The Rosary, the most powerful prayer next to the Mass is truly a special prayer of great significance, destined to bring forth a harvest of holiness, one that easily blends into the spiritual journey of Christian life. The Rosary Devotion although Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer, with all the elements of the Gospel message contained in its entirety. It is through the Rosary, led by Mary, that we contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of His love. The Servant of God Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter, “ROSARIUM VIRGINIS MARIAE” stresses the importance of the Rosary Devotion,
…the spiritual life is not limited solely to participation in the liturgy. Christians, while they are called to prayer in common, must also go to their own rooms to pray to their Father in secret (cf. Mt 6:6); indeed, according to the teaching of the Apostle, they must pray without ceasing (cf.1Thes 5:17)”. The Rosary, in its own particular way, is part of this varied panorama of “ceaseless” prayer. (13)
The Rosary Devotion is a set of prayers inviting the faithful to meditate on the life, death and glory of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer and that of His Blessed Mother. The Rosary, organized into four groups of mysteries, the Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful and Glorious, also encourages all those who pray it to reflect on the virtues that both Jesus and Mary practiced. Each decade of the Rosary consists of the the Prayer of Christ and the Angelic Salutation, that is the Our Father and Hail Mary and is concluded with the Glory Be and the added prayer from the Our Lady of Fatima Apparition, the “Oh My Jesus…”
The daily requirement of the Rosary Devotion is to pray one of the four designated sets of mysteries taking approximately thirty to forty minutes to complete. Each day there is a different set of mysteries designated for recitation as follows:
The faithful are also encouraged to pray the entire Rosary, that is, all four sets of mysteries each and everyday! In today’s busy world, such a task may seem impossible or highly improbable, but no matter what your schedule is, there is a way to accomplish praying all four sets of mysteries each and every day. Begin by first dividing the Rosary mysteries into four parts throughout the day. Reciting one quarter of the Rosary throughout the day is much better than reciting it all at once, not only due to time constraints but to genuinely and properly meditate on the life and passion of Christ, the life of Mary and the many Gospel lessons and virtues contained within. To make the Rosary recitation even easier, break it down into individual decade recitations. Consider those opportunities in your schedule where you can recite one decade at a time. This could be while commuting to work, running an errand, performing a chore, going for a walk etc. By taking advantage of those new opportunities, you will have recited a decade here, a decade there and by the time you lay your head down to sleep at night, you will have recited the entire Rosary. This approach can be verified in the Forty Fifth Rose – With Reverence, in St. Louis De Montfort’s book, The Secret of the Rosary where he states:
…I advise you to divide up your Rosary into three parts (now four parts with the inclusion of the Luminous Mysteries as presented through the late pontiff, Blessed Pope John Paul II), at a different time of day. This is much better than saying the whole fifteen (now twenty) decades all at once. If you cannot find the time to say a third part (now fourth part) of the Rosary all at one time, say it gradually, a decade here and there. I am sure you can manage this; so that, in spite of your work and all the calls upon your time, you will have said the whole Rosary before going to bed…
For detailed and easy instructions as to how to pray the Rosary in English and several other languages, please visit the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary’s dedicated instructional page, How To Pray The Rosary.
The Rosary Devotion is easily adaptable to our modern and hectic life. Many types of prayer require silence and a peaceful atmosphere, an environment that is proper and conducive to prayer and certainly this would be ideal when praying the Rosary, but it is not essential. Reciting the Rosary silently and devoutly creates its own devout atmosphere. This is why one can pray the Rosary anywhere: while driving or walking, on the subway, in the company of others, at home or some where else. In so far as it is possible to include in one’s schedule, praying the Rosary in front of the crucifix in Church or in front of the Blessed Sacrament is especially beneficial.
The Rosary was given to us in the year 1214 by St. Dominic who himself received it from Our Blessed Mother to convert the Albigensian heretics in southern France. Saint Dominic understood the gravity of peoples’ sins were hindering the conversion of the Albigensians, so he withdrew into the forest near Toulouse to pray unceasingly for three days and nights, weeping and inflicting harsh penances upon himself to appease God’s anger. The penances were so extreme that St. Dominic fell into a coma and it was at this point that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to him with three angels. Our Blessed Mother informed St. Dominic that the best weapon in this type of warfare, that the Holy Trinity wanted him to use to reform the world was the Angelic Salutation. Mary instructed St. Dominic, “If you want to reach these hardened souls and win them over to God, preach my Psalter.”
At this point St. Dominic arose, comforted and burning with zeal for the conversion of people in his district that he headed straight for the cathedral to preach on the Holy Rosary. Saint Dominic did so in such a fervent and compelling way that almost all the people of Toulouse embraced the Rosary and renounced their false beliefs. In a very short time a great improvement was seen in the town as people began leading Christian lives and gave up their former bad habits.
St. Louis De Montfort, another of Our Blessed Mother’s instruments, revealed the importance of the Rosary with the special book entitled, The Secret of The Rosary, in which St. Louis De Monfort endeavors to bring home to the reader, in a simple and straight forward manner, the authentic message of the Rosary, that it is a “veritable school of Christian life.” The Secret of the Rosary, written