Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Our Lady of the Rosary—4 October AD 2009

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)

    On this first Sunday of October we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (the patronal feast of this parish.)  This is a feast which commemorates several events in the history of Christendom, offering each for our appreciation of the influence of the Blessed Virgin in our lives.

    In the eternal order of things, we know that the Rosary goes back to the early Church—to the efforts of Christian people to recall and meditate upon the major events in the lives of our Lord and His Blessed Mother.  Even before all of the Scriptures were written down—and long before they were compiled and available in book form, it was possible for the faithful to rehearse the mysteries of our Lord's life in their minds:  The annunciation, the visitation, the birth of Jesus . . .  His agony in the garden, His crucifixion, His resurrection, and so on.

    And likewise, while they meditated on these sacred events, they were wont to pray the prayers familiar to them; the Our Father, taught to them by Jesus Himself; and the Hail Mary, taught by the Angel Gabriel.  Particularly those who retreated to the desert to pray, the first monks, or hermits, kept up a constant stream of prayers as they went about their daily work.  Some of them knew the Book of Psalms and recited it (or a substantial portion of it) each day.  Others were content with the repetition of so many Paters and so many Aves, and the meditations I mentioned.  At first they may have counted these prayers with a stack of pebbles; later with a string of beads that could be carried about more easily.  Over the centuries there developed fixed sets of meditations associated with each group of Paters and Aves—these would eventually develop into the Joyous, Sorrowful, and Glorious mysteries of the Dominican Rosary.

    The Rosary had been around for some time then, when it was especially commended by the Blessed Virgin to St. Dominic in his twelfth century struggle against the Albigensian heretics then threatening France.  The Albigensians had fallen victim to a often recurring heresy—the idea that there are two “Gods,” one good and the other evil;  the good “God” created all that is spiritual, but the bad “God” was the creator of the material universe.  For the Albigensians, human beings were in the terrible position of being good spiritual souls, trapped in evil material bodies.  Some were driven to suicide, others to abortion, and others to such despair that they gave themselves over to any and every sort of licentiousness.  Through the mysteries of the Rosary, Saint Dominic was able to demonstrate the activities of a good God in a good material world to many souls.

    We often think of St. Dominic and of the Dominican Order when we think of the Rosary being spread about, and popularized in its current form.  Certainly we owe them a debt of gratitude for their efforts in preaching the Rosary as a safeguard against heresy and vice.

    And it was the Dominican Pope, St. Pius V, who lead the people of Christendom in reciting the Rosary on this very first Sunday, the 7th of October in 1571, as the Turkish navy was finally beaten back in the sea battle of Lepanto.  It was to commemorate this occasion that Pope Saint Pius gave us this beautiful feast-day in our Lady's honor.

    In a similar manner, the battle to drive the Turks out of Hungary in 1716 is attributed to the praying of the Rosary, and is mentioned in today's Office.  Closer to our own time, the saintly Leo XIII extended this observance to the entire Church, and raised it in rank above the regular Sundays of the year.

    If the history of the Rosary sounds a bit like military history, this is really no accident.  While we might not be actively engaged in battle against the Moslems today, we may indeed be on the brink of battle—but, for sure, we are involved in a war which never ends—the war which began with the rebellion of the bad angels against God—the war which continues for the salvation of souls.

    We know that Lucifer and the fallen angels are jealous.  If they cannot enjoy the happiness of heaven, they don't want any one else to be able—particularly not inferior creatures like humans, who were “created a little lower than the angels.”[1]  They would like nothing better than to see each and every one of us share their miserable fate in hell.  And they know that they can accomplish this by appealing to our own foolish pride and self-centeredness, and getting us to turn away from God.

    Unfortunately, they have been successful.  Look around you, just here in these United States.  Millions fill the restaurants, the bars, the theaters, the football stadiums—but how many are here to join the Son of God in offering the Sacrifice of the Cross?  Even many of the conscientious ones went to a twenty minute “get it over with” Mass on Saturday afternoon.

    If you don't think the devil has been successful, just think about the one Million children murdered by their own parents every year in the United States alone.  Can you think of a greater act of diabolical arrogance then to tell God how wrong He was in creating a new life?  The abortion holocaust makes that of the Nazis look petty by comparison.  And, of course, most of it is motivated by that same foolish pride and self-centeredness urged upon us by the devil.  A million and a half murders a year—to say nothing of the children lost to abortive contraceptives—a whole other field in which God is arrogantly told that He is wrong.  What about medical experiments on human embryos?  What about the elderly and the infirm put to death behind hospital doors?

    The battle with the devil is widespread, and is fought on many fronts.

    On some fronts, such as the War on Life, political action and public protest may be appropriate.  On virtually all fronts, a conversion of our own lives and a commitment to personal sacrifice is in order.  Yet, another weapon is necessary.

    And we do have a weapon which can be employed in the Satanic battle to which we are joined.  We can use the same power employed by St. Dominic against the Albigensians, or by St. Pius V against the Turks.  We can pray the Rosary.

    Notice that I say “pray” the Rosary, not just “say” the Rosary.  If it is to be effective, we must make use of it as intended, meditating on the lives of Jesus and Mary, and making it a heartfelt prayer for humility and holiness.  As the prayer goes, we need to “imitate what the Mysteries contain, in order to obtain what they promise.”

    I would like to close with a beautiful prose we read this morning at Matins, by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, one of the founding Fathers of the Cistercian or “Trappist” order.

    Eve was a thorn; Mary is a rose. Eve was a thorn in her wounding; Mary a rose in the sweetening of the affections of all. Eve was a thorn fastening death upon all; Mary is a rose giving the heritage of salvation back to all. Mary was a white rose by reason of her virginity, a red rose by reason of her charity; white in her body, red in her soul; white in cultivating virtue, red in treading down vice; white in purifying affection, red in mortifying the flesh; white in loving God, red in having compassion on her neighbor.[2]

    “Mary is a rose,” and she will receive the garlands of our Rosaries, and present them at the throne of God the Father, who sent the Holy Ghost to overshadow her, to bring forth their Son, Who in His life, death and resurrection made possible our eternal salvation.


[2]   A homily of St. Bernard, Abbot: On the Blessed Virgin, Lesson vii at Matins


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