernicious errors and, bringing to all parts the terror of their weapons, threatened to spread their dominion to all parts with extermination and death. Against such terrible enemies, as you know, God in his mercy raised up the remarkable father and founder of the order of the Dominicans, a truly holy man. This man, great for the integrity of his doctrine, for the example of his virtues, and for his apostolic works, with a strong spirit took on the war against the enemies of the Catholic Church, not with the force of arms, but with the most purified faith in the devotion of the Holy Rosary, who was the first to propagate it, and who personally through his sons brought it to the 4 corners of the world. Thus the fact made it manifest. For thanks to this way of praying, accepted, regulated and put into practice by St Dominic, piety, faith and concord began to be re-established, and the projects and artifices of the heretics were destroyed.

Near the end of the 15th century, Alain de La Roche gave the devotion of the Rosary a structure similar to what we have today: either five or fifteen mysteries are prayed, each one made up of 10 Hail Marys. For its part, the Church added to the words of the Hail Mary the petition for a good death, taken from Luke 1:28-42: “pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

The faithful came gradually to understand that contemplation of the mysteries is a primary concern, and they were divided into joyful, sorrowful and glorious. Thus, following the weekly cycle, the faithful meditate on the central facts of the lives of Jesus and Mary. More recently the litany which has an origin lost in the early centuries of the Church, was added to the Rosary.

Mary’s Meditation

In His divine plan of redemption, God destined a creature, Mary, to a singular mission, to be the Mother of God. That role of Mother brought with it many prerogatives: immaculate, virgin, co-redemptrix, mediatrix. Thus God intimately associated the loftiest of the creatures to His divine plan – a truth always recognized and proclaimed by the Church. Mary is described as “a celestial channel from which descend the streams of all divine graces.” (Benedict XIV) She is the “dispenser of all graces.” (Pius VII) “Absolutely nothing of that great treasure won by Christ… is given us except through Mary”. The magisterium of the Church has frequently referred to Mary’s role as mediatrix.

Mary has such a role “because our Lord wanted it to be this way”. At the Cross, seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother: “Woman, this is your son”. Then to John the disciple he said: “This is your mother”. From that moment John made a place for her in his home.

John the disciple whom Jesus loved, brought Mary into his home, into his life. We also see these words of the Gospel as an invitation to all Christians to bring Mary into our lives. Mary certainly wants us to invoke herm to approach her confidently, to appeal to her as our mother, asking her, ‘to show yourself to be our mother’.

Once we become aware of Mary’s role in our redemption, we come to realize the importance of dealing with her, of loving her.

Do you want to love our Lady? Well, get to know her. How? By praying the Rosary well.

We often hear praying the Rosary to be monotonous and boring. However, those in love also often say the same things to each other. Yet we are not told to simply recite Hail Marys. Rather we are told to contemplate on the mysteries.

The essence of the Rosary consists in meditating the mysteries. In doing so, we are prompted to consider the plans of God and to stir up our heart to love His will. We should meditate on the lives of Jesus and Mary, from the joy of the annunciation, passing through the sorrow of our Lord’s death, to the glory of the coronation of the Virgin. Here we have a synthesis of the Gospel which discloses to us God’s love for men. Therefore “it is impossible for a Christian who applies himself with faith to praying these prayers and to meditating on these most high mysteries not to end up being deeply moved as he considers the designs of God carried out in the Most Holy Virgin for the salvation of all peoples. Once he is convinced of the truth of these things, the Christian should deliver himself confidently into her protecting arms, repeating the words of St Bernard “Remember Most Gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known, that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help or sought your intercession was left unaided...”

In the light of the richness of this devotion to Mary, one can see more easily the importance of this practice and the emptiness of the term “anachronistic devotion”. If one were to follow the same logic, he should conclude that Christ’s life just doesn’t fit into the contemporary scheme of things.

Fatima and Lourdes

The fact of Fatima and Lourdes emphasize still more the reasons for this devotion to Mary. The Virgin sought out a French girl and some Portuguese peasants to teach them how to pray the Rosary.

The apparitions of Fatima are also a testimony. When Our Lady appeared to 3 Portuguese children to tell them simply this: to pray the Rosary. Her miraculous appearance is like an urgent call to heaven for conversion. Pray the rosary everyday to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war.

It was a calling that has meaning for today. Wars have come to an end but if the world continues offending God, another worse war will come. Mary reveals the punishment that will come, but at the same time she proposes how to ward them off: “Pray. When you pray the Rosary, say after each mystery…”

In the Rosary, we discover a path that leads to God; what before seemed difficult now seems easier.

What, then, does Fatima mean for the believer? Above all, it means God’s love for his creatures, as shown through Mary. It means His constant desire for our salvation, despite human indifference. It is not, as someone alleged, “popular Mariolatry”. Rather it is a manifestation of the coherence between doctrine and popular devotion.

Effectiveness of Prayer

We can see the effectiveness of praying the Rosary in certain historical facts. In the 16th century, pope Pius V asked the Christians to pray the Rosary in asking heaven for the favour for a victory which is known as Lepanto, which led to the institution of the feast of the Rosary.

But its effectiveness can above all be verified in our own personal experience. In the Rosary, we discover a path that leads to God; what before seemed difficult now seems easier. What before was dark now becomes filled with light. This discovery is not achieved immediately. The Rosary cannot be understood if our interior dispositions are dominated by sin. To pray the Rosary well requires humility, simplicity. And as one goes along praying the Rosary, he contemplates… that child in Bethlehem, helpless, who needs care, and by comparison poverty is learn; or Jesus lost in the temple, who teaches us that the service of God comes before that of any creature. “In a word: we will contemplate, carried away by Love (the only real love is Love), each and every instant of Christ Jesus.”

This way of praying, if it becomes habitual, instills a supernatural instinct in the Christian. Each day his life becomes oriented more and more to God by the grace growing in his soul.

On the other hand, it is illustrative to recall that “those who think that devotions to our Lady are a thing of the past seem to have lost sight of the deep Christian meaning they contain. They seem to have forgotten the source from which they spring: faith in God the Father’s saving will; love for God the Son who really became man and was born of a woman; trust in God the Holy Spirit who sanctifies us with his grace. It is God who has given us Mary, and we have no right to reject her. We should go to her with a son’s love and joy.

Hence with this, the Rosary is not something monotonous. Rather it will be a living supplication and personal dialogue. And in it we find a deep channel for our devotion to Mary.


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