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The Holy Sacrifice of
the Mass in Latin and English
Our Lady of the Rosary
Sacratissimi Rosarii Beatæ Mariæ Virginis
Blessing of Rosaries
Rosary and Litany of Loreto
Leaflet (MS Word)
Sunday, 7 October 1571
The Battle of Lepanto (H. Letter, National Maritime Museum,
A victory attributed to the Blessed Virgin and Catholics praying the Rosary
The Rosary is an
almost uniquely Catholic devotion that is often associated with Saint
Dominic Guzman, who lived in the early 13th century. In a sense, it is much
older, in that prayer counters of one sort or another have been around since
before the time of Christ. People who were devoted to God often used
pebbles or beads to count their prayers. By Saint Dominic's time, many lay
people who were unable to recite the 150 Psalms of the Breviary were
accustomed to reciting 150 Hail Marys each day.
We are told that,
under the inspiration of the Blessed Virgin, Saint Dominic added a few
prayers and gave us the Rosary in the form we know it today. The Blessed
Mother commissioned him to preach the use of the Rosary in southern France
where the Albigensian heresy was spreading. These people called
Albigensians were spreading errors about the very nature of God Himself.
This was not a new heresy, but rather it was just a new version of
Manicheanism—the false idea that instead of one Almighty God, the universe
is the work of a good god and a bad god; the good god being the creator of
spiritual things; the bad god creating material things. Quite clearly,
this heresy was directly opposed to Christianity, because as Christians we
know that the one and only God actually took human-material form to work out
the redemption of His human-material creatures. The heresy was particularly
dangerous as it allowed most of its followers to live a rather loose
life-style, and because widespread inability to read kept many rural
Catholics quite ignorant of the truths of their Faith.
So, in preaching the
Rosary to people who might become exposed to this error in southern France,
Saint Dominic included a device to teach them something about the way God
involved Himself in the history of the material world. He gave them a
series of meditations on the major events in the lives of Jesus and Mary;
what we today know as the Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious mysteries. While
they were reciting their 150 Hail Marys, they were to contemplate these
various events that lead up to our salvation. The Hail Marys were recited
pretty much by rote anyway, so it is possible to concentrate on the
meditation at the same time.
Saint Dominic knew,
as many spiritual people before him knew, that meditative prayer was much
more likely to influence people's thinking and their behavior than reciting
formal prayers without any meditation. For example, people learn a good
deal about the Catholic Faith by reciting the Apostle's Creed, but many fail
to “internalize” what they are reciting; that is to say that while they can
recite a list of true statements, they may never have pondered how those
statements relate to them personally.
The object of
meditation, on the other hand, is to take what we know about a religious
truth or event and to try to put ourselves into the picture. For example,
we might try understand how Mary and Joseph felt when they realized that
they had lost our Lord in Jerusalem. Or we might try to understand the
emotions that our Lord Himself must have felt during His agony in the
garden, and how our sins contributed to that agony. By making such
meditations, our Faith becomes more of a personal relationship with Jesus
and Mary, and less of a series of mere memorizations.
Of course good
meditation takes some preparation. It demands a little Bible reading so
that we may know something about the events we are meditating on. It
demands paying attention to the scriptures that we hear read at Mass, and to
the priest's comments on them in his sermons. Even some reading or film
viewing about the history and geography of the Holy Land might be useful.
There are good books available on the meditations of the Rosary that can
save you the trouble of investigating these events for yourself. (John
S. Johnson's The Rosary in Action is excellent, despite its hokey
But, of course,
nothing beats reading the Sacred Scriptures for yourself. For there are
other important events in the life of our Lord and Lady than those described
in the 15 meditations of the Rosary—for example, the Immaculate Conception,
or the Last Supper—some are described in the Bible and some are not.
So, Saint Dominic's
Rosary is certainly as useful to us today as it was in the 13th century.
But there is one last point we should emphasize: The Rosary is rather
useless if it remains in our bureau drawers (back behind the socks, where
nothing will damage it), or even if it just remains in our pockets but is
never taken out to be prayed. Some folks will object that they find the
Rosary boring, but they are also those who have never taken the trouble to
properly make their meditations.
Others will say that
they have no time; but they are sadly mistaken. Just think about it: If
you do no more than pray 1 decade each day you will have completed 73
Rosaries by the time a year goes around. And how long does a decade take to
meditate? 4, or 5, or 6 minutes? I would sure hate to arrive before the
pearly gates having to tell God that I couldn't spare 5 minutes a day for
Him particularly if I had much time logged watching football, or going
fishing, or watching the soap operas.
So, today is the
Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. A very good and auspicious day to promise
Mary that you will say her Rosary faithfully in the future. Resolve to say
at least a decade every day. You are likely to be surprised that you will
find time for a few more decades at odd hours of the day; when you're
standing on line at the supermarket, or sitting in traffic in your car, or
mopping the floor, or whatever.
At least a decade a
day—but do pray the Rosary!