By Paul Kokoski
The month of October is traditionally dedicated to Our Blessed Mother under her glorious title "Our Lady of the Rosary".
The Holy Rosary is a devotional prayer of the Catholic Church which is both mental and vocal and which honors the Blessed Virgin Mary. It consists of fifteen decades of Aves, each decade being preceded by a Pater and followed by a Gloria which are recited on beads. A different mystery is contemplated during the recital of each decade. These are the fifteen joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries of the life of Christ and His Blessed Mother. Recently Pope John Paul II added 5 new mysteries - the mysteries of light. The Rosary begins with the recitation of the Apostles' Creed (on the crucifix), one Our Father and three Hail Marys.
From the earliest days, the Church asked its faithful to recite the one hundred and fifty Psalms of David. However, because it was difficult in the days prior to the invention of the printing press to procure a book of Psalms, the Psalms were often substituted using one hundred and fifty Hail Marys.
Gradually, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and St. Dominic, The Rosary of the Virgin Mary, took its present classical form and is now a prayer loved by countless Saints and encouraged by the Magisterium. Pope John Paul II has called it his "Favorite prayer".
St. Dominic, who died in 1221, received from the Blessed Mother the command to preach and to popularize this devotion to appease the anger of God and to implore the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the good of souls, for conquest over evil, and for the prosperity of Holy Mother Church. St. Dominic immediately used the Rosary as a warlike weapon to put the Albigensian heretics to flight and confound their audacity and mad impiety.
The efficacy and power of this devotion was also wondrously exhibited in the sixteenth century, when it served, as a direct answer to the prayers and processions of the rosary confraternities at Rome, to deliver Christendom from the arms of the infidel Turks by the sea victory of Lepanto in 1571. The Turks were threatening to impose on nearly the whole of Europe the yoke of superstition and barbarism. To preserve the memory of Mary's successful intercession, Pope Pius V decreed a feast in honour of Our Lady of Victories - a feast which Gregory XIII dedicated under the title of "The Holy Rosary and " which is today celebrated in the Western Church on October 7.
It has long been the habit of Catholics in danger and in troubled times - when they are distraught, unhappy, fearful, and frustrated - to fly for refuge to Mary and the rosary. Today, unfortunately, the Rosary has become wrongly devalued, and now runs the risk of no longer being taught to the younger generation. But by the command of the Council of Vatican II we are obliged to preserve it.
A special need for commitment to the rosary arises today from the critical contemporary issue: the family, the primary cell of society, which has increasingly come under attack from forces of disintegration bent on promoting homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia and embryonic stem cell research etc. The revival of the Rosary in Christian families, will no doubt be an effective aid to countering the devastating effects of this aggression.
The changed conditions of life today do not always make family gatherings and occasions for family prayer easy. At the same time is also characteristic of the Christian in his manner of life not to give in to circumstances but to overcome them, not to succumb but to make an effort. Families, say Pope John Paul II, which want to live in full measure the vocation and spirituality proper to the Christian family must, therefore devote all their energies to overcoming the pressures that hinder family gatherings and prayer in common. The family that prays together stays together.
Because the Immaculate Virgin was chosen to be the Mother of God and to cooperate with Him in the work of man's salvation, she has a favour and power with her Son greater than any human or angelic creature. It is her greatest pleasure to grant her help and comfort those who seek her.
The family that recites the Rosary together reproduces something of the atmosphere of the household of Nazareth: its members place Jesus at the centre, they share his joys and sorrows, they place their needs and their plans in his hands, they draw from him the hope and the strength to go on. In contemplating Christ's birth, they learn of the sanctity of life; seeing the household of Nazareth, they learn the original truth of the family according to God's plan.
It is objected by some that there is much repetition in the Rosary and that it is monotonous. The rosary, however, is an outpouring of love and the beautiful truth is that there is no repetition in saying "I love you." If we need evidence for this we could easily find it in the touching dialogue between Christ and Peter after the Resurrection: "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Three times this question is put to Peter, and three times he gives the reply: "Lord, you know that I love you" (cf. Jn 21:15-17). No one can fail to recognize the beauty of this triple repetition, in which the insistent request and the corresponding reply are expressed in terms familiar from the universal experience of human love.
Bishop Fulton J. Sheen tell us: "Love is never monotonous in the uniformity of its expression. The mind is infinitely variable in its language, but the heart is not. The heart of a man, in the face of the woman he loves, is too poor to translate the infinity of his affection into a different word. So the heart takes one expression, 'I love you,' and in saying it over and over again, it never repeats. It is the only real news in the universe. That is what we do when we say the Rosary, we are saying to God, the Trinity, to the Incarnate Saviour, to the Blessed Mother: 'I love you, I love you, I love you.'" No Christian is too simple or unlettered to make use of the Rosary; it may be the vehicle of high contemplation as well as of the simplest petition of aspiration.
One thing is clear: although the repeated Hail Mary is addressed directly to Mary, it is to Jesus that the act of love is ultimately directed, with her and through her. With the Rosary, we sit at the school of Mary and are led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love. The Rosary is therefore an epitome of the gospel, a history of the life, sufferings and triumphant victory of Jesus Christ, and an exposition of what He did in the flesh for our salvation.
The principal object of the devotion of every Christian ought to be always to bear in mind these mysteries, to return to God a perpetual homage of love, praise and thanksgiving for them, to implore His mercy through them, to make them the subject of meditation, and to mould his affections, regulate his life and form his spirit by the impressions which they make on his soul.
The Rosary, Bishop Sheen tells us "is the book of the blind, where souls see and there enact the greatest drama of love the world has ever known; it is the book of the simple, which initiates them into mysteries and knowledge more satisfying than the education of other men; it is the book of the aged, whose eyes close upon the shadow of this world, and open on the substance of the next. The power of the Rosary is beyond description."
If you wish to convert anyone to the fullness of the knowledge of Our Lord and to His Mystical Body, then teach him the Rosary.
Let us end this meditation with Blessed Bartolo Longo's, Supplication to the Queen of the Holy Rosary: "O Blessed Rosary of Mary, sweet chain which unites us to God, bond of love which unites us to the angels, tower of salvation against the assaults of Hell, safe port in our universal shipwreck, we will never abandon you. You will be our comfort in the hour of death: yours our final kiss as life ebbs away. And the last word from our lips will be your sweet name, O Queen of the Rosary of Pompeii, O dearest Mother, O Refuge of Sinners, O Sovereign Consoler of the Afflicted. May you be everywhere blessed, today and always, on earth and in heaven".