During this month of October, the month dedicated to Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary, let us ask our Blessed Mother for the Peace of Christ for our country and the world and the Triumph of her Immaculate Heart! I share with you a teaching on Our Lady of the Rosary and praying the Rosary. I encourage you to reflect over this message a few times this week:
“October 7 - Our Lady of the Rosary - Memorial: This feast day was instituted by Pope Pius V in thanksgiving for the Blessed Virgin Mary’s assistance in the Christian victory over the Turks at Lepanto on October 7, 1571. The Pontiff foretold that the Rosary would win that battle in 1569. Clement XI extended the feast to the universal Church in 1716.
The Rosary is a powerful weapon in the apostolate: And when he came to her he said: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. (Luke 1:28) The angel greeted Our Lady in this way which is now so familiar to us since we have often repeated the very same words to her. In the Middle Ages Christians greeted the Virgin Mary with the invocation Mystical Rose, the symbol of love and joy. As an expression of this affection her images were adorned with crowns or bouquets of roses called Rosarium in medieval Latin as they still are today. Whoever was unable to recite the one hundred and fifty Psalms of the Liturgy of the Hours each day would pray as many Hail Marys instead. The faithful used stones strung together by the decade or knots on a rope to keep count of each invocation. At the same time they would meditate on a particular aspect of Our Lords’ or Our Lady’s life.
The Hail Mary has long been amongst the richest prayers of the Church. Popes and Councils have frequently recommended it. The wording itself would acquire its final form with the addition of the petition for a happy death: Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. We beseech the Virgin’s help in each situation now, and at the climactic moment of our definitive meeting with Christ.
The mysteries focus on the central events in the life of Jesus and Mary. In a sense they are a summary of the liturgical year and of the whole Gospel. The prayers of the Litany that ensue are a song of love for the Blessed Mother. They are Marian praises, petitions for her help and manifestations of joy and exaltation before her virtue and power.
St. Pius V attributed the Victory of Lepanto to the intercession of the Blessed Mother since a grave threat to the Faith soon came to an end when Rome and the Christian world invoked her patronage through the Rosary. Today’s feast (Oct. 7) recalls the wonderful event. On the occasion of its institution, the petition to Our Lady Help of Christians was added to the Litany (of Loreto). From that moment on the Roman Pontiffs would encourage devotion to the Blessed Virgin with renewed fervor as public and universal prayer, for the ordinary and extraordinary needs of the universal Church and the nations of the entire world. (John XXIII, Apostolic Letter Il Religioso Convegno, 29 September 1961)
The Church devotes the month of October to the Rosary in order to honor our Blessed Mother in a special way. Our love for this devotion should be constantly renewed. How is our contemplation of the various mysteries going? Do holy ambitions, such as the Christians had who prayed for victory at Lepanto, enter into our stream of praise and petition during the Rosary? Given our great need for help and our concern for the spiritual growth of our families, Our Lady’s presence is crucial. There are always the needs of the friends we do apostolate with to remember too. We need to bring constantly to mind: Today as in other times the Rosary must be a powerful weapon to enable us to win in our interior struggle and to help all souls. (J. Escriva, Holy Rosary, p. 7)
Contemplating the mysteries of the Rosary: The name Rosary comes from the group of prayers to the Virgin we gather like so many roses for her. (cf. J. Corominas, Etymological Dictionary, Madrid 1987) St. Bernard, the great champion of the Blessed Mother, gives the term a different sense by referring to each day of her life as either a snow-colored or a crimson rose. White roses and red ones; the white of serenity and of purity, the red of suffering and of love. Have we often tried to unravel the content of her life, day by day, while passing the beads through our hands? (J. M. Escartin, Meditation on the Rosary, Madrid 1971) This is what it means to contemplate the lives of Jesus and of Mary while the decades successively unfurl before our mind and heart.
In one way or another we always accompany the Blessed Virgin in the consideration of these mysteries so that the Rosary involves much more than the repetition of the Hail Mary.
We make an effort to pray with love, perhaps adding a petition to each decade or every invocation so as to avoid routine. With attentive and thoughtful devotion we contemplate the mysteries. Pondering each one helps us foster true piety since each consideration gradually reveals to us the habitual dispositions of Christ and his Blessed Mother, in the presence of God the Father, with whom we can identify in our own behavior. We rejoice as the events leading to our salvation unfold, and suffer compassionately with the Holy Family during their many trials. We look ahead with sure hope towards the final radiance and glorious victory of the risen Christ. (cf. Paul VI, Encyclical, Marialis Cultus, 2 February 1974, 46)
We can pause for a few seconds – three or four – in silent meditation to consider each mystery of the Rosary before reciting the Our Father and the Hail Marys of that decade. (J. Escriva, op. cit., p. 254) In this way we can involve ourselves in the particular scene as one more person and imagine the manner of the daily activities of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
Through reflection on the lessons of the various scenes the Rosary becomes a conversation with Mary, leading to intimacy with her Son. (R. Garrigou-Lagrange, op. cit., p. 254) In the midst of our everyday concerns we can gain a keen familiarity with the truths of Faith and at the same time practice recollection while at work or at our leisure. We thus become increasingly more cheerful and refine our relations with those around us. The life of Jesus and Mary becomes the love of our life as we learn to perceive their ordinary greatness in a deeper way. How true are the poet’s verses:
You who tire and are slow to pray, Because the same words we always say,
Have little understanding what it is to be, In love forever as I and she. (cf. A. Royo Marin, The Virgin Mary, Madrid 1968)
The Litany of Loreto: After contemplating the lives of Jesus and Our Lady during the recitation of the Our Fathers and Hail Marys, we finish the Rosary with the Litany of Loreto. The compilation of invocations bursts forth with vivid praise in all the splendor of the images expressed in these phrases. The form of the particular praises and petitions varies according to country, family and personal piety.
The origin of the Litany of Loreto goes back to the first centuries of Christianity. Then it consisted of short dialogue prayers between the celebrant and the faithful. They focused above all on beseeching Divine Mercy, and were said at Holy Mass and during processions. At first they were directed to Our Lord, but soon invocations to the Blessed Virgin and other saints developed as well. The original praises of the Marian Litany stem from popular expressions of loving admiration which accrued over time. Many come from the writings of the Eastern Fathers of the Church. Round about the year 1500 at the shrine of Loreto, Christians began to sing them in solemn worship. The devotion soon spread throughout the world.
Each invocation is an ejaculatory prayer we affectionately address to Our Lady. Every one of them reflects a particular dimension of the Blessed Mother’s magnificent soul. The phrases are ordered according to the principal Marian truths. These include her divine maternity, her perpetual virginity and mediation, her universal Queenship and her universal example of Christian living. When we beseech the Holy Mother of God we are explicitly calling on her most intimate relationship to God. When we praise her as the Virgin of Virgins we lovingly recognize her full dedication to the Father’s plan of salvation. As we invoke the Mother of Christ we emphasize her key role in the mission of Christ the Mediator, Savior and King. By praising her as Queen and Mediatrix we exult in the Lord’s Kingship over all creation.
The initial phrases of the Litany suggest her attributes in broad strokes and the rest develop and expound upon these. The Virgin our Mother is the Holy Mother of God. This is the greatest title we can address her with since it is the basis for all the others. As the Mother of Christ, she is rightly praised as the Mother of our Creator and the Mother of our Savior. She is consequently the Mother of the Church and the Mother of Divine Grace. We shower her with other loving reminders of her special qualities that follow naturally from these first ones – Mother most Pure, Mother most Chaste, Mother Inviolate, Mother Undefiled, Mother most Amiable, and Mother most Admirable. Then we sing forth other notes of the harmonious chord of Mary’s most intimate union with God. These have to do with her perpetual virginity. She is Virgin most Prudent, Virgin most Venerable, Virgin most Renowned, Virgin most Powerful. Virgin most Merciful, and Virgin most Faithful.
After invoking our Mother as a perfect example of all virtue, we continue to exalt her with further admiring salutations. We call on her as the Mirror of Justice, Seat of Wisdom, Cause of our Joy, Spiritual Vessel, Vessel of Honor, Singular Vessel of Devotion, Mystical Rose, Tower of David, Tower of Ivory, and House of Gold.
The Mother of God continually exceeds her duty in our service as mediator between God and men through Christ. (cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Redemptoris Mater, 25 March 1987, 38) Three different symbols represent her universal mediation. She is the new Ark of the Covenant and the Gate of Heaven since through her we reach God. We also beseech her as the Morning Star who always helps us find our way in life. We often ask her intercession as the Health of the Sick, the Refuge of Sinners, the Comforter of the Afflicted, and the Help of Christians.
Finally, Mary is Queen of Heaven and of earth because she is the Mother of the universal Sovereign. In the broad spectrum of Christ’s Heavenly Kingdom there are angels, saints, and holy souls who are striving for sanctity now in this life as wayfarers. We petition each one of them through our Mother as the Queen who stands at the summit of all creation. She is Queen of Angels, Queen of Patriarchs, Queen of Prophets, Queen of Apostles, Queen of Martyrs, Queen of Confessors, Queen of Virgins and Queen of all Saints. The Litany of Loreto concludes with four further expressions of Queenship. We hail Mary, Queen conceived without Original Sin, Queen assumed into Heaven, Queen of the most Holy Rosary, and Queen of Peace.
By pausing slowly to consider each one of these praises we can marvel at the gifts God has bestowed on Our Lady. We are filled with awe before the countless Divine Graces she is adorned with. How fortunate we are to have such a Mother constantly at our side. At times we can use each individual invocation of the Litany as and ejaculatory prayer to remind her frequently of our love for her and of our desire for her protection.” (From: In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez) Through the intercession of Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary, St. Joseph, St. Columbkill, and all the Holy Angels, may God grant us the grace of true devotion to the Virgin Mary and love for His Will! In Christ through Mary, Fr. Kasel
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