My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
As we enter October, the month of the Holy Rosary, we have an opportunity to meditate on the meaning of the Rosary in our lives today.
The origins of the Rosary are clouded in mystery. Tradition has it that Our Lady appeared to St. Dominic and entrusted to him the preaching of the Rosary in its present form, with meditation on the Gospel Mysteries. Prior to this, certainly, the prayers of the Rosary are part and parcel of the lives of all Christians. In the Rosary, however, these prayers come together in a special affirmation of our faith.
We begin the Rosary with the sign of the cross, followed by the Creed, affirming our faith and its mysteries, which are so life-giving. We then recite the Our Father, the prayer that Jesus Himself taught us. It is the prayer that is the best of all prayers containing in it the teaching of the whole Gospel from its beginning to its end.
We pray about doing God’s will, forgiving others, avoiding temptation and sin, and begging for our daily bread, not only the Eucharist but everything that comes from the hand of God.
And then we say the Hail Mary, the prayer that again comes from the Scriptures, beginning with the words of the Archangel Gabriel referring to Mary, and bringing to Mary the message that she is to be the Mother of God.
Although Mary was startled and caught unawares, she was still ready and willing to accept God’s will in her life. The second part of the Hail Mary, composed by the faithful, especially reminds us that we ask Mary to intercede for us, we who are sinners, and especially to pray for us at the hour of our death.
The Glory Be again reminds us of the mystery of the Trinity. This is, indeed, a powerful prayer that reminds us not only of the simplicity but also of the depth of our relationship to God. In the Middle Ages, this prayer became the psalter of the laity.
Although the uneducated could not recite the Psalms with the monks and clergy, they could recite the 150 Hail Mary’s, paralleling the 150 Psalms in the fifteen decades, now extended to 20 decades with the Luminous Mysteries. Indeed, the Rosary is the prayer for all people, from the most educated to the simple.
The story is told that while on a train ride Louis Pasteur, the French chemist renowned for his discovery of pasteurization, the cure for rabies and perfecting the science of inoculations, took out his Rosary to recite his daily prayer. A young man sitting across the aisle from Pasteur began to criticize him, saying, “Old man, why do you believe in such Medieval things?” Louis did not answer, but continued to say the Rosary. As he got up to leave the train, he handed the young man his card, which simply read — Louis Pasteur. Yes, this is from the man who truly made a great difference in the world.
And it was Pasteur who taught that young man a life lesson. Yes, we all need to learn our lessons, and the lessons of life are that the whole purpose of our life is union with God. How do we fit this in the business of our lives, where for most people at times, it becomes difficult to find the time for silence and meditation? We need to understand the spiritual masters of the past, however, who teach of the way to union with God.
St. Louis Marie de Montfort was the Apostle of the Rosary and of devotion to Mary, which was always Christ-centered. He taught us that Jesus, living in Mary, is the way of our spiritual life while going to Jesus through Mary is also the way of our spiritual life. For Montfort, the Rosary was more than an easy way of prayer available to everyone.
It was a spiritually sure way to the highest form of union with God. He said, “The Rosary, recited while meditating the mysteries, brings about marvelous results: it gradually brings us a perfect knowledge of Jesus Christ; it purifies our souls from sin; it gives us victory over all our enemies; it makes the practice of virtue easy; it enflames us with the love of Jesus Christ; it enriches us with graces and merits.”
This is the great heritage of our faith. There is hardly anyone, certainly in the United States, that when we say the words Hail Mary does not know that they refer to this special Catholic prayer. Hail Mary is used now even as a sign of desperation, such as the “Hail Mary Pass” of football, but certainly used in many other ways. Yes, we pray to Mary sometimes in desperation. Mary is our last and sure hope!
The recent apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes in 1858 and in Fatima in 1917 both convey the message of the Rosary. The Blessed Mother appeared to children, Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes and the three Portuguese children in Fatima; Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta. The message of Our Lady had to be carried by those who were innocent, those who were unaffected by the cloudiness that life sometimes brings. These messengers brought with them a simple message; pray the Rosary, and do penance, which enables us to find union with God in this world.
Recently, a new movie entitled Fátima was released. Due to the pandemic, it had a very limited release in the theaters, however, it is available online. I had an opportunity to see it and found that it certainly was a wonderful exposition of the apparitions of the Blessed Mother to the children of Fatima. Deacon Steven Greydanus, who reviewed the film in the National Catholic Register, said, “Marco Pontecorvo’s Fátima is the first screen version of the Marian apparitions at Fatima and the ‘Miracle of the Sun’ I’ve seen that feels like the characters are living through the story’s events in the present tense.”
Yes, truly, this film is a spiritual experience. Fátima is the kind of movie where one can feel what is happening, sometimes with goose-pimples that come with recognizing that we are touching the sacred in the apparition of Mary to these children. Also included in the film are the skeptics of the time: the national government, the mayor, the bishop and the clergy, and all those who tried to dissuade the children from giving this message to the world.
It was only the “Miracle of the Sun” when the sun dried the earth after a terrible rainstorm, and then spun and seemed like it was falling from the sky. This was truly an exception to the rules of nature. It was a miracle in which Mary tried to warn the world that if we want peace, we must pray for peace, and the Rosary is our way.
It is important that we recognize the great tradition of the Rosary is part of our Catholic faith. I am afraid that we are losing this great tradition as a characteristic of our faith, especially with our new generation of children, many of whom do not attend Catholic schools and are limited in religious education programs.
They do not have the opportunity to know how to pray the Rosary. How important it is that the understanding of this practice of our faith be passed on to another generation. Each year in October, we hold a Rosary Rally for children in our Catholic Academies and schools. Also, in the past, we repeated this Rosary Rally for those in religious education. Giving the children a Rosary, praying the Rosary with them and making sure that the Rosary was clearly explained to them prior to the rally is key to making the Rosary known to our next generation. This year due to the pandemic, the Rosary Rally could not be in person, but there are plans in the works for a virtual rally to take place.
The way we must truly learn the Rosary is in the family. The Rosary is a family prayer, even if we begin by saying one decade before or after a meal. We can begin to understand the value of this prayer when we think of Father Patrick Peyton, a priest of the Congregation of the Holy Cross who is known as the Apostle of the Rosary, when he said, “The family that prays together stays together.”
As we put out into the deep this month of October, perhaps you can reaffirm or reacquire the practice of reciting the daily Rosary. In the Rosary, we find what we need to experience union with God in this life, as this is our ultimate goal.