Our Lady of the Rosary—4 October AD 2008
A sculpture over the entrance to the Basilica
of the Rosary at Lourdes
depicts the Virgin Mary giving the rosary to St. Dominic. Photo (cc)
Br Lawrence Lew, OP 
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in Latin and
Our Lady of the Rosary
Sacratissimi Rosarii Beatæ Mariæ Virginis
Blessing of Rosaries
The Blessed Virgin Mary has been identified with the
chaplet of beads known as the Rosary at least since the 13th century, when it
was revealed to Saint Dominic. Since that time, it has served as one of the
chief symbols of the help which we receive from our Blessed Mother to increase
our holiness, and to protect us from the evils of the world.
It was given to Saint Dominic with the immediate purpose
of delivering the people of France from the Albigensian heresy—a false system
of belief which pretended to tell the faithful that only spiritual things were
good; that all material things were evil. This heresy was driving people away
from the Church; and driving them toward despair. They either tried to do the
impossible and refrain from all physical things—or they simply determined that
it was all hopeless and it did not matter what they did.
The Rosary was particularly effective in combating this
illusion, for it continually called to mind the earthly events of the lives of
our Lord and Lady, thereby demonstrating that material things could be very good
indeed. and, of course, its appeal to spiritual things showed the people that it
was possible for a human being to function effectively in both the spiritual and
Armed with the weapon of the Rosary, Saint Dominic's
friars established houses throughout the known world, and contributed generously
to the spiritual and intellectual life of western civilization. Men and women
like Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas, Catherine of Siena, Pope Pius V, Martin
de Porres, Rose of Lima, and many others followed in the footsteps of the
founder—some intellectuals, some workers, some mystics, some leaders, some
followers—but all praying the Rosary.
And, lest anyone think that the Rosary is something for
Dominican religious only, it should be pointed out that its greatest popularity
came as a form of prayer for the laity. The Rosary is similar in structure to
the Divine Office, but not requiring any knowledge of the Latin language, or
even the ability to read. The 150 Psalms of the Office are replaced by “Hail
Marys” with each decade ending in the “Glory be to the Father,” just like
the Psalms of the Office. The Rosary can be recited anywhere and at any time,
even when it would be physically impossible to read from a book. In the dark,
under water, on horseback, while driving a car, or perhaps in prison for the
This devotion to our Lady, and to her Rosary has been
rewarded on many occasions. In fact, the feast day which we celebrate today
commemorates the successful defense of the Christian fleet against the Moslems
on the first Sunday in October of 1571. Naval forces under Don John of Austria
battled the Turks on the water, while Pope St. Pius V led the faithful of Europe
in the recitation of the Rosary. Similar circumstances surrounding the defense
of Vienna from Moslem invasion in 1716 caused Clement XI to extend this feast to
the entire Church.
Even in our own time, we have been told at places like
Fatima and Lourdes, that the praying of the Rosary is essential for the
spiritual and material well being of the entire world. If we do not amend our
sinful ways, and make reparation to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, the errors of
Marxism will continue to spread throughout the Church and the world, and we all
will have a great deal to suffer.
Unfortunately, some of our people have been poorly
instructed as to the proper use and appreciation of the Rosary. All too often
they understand it as nothing more than a “praying marathon” — some 50, or
100, or a 150 prayers—prayers to be said as quickly as possible in an effort
to rack up a big total—almost like striving for points in an arcade game; big
numbers that mean nothing. Some have come to use it like a Buddhist prayer wheel—manage
to get once around the circle, and God will somehow be impressed with our
devotion. Perhaps even worse, many carry it in their pocket, or hanging from
their rear view mirror, as nothing more than a magic amulet.
The real "secret" of the Rosary, if it can
properly be called a secret, is the meditation on the events in the lives of
Jesus and Mary—the “mysteries” —so called, not again because they are
secret or hidden, but because they produce a constant unfolding of religious
understanding, inspiration, and grace for those who meditate upon them.
We meditate on the Joyful events in our Lord's life; the
Annunciation, Visitation, His Birth, His Presentation in the Temple, and His
being found in the Temple in Jerusalem; in order to understand the preparations
made for our salvation, to absorb some of His humility, and simply to share the
joy of His birth here among us.
We consider the Sorrowful events of His life; the Agony in
the Garden, His Scourging, the Crowning with thorns, Carrying the Cross to
Calvary, and dying on the Cross; in order to develop an understanding of the
magnitude of sin, to develop true repentance for being the cause of His
suffering, and eternal gratitude for our salvation.
Finally, we pray the Glorious mysteries; the Resurrection,
the Ascension, the Descent of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, the Assumption of our
Blessed Lady, and her Crowning as Queen of Heaven. These things give us an
appreciation of God's Glory, and give us a foretaste of the glory we will share
with Him in heaven.
And, of course, there is nothing wrong with meditating on
other events of our salvation, even though they are not "officially"
mysteries of the Rosary. The Transfiguration, the Immaculate Conception, or the
Institution of the Blessed Sacrament, for example.
The essential thing is that while our lips are busied with
the “Our Fathers” and “Hail Marys,” and our hands are busied with the
beads, our minds are freed from distraction, and we are able to train them on
sacred realities. We are able to bring our lives closer to the lives of Jesus
and Mary, sharing their experiences; we are able to bring our wills into
conformity with the will of God; we are able to develop patience with our
difficulties, and tranquility amidst our turmoil. We are able to develop a
regular routine of prayer.
Again, let me emphasize that the Rosary should never be a
contest of speed or numbers. If your time, or your attention span is limited,
you would do much better to meditate on only one or two of the mysteries—but
to pray them well. If the Rosary is new to you, or if you have been away from it
for a long time, start slowly. A decade or two. Perhaps one in the morning, and
one at night. Pick a specific time, and stick to it. Add another decade or so
when you have time... in the car, at the market, whenever there is an idle
Don't forget that the primary effort should be on
meditation on the life of Christ, and His Blessed Mother. Reading the Gospels,
or some book of Rosary meditations will help a great deal. No one can meditate
on something which they don't know.
The point, though, in all of this, is to get you to pray
the Rosary. It is a very simple thing to start out with but a decade a day, and
quickly to grow to 5 or more decades. All it takes is a little discipline, and a
few moments a day—time that is often wasted anyway; or worse, spent in
The Church generously grants indulgences to those who pray
the Rosary; our Lady grants her protection and example of holiness; we develop
patience and tranquility—a more ordered life; our will draws closer and closer
to the Will of God; and we find our place in the Kingdom of Heaven.