From the October AD 1997
Our Lady of the Rosary
On this page:
Dom Guéranger, On the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin
Meditating on the Mysteries of the Rosary
Pope Pius XI, Quas primas, On the Kingship of
The Communion of Sints
Bible: "Like a householder who brings forth from his storeroom things new and
Selections from the Scripture,
Doctors, Popes, and other great spiritual writers appropriate to the Church in
Dom Prosper Guéranger, O.S.B.
The Liturgical Year,
Vol XIV, pp. 296-298
On the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary
In its present form, the rosary was made known to the
world by St. Dominic at the time of the struggles with the Albigensians, that
social war of such ill-omen for the Church. The rosary was then of more avail
than armed forces against the power of Satan; it is now the Church's last
resource. It would seem that, the ancient forms of social prayer being no longer
relished by the people, the Holy Ghost has willed by this easy and ready summary
of the liturgy to maintain, in the isolated devotion of these unhappy times, the
essential of that life of prayer, faith, and Christian virtue, which the public
celebration of the Divine Office formerly kept up among the nations. Before the
thirteenth century, popular piety was already familiar with what was called the
psalter of the laity, that is the angelical salutation repeated one hundred and
fifty times; it was the distribution of these Hail Marys into decades, each
devoted to the consideration of a particular mystery, that constituted the
rosary. Such was the divine expedient, simple as the eternal Wisdom that
conceived it, and far reaching in its effects; for while it led wandering man to
the Queen of Mercy, it obviated ignorance which is the food of heresy, and
taught him to find once more "the paths consecrated by the Blood of the
Man-God, and by the tears of His Mother." (Leo XIII, Magnæ Dei Matris,
8 September 1892)
Thus speaks the great Pontiff who, in the universal sorrow
of these days, has again pointed out the means of salvation more than once
experienced by our fathers. Leo XIII, in his encyclicals, has consecrated the
present month [of October] to this devotion so dear to heaven; he has honored
our Lady in her litanies with a new title, Queen of the most holy rosary (Letter
"Salutaris," 24 December 1883); and he has given the final
development to the solemnity of this day, by raising it to the rank of a second
class feast, and by enriching it with a proper office explaining its permanent
object. (Decrees of 11 September 1887 and 5 August 1888.) Beside all this the
feast is a memorial of glorious victories, which do honor to the Christian name.
Soliman II, the greatest of the Sultans, taking
advantage of the confusion caused in the west by Luther, had filled the
sixteenth century with terror by his exploits. He left to his son, Selim II,
the prospect of being able at length to carry out the ambition of his race: to
subjugate Rome and Vienna, the Pope and the Emperor, to the power of the
crescent. The Turkish fleet had already mastered the greater part of the
Mediterranean, and was threatening Italy when, on October 7, 1571, it came
into action, in the Gulf of Lepanto, with the pontifical galleys supported by
the fleets of Spain and Venice. It was Sunday; throughout the world the
confraternities of the rosary were engaged in their work of intercession.
Supernaturally enlightened, St. Pius V watched from the Vatican the battle
undertaken by the leader he had chosen, Don John of Austria, against the three
hundred vessels of Islam. The illustrious Pontiff, whose life work was now
completed, did not survive to celebrate the anniversary of the triumph; but he
perpetuated the memory of it by an annual commemoration of our Lady of Victory.
His successor, Gregory XIII, altered this title to our Lady of the rosary,
and appointed the first Sunday of October for the new feast, authorizing its
celebration in those churches which possessed and altar under that invocation. A
century and a half later, this limited concession was made general. As
Innocent XI, in memory of the deliverance of Vienna [from the Moslems] by
[the Polish general, John] Sobieski, had extended the feast of the most holy
name of Mary to the whole Church; so in 1716, Clement XI inscribed the
feast of the rosary on the universal calendar, in gratitude for the victory
gained by Prince Eugene at Peterwardein, on August 5, under the auspices of
our Lady of the snow. This victory was followed by the raising of the siege of
Corfu, and completed a year later by the taking of Belgrade.
