Reflection on the Rosary
Post date: Dec 5, 2014 8:06:05 AM
On a recent trip to Lourds, France, my husband and I had the privilege to learn about the life and visions of St. Bernadette. Bernadette was the oldest child of five in her poor working class family. In her first apparition of Mary, it is said that Bernadette and Mary prayed the Rosary in silence together, only sharing the Gloria aloud. Further pondering this prayer, the Rosary, a number of questions surface. Where did the Rosary come from? Isn’t the Rosary an outdated prayer? Is this how one “worships” Mary?
Although the Christians of the early church used strings of beads to assist with prayer and meditation, often praying the Our Father and Hail Mary, it was in the 13th and 14th centuries that St. Dominic was moved by a vision of the Holy Mother to preach the Rosary. St. Dominic wrote about and encouraged recitation and meditation of the Rosary as the antidote to heresy and sin. In the years and centuries following, many Popes and saints have taken up the devotion to the Holy Rosary.
The Rosary is not just an outdated prayer. It is a prayer that persists for and through our time. In 2002, Saint Pope John Paul II instituted the year of the Rosary. In his apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, Saint Pope John Paul II reiterated the words of Pope Leo XIII stating, “the Rosary is an effective spiritual weapon against the evils afflicting society.” He further mentions that we are experiencing a “crisis of the Rosary”. Saint Pope John Paul II states, “… this prayer… serves as an excellent introduction and a faithful echo of the Liturgy, enabling people to participate fully and interiorly in it and to reap its fruits in their daily lives.”
Addressing the Marian character of the Rosary and some who fear it is an unecumenical prayer or a prayer that is isolating from other Christian denominations, Saint Pope John Paul II argues, “the Rosary [is] a devotion directed to the Christological center of the Christian faith, in such a way that ‘when the Mother is honored, the Son ... is duly known, loved and glorified.’ If properly revitalized, the Rosary is an aid and certainly not a hindrance to ecumenism!”
This brings us to the question of “worshiping” Mary. First and foremost, as Catholics we honor Mary and we do not worship her. “The Church honors the Blessed Virgin with special devotion… This very special devotion differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit” (CCC971). Therefore, the Church venerates Mary insofar as she is the Mother of God and draws us deeper into the mysteries and life of Christ. Praying the Rosary does just this - draws us deeper into the mysteries of Christ in the Gospels.
“To recite the Rosary is nothing other than to contemplate with Mary the face of Christ… With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love. Through the Rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer” (Saint Pope John Paul II).
What better way to come to know Jesus then through the eyes of His mother? I know if you sat down with my mom she would have a much more intimate understanding of my siblings and I, as she has known us from the moment of our conception. In a similar way Mary, the Mother of God, has an intimate knowledge of her Son, our Lord and Savior.
“… our heart can embrace, in the decades of the Rosary, all the events that make up the lives of individuals, families, nations, the Church, and all mankind, our personal concerns and those of our neighbor, especially those who are closest to us, who are dearest to us. Thus the simple prayer of the Rosary marks the rhythm of human life.” (Saint Pope John Paul II)
October 7th is the Feast of the Holy Rosary and in our Parish communities of St. Paul’s, St. Mary’s, and Our Lady of Lourdes we will spend this month praying and learning about this most powerful prayer – the Rosary. For further understanding of the Rosary, Lighthouse Catholic Media has produced Praying the Rosary Like Never Before by Dr. Edward Sri, who also wrote a book on the topic. These CDs are available for a nominal price in the back of the Church. I hope this month you will all join me at the “school of Mary” through the daily recitation of the Rosary.
E.K.B. is a Marriage and Family Therapist with a Masters in Theology from Seton Hall University.