Holy Mary Mother of God pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Away back in the 17th century St Vincent sent some Vincentian priests to Scotland. Among them was a Fr Duggan who went to the Hebrides. One day he came across a young man in tears and asked him what was the matter. ‘My poor father is dying and I cannot persuade him that he is. He said that he will not die until he has seen a priest, and that he has said the Rosary every day for this intention all his life, i.e. he has asked Our Lady fifty times a day ‘pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.’ ‘ I told him it was impossible to see a priest, that there were no priests in Scotland because of the persecution.’ Fr Duggan, who was disguised as a layman, revealed who he was and gave the old man the last sacraments. Our Lady had answered the old man’s prayers in spite of the impossibility of the situation.
There is a great desire for prayer today. There are prayer groups everywhere in spite of the distractions of modern life. There is the danger of neglecting one of the greatest prayers of the church, which has borne the test of the ages, namely the Rosary. This was the staple spiritual diet of the ordinary people together with Holy Mass, which kept faith alive. There is the danger of not regarding its true value for a number of reasons. Some people are inclined to regard it as a prayer only suitable for simple uneducated people in times past.
With the recent emphasis on the liturgy, they feel the Rosary takes a back place in the church’s devotional life. The popes have emphasised that private devotions as well as the liturgy, have a place in the spiritual life of a catholic. They help to enhance one another. It is not a question of ‘either/or’ but ‘both/and’. Our private devotions nourish our faith, so that we are able to celebrate the liturgy with greater devotion. The liturgy may be compared to a picture, which needs a proper frame. This is provided by our private devotions, such as the Rosary. They both enhance each other, and one’s spiritual life.
One of the great advantages of the Rosary is its easy accessibility. It can be said, any place, any time. Though it looks a very simple prayer, it is a very sublime and profound prayer because it combines the most profound vocal prayers, the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Gloria with the deepest contemplative prayer as we meditate on the great mysteries of the life of Our Lord and His Blessed Mother.
For people who find contemplative prayer difficult, and need something for the imagination to cling to, the scenes from the gospel are a great help. This applies to many people. It is a reason why the Rosary appeals to so many people. I notice that after mass in the parish church where I work, many people of their own account go into the Lady Chapel to pray the Rosary. It is still the most important and popular devotion to Our Lady in the church.
At Lourdes and Fatima Our Lady showed how she wants us to pray the Rosary. She said to the children at Fatima ‘I want you to say the Rosary, but I want you to say it well’. A great help to pray the Rosary well, is to use a little booklet or pamphlet, which gives a short summary of each mystery. We recall the mystery in question and a particularly good booklet is the ‘Bible Rosary’ by Fr Harty OP When we use Fr Harty’s booklet, the reflections are taken from the bible itself. There are many other similar booklets available.
The Pope suggests that we pause before reciting each mystery, while we recall the mystery in question. We then reflect on it for a short while, before we actually say the mystery. It helps us to be more recollected when we say the Rosary. A concern experienced when we say the Rosary, is that we start off well and after a mystery or two, our minds wander, and when we come to the end of the Rosary, we feel disgusted with ourselves and feel it was a failure and a waste of time. It is a consolation to know that God looks at our intention as Cardinal Hulme has said ‘the very will to pray, is to pray.’ To reflect on the mysteries prevents the Rosary from becoming boring and being meaningless.
Here are three ways of saying the Rosary
- We can reflect on the mysteries using our imagination to recall the scene, and raising our hearts and minds to God. This is the commonest way.
- We can recite it in a contemplative way, by staying in the presence of Our Lord or His Blessed Mother, while using the Hail Mary as a mantra.
- We can reflect on the actual meaning of the words of the vocal prayers.
It is often a combination of all three ways. It is for each one to say it in the way one finds best.
I am writing these few reflections to encourage the reader to read the splendid apostolic letter on the Rosary by Pope John Paul II called ‘Rosarium Virginis Mariae’. It is a splendid summary of the church’s teaching on the Rosary and is quite easy to read.
The 15 Promises given by Our Lady to those who pray the Rosary
- Whoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the Rosary, shall receive signal graces.
- I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all those who shall recite the Rosary.
- The Rosary shall be a powerful armour against hell, it will destroy vice, decrease sin, and defeat heresies.
- It will cause virtue and good works to flourish; it will obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God; it will withdraw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire of eternal things. Oh! that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.
- The soul which recommends itself to me by the recitation of the Rosary, shall not perish.
- Whoever shall recite the Rosary devoutly, and apply himself to the consideration of its sacred mysteries shall never be conquered by misfortune. God will not chastise him in His justice, he shall not perish by an unprovided death; if he be just, he shall remain in the grace of God, and become worthy of eternal life.
- Whoever shall have true devotion for the Rosary, shall not die without the sacraments of the church.
- Those who are faithful to recite the Rosary shall have during their life, and at their death, the light of God and the plenitude of His graces; at the moment of death, they shall participate in the merits of the saints in paradise.
- I shall deliver from purgatory those who have been devoted to the Rosary.
- The faithful children of the Rosary shall merit a high degree of glory in Heaven.
- You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the Rosary.
- All those who propagate the Holy Rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities.
- I have obtained from my Divine Son that all the advocates of the Rosary shall have for intercessors the entire celestial court during their life and at the hour of death.
- All who recite the Rosary are my sons, and brothers of my only son, Jesus Christ.
- Devotion to my Rosary is a great sign of predestination.
These promises were made to St Dominic and Blessed Alan.