One Friday afternoon during my first year in law school (1979), while I was sitting in the law library, a girl who was in one of my classes walked over to me and asked, “What is that book you’re reading?” She had seen the title of the book, The Woman Shall Conquer, and was wondering what it was about.
She quickly lost interest when I explained to her that the book was about the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the modern world. My impression was that she thought the book was about modern feminism and equal rights for women.
Fortunately for me, I was born at a time (1957) when there was widespread interest in our Lady’s role in the protection and salvation of man – a time when millions of people made pilgrimages to shrines and joined and participated in clubs and societies that were dedicated to her. Those same people also routinely purchased books and magazines that promoted devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
When I was growing up in the 1960s, I remember my mom talking about Fr. Patrick Peyton, who was known worldwide as “the Rosary Priest.” As a young seminarian, Fr. Peyton had been diagnosed with tuberculosis. He made a vow to the Blessed Virgin Mary that if he was cured of the disease he would dedicate his life to teaching others about the rosary. The vow was made after his doctors told him that his condition was incurable and they couldn’t do anything for him. He was later miraculously cured of the disease, and over the course of his life he influenced millions of people by getting his message out to them through publications, radio, television, films, audio-cassettes, and video-tapes.
Fr. Peyton’s motto was, “The family that prays together stays together.” My mom frequently repeated Fr. Peyton’s motto to me and my brothers and sisters when we complained about being “forced” to pray the family rosary every evening after supper.
In the 1970s, devotion to the Mother of God and her rosary started to wane. It is now virtually nonexistent among most Catholics.
If you walked into a Catholic grade school today, how many students would know what the rosary is and how to pray it from beginning to end? If you walked into a Catholic church next Sunday, how many adults would know what the rosary is and how to pray it from beginning to end? Do you know how to pray the rosary from beginning to end? Can you recite the 20 Mysteries of the Rosary from memory?
Unfortunately, most Catholics today believe that the rosary is nothing more than an outdated ritual for old people. They see no value in repeating the same prayer over and over again: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen. Hail Mary, full of grace …”
So what’s the use in reciting the Hail Mary over and over again? Why even bother? Here are just a few reasons:
1. The rosary is a prayer that any person can learn, regardless of age, occupation, status, education, or financial position. It is truly a prayer that is suitable for everyone in the world.
2. The rosary is a prayer that requires a certain degree of humility and an acknowledgement that the person reciting the prayer really isn’t as sophisticated as he (or she) thinks he (or she) is. People who are filled with pride don’t pray the rosary. It’s too simple a prayer. Too repetitive. Too trivial. They don’t need it. They have too many other, more important things to do with their time.
3. Praying the rosary reduces a person to being viewed as a child in the eyes of God – a child who is turning to his spiritual mother for love, guidance, protection, and support. It was our Lord Himself who said that we must be like children in order to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Over the centuries, numerous popes and saints have said that after the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours (the prayers priests are required to recite every day), the rosary is the greatest prayer in the Catholic Church.
The word “rosary” literally means “a crown of roses” that is given to the Blessed Mother as a spiritual bouquet.
What most Catholics don’t know is that the secret to praying the rosary in the correct way is to meditate on its Mysteries while praying each Hail Mary. As a general rule, these meditations depend on the day of the week: On Mondays and Saturdays, we are asked to meditate on the Joyful Mysteries; on Tuesdays and Fridays, the Sorrowful Mysteries; on Wednesdays and Sundays, the Glorious Mysteries; and on Thursdays, the Luminous Mysteries.
One of the benefits of praying the rosary that most Catholics are unaware of is that over a period of four days – Monday through Thursday – a person has meditated on the most significant events of the entire life of Jesus, from the moment He was conceived in His mother’s womb through His childhood, His public life, His suffering and death, His resurrection and ascension into Heaven, and the crowning of His mother as Queen of Heaven and Earth. The rosary serves as a comprehensive review (and reenactment in our imaginations) of the most important events of the New Testament of the Holy Bible.
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen had this to say about the rosary:
The rosary is the book of the blind, where souls see and there enact the greatest drama of love the world has ever known; it is the book of the simple, which initiates them into the mysteries and knowledge more satisfying than the education of other men; it is the book of the aged, whose eyes close upon the shadow of this world and open on the substance of the next. The power of the rosary is beyond description.
Today, October 7, 2012, is the feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary. Would you be willing to make a commitment to our Lord and His mother that you will pray the rosary every day from this day forward?
You’re never too old to learn this great prayer. The question is: Are you willing to open up your mind and heart and make the commitment to incorporate this powerful prayer into your daily routine?
There is going to be a point in the near future when you come face to face with God for the first time. You may want to stack the deck in your favor by developing a close, prayerful, relationship with His mother ahead of time. If you do, she will be standing by your side to introduce you to your Creator.