Meditating On The Mysteries
In Dom Guéranger's article (above) the great Pope
Leo XIII speaks of the Rosary as helping us to find once more "the
paths consecrated by the Blood of the Man-God, and by the tears of His
Mother." In the Abbot's own words, each of the decades is "devoted to
the consideration of a particular mystery" and it is that consideration
"that constitute[s] the rosary." More than just a number of Hail
Mary's the Rosary is meditation on the lives of our Lord and Lady. In order to
pray the Rosary properly we must be prepared to meditate. Like all meditative
prayer, it requires that we be acquainted with our subject matter and be
prepared to call the points of meditation easily to mind.
There are many good sources of Rosary meditation. The
daily missal is a good place to begin— most of them have a section on the
Rosary with something to say about each mystery, and perhaps, a particular
virtue to strive for in light of the meditation. Yet there is probably no
substitute for being familiar with the accounts of the fifteen events as they
are found in Sacred Scripture. The following is a list of the more obvious
biblical references, but a regular reading of the Sacred texts will enable you
to find more and to better appreciate the ones you already know.
Feel free to consider the mysteries in their wider sense.
For example, in the first mystery there is some insight to be gained in reading
Matthew 1 (which applies more directly to Saint Joseph) as well as in reading
Luke 1—and Genesis 3 wouldn't hurt at all—nor John 1....
The Joyful Mysteries
For the love of humility
Gabriel informs Mary that she has been chosen Mother of God. The Incarnation:
Luke 1, Matthew 1, John 1.
For charity towards neighbors
Mary visits Elizabeth, pregnant in her old age with John the Baptist:
For the spirit of poverty
The birth of our Lord at Bethlehem: Luke 2, Matthew 1 & 2, John 1,
Presentation in the Temple:
For the virtue of obedience
Jesus is take to the Temple in Jerusalem to fulfill the Mosaic Law. Luke 2,
Exodus 13, Leviticus 12.
Finding in the Temple:
For the virtue of piety
At twelve years old, "I must be about My Father's business." Luke 2.
The Sorrowful Mysteries
Agony in the Garden:
For true contrition
Our Lord prays over His imminent crucifixion: Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22.
Scourging at the Pillar:
For the virtue of purity
Our Lord is beaten with leaded whips by the Romans: Matthew 27, Mark 15,
John 19, Isaias 53.
Crowning with Thorns:
For moral courage
He is crowned in mockery of His kingship. Matthew 27, Mark 15,
Carrying the Cross:
For the virtue of patience
He carries the instrument of His own execution, and our salvation:
Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23.
Agony and Death on the Cross:
For final perseverance
The unique Sacrifice of the New Testament: Matthew 27, Markÿ15, Luke 23, John
19, Hebrews 9-10, Psalm 21, Zacharia 12-13.
The Glorious Mysteries
For the virtue of faith
On the third day He rose again from the dead: Matthew 28, Luke 7,
John 11, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20-21.
For the virtue of hope
Ascending into heaven, He sits at the right hand of the Father: Mark 16,
Luke 24, Acts 1.
Descent of the Holy Ghost:
For the love of God
The apostles were all filled with the Holy Ghost: Acts 2, Joel 2.
For devotion to Mary
Sinless Mary is taken to heaven, body and soul: Not mentioned in scripture, but
Cf. Proverbs 8, Psalm 15, Luke 1, Apocalypse 12.
Coronation of Mary:
For eternal happiness
Mary reigns in heaven as Queen; spouse of the Holy Ghost, mother of Christ the
King: Not mentioned in scripture, but Cf. Judith 13, Ecclesiasticus 24,
O God, whose only-begotten Son, by His life, His death,
and His resurrection, has purchased for us the reward of eternal salvation;
grant, we beseech Thee, that meditating on these mysteries in the Rosary of the
Blessed Virgin Mary, we may both imitate what they contain, and obtain what they
promise. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
Pope Pius XI
Quas primas—11 December 1925
On the Kingship of Christ
to Complete Text}
 It would be a grave error, on the other hand, to say that Christ has no
authority whatever in civil affairs, since, by virtue of his absolute empire
over all creatures committed to Him by the Father, all things are in His power.
Nevertheless, during His life on earth, He refrained from the exercise of such
authority and, although He himself disdained to possess or to care for earthly
goods, He did not, nor does He today, interfere with those who possess them.
"No earthly crown comes He to take, who heavenly kingdoms doth bestow"
(Hymn from Matins on the feast of the Epiphany).
 Thus the empire of our Redeemer embraces all men. To use the words of
our immortal predecessor, Leo XIII: "His empire includes not only Catholic
nations, not only baptized persons who, though of right belonging to the Church,
have been led astray by error, or have been cut off from her by schism, but also
all those who are outside the Christian faith; so that truly the whole of
mankind is subject to the power of Jesus Christ" (Annum sacrum, 25 May
1899). Nor is there any difference in this matter between the individual and the
family or the State; for all men, whether individually or collectively, are
under the dominion of Christ. In Him is the salvation of the individual, in Him
is the salvation of Society. "Neither is there salvation in any other, for
there is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved"
(Acts iv: 12). He is the author of happiness and true prosperity for every man
and for every nation. "For a nation is happy when its citizens are happy.
What else is a nation but a number of men living in concord?" (St. Augustine,
Epistle ad Macedonium, c.3, n.9). If, therefore, the rulers of nations wish to
preserve their authority, to promote and increase the prosperity of their
people, they will not neglect the public duty of reverence and obedience to the
rule of Christ. What we said at the beginning of Our pontificate concerning the
decline of public authority, and the lack of respect for the same is equally
true at the present day. "With God and Jesus Christ," We said,
"excluded from political life, with authority derived not from God but from
man, the very basis of that authority has been taken away, because the chief
reason for the distinction between ruler and subject has been eliminated. The
result is that human society is tottering to its fall because it has no longer a
secure and solid foundation" (Ubi arcano Dei, 23 December 1922).
 When once men recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ
is King, society will at last receive the great blessing of real liberty,
well-ordered discipline, peace, and harmony. Our Lord's regal office invests the
authority of princes and rulers with a religious significance; it ennobles the
citizen's duty of obedience. It is for this reason that St. Paul, while bidding
wives revere Christ in their husbands, and slaves respect Christ in their
masters, warns them not to give obedience to them not as men, but as the
vicegerents of Christ; for it is not meet that men redeemed by Christ should
serve their fellow men. "You are bought with a price, not to be the
bond-slaves of men" (1 Cor. vii: 23). If princes and magistrates are
filled with the persuasion that they rule, not by their own right, but by the
mandate and in the place of the Divine King, they will exercise their authority
piously and wisely; they will make laws and administer them having in view the
common good and also the human dignity of their subjects. The result will be
order, peace, and tranquility, for there will be no longer any cause for
discontent. Men will see in their king or in their rulers men like themselves,
perhaps unworthy or open to criticism, but they will not on that account refuse
obedience if they see reflected in them the authority of Christ, God, and Man.
Peace and harmony, too, will result, for with the spread and the universal
extension of the kingdom of Christ men will become more and more conscious of
the link that binds them together, and thus many conflicts will either be
prevented entirely or at least their bitterness will be diminished.
 If the kingdom of Christ, then, receives, as it should, all nations
under its sway, there seems no reason why we should despair of seeing that peace
which the King of Peace came to bring on earth—He who came to
reconcile all things; who came not to be ministered unto but to minister; who,
though Lord of all, gave Himself to us as a model of humility, and with His
principal law united the precept of charity, who said also: "My yoke is
sweet and My burden light." O what happiness would be ours if all men,
individuals, families, and nations would but let themselves be governed by
Christ! "Then at length," to use the words of Our predecessor, Leo
XIII, twenty-five years ago to the Bishops of the Universal Church, "will
many ills be cured; then will the law regain its former authority; peace with
all its blessings will be restored. Men will sheathe their swords and lay down
their arms when all freely acknowledge and obey the authority of Christ, and
every tongue confesses that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the
Father" (Annum sacrum, 25 May 1899).
Q. & A.
Question: What do we mean by "the Communion of Saints" in the
Answer: The Roman Catechism reminds us that "the Communion of
Saints" serves as "a sort of explanation of the preceding part, which
regards the unity, holiness, and universality of the Church."
It is the
Catholic Church that is the Communion of Saints. Sometimes we divide the Church
into three parts to help us understand the relationship of Its members; we can
speak of "the Church Militant" here on earth, "the Church
Suffering" in Purgatory, and "the Church Triumphant" in Heaven.
In the Church Militant, the baptized on earth share in each other's prayers
and good works, in the offering of Mass and the Sacraments, and in other gifts
given to individual members for the common good. We can pray and do good things
for one another; and everyone benefits from the public worship of the Church.
Participation in the Mass and Sacraments is a visible sign of this unity. We
have a particular duty to pray for the departed souls who make up the Church
Suffering in Purgatory. While we remain in this life, our prayers and good works
can benefit those who can only suffer for themselves.
The Church Suffering consists of all those who have died in the state of
grace but who have yet to pay the just penalties associated with the sins they
committed in life. These penalties are expiated in Purgatory, a place of
suffering mixed with joy, for the souls there know that one day they will
certainly be united with God in the glory of Heaven. As the "elect" of
God, they can pray for our needs, even while being powerless to reduce their own
The Church Triumphant consists of those who died in the state of grace and
who have accomplished any needed purification from the punishment due to sin.
The baptized in heaven see God, as it were, face to face, and enjoy the company
of each other in the presence of God. Having loved God on earth, they continue
to love Him in an ever more profound way in heaven. They can add their prayers
to ours, presenting them before the throne of God, perhaps adding prayers for
things that we don't know that we need, or for which we might hesitate to ask.
The doctrine of Indulgences is closely tied to that of the Communion of
Saints. The Church has jurisdiction over the living, and can apply the merits It
gains, and the merits of our Lord and the saints, toward the pardon of the
punishments due Its subjects. "Whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be
loosed in heaven." This pardon or "indulgence" may forgive all
or part of the penalty--it is said to be either "plenary" or
We are freely allowed to gain indulgences for the souls in Purgatory. But we
should understand that the jurisdiction of the Church extends only to the
living. God in His wisdom might allow a plenary indulgence to be applied to a
soul in Purgatory in only a partial manner. That is why we continue to pray,
have Masses offered, and gain indulgences for those in Purgatory, even though we
may have done these things in the past.
"Behold, how good it is, and how pleasant, where brethren dwell at one!
For there the Lord has pronounced His blessing, life forever."
Question: In the Gospel of some Masses we hear that "the kingdom of
heaven is like a net cast into the sea ... they gathered the good fish into
vessels , but threw away the bad." What was our Lord talking about when He
ended with the statement that "every Scribe instructed in the kingdom of
heaven is like a householder who brings forth from his storeroom things new and
Answer: The phrase in question concludes a much longer string of parables.
They have been directed to the crowd, but also to the Apostles. In fact, our
Lord is recorded explaining His public words privately to the Apostles. They are
the "Scribes" of the New Testament. He asks, first of all, if they
understand the parables, and then reminds them that prudent people do not throw
away things simply because they have acquired something newer. They may have,
for example, a presentable old suit in their closet alongside a new suit. He is
saying that they are to retain the still serviceable instructions of the Old
Testament, to be used along with those of the New in instructing the faithful.
"Do not think that I have come to destroy the Law or the Prophets ...
who does away with one of these least commandments, and so teaches men, shall be
called least in the kingdom of heaven."
1. Catechism of the Council of Trent, Part I,
art. 10, no. 24.
2. Matthew xvi: 19.
3. Ps. cxxxii: 1, 4.
4. Matthew xiii: 44-52 (In the common Mass of Virgin-Martyrs).
5. Matthew v: 13-19 (In the common Mass of Doctors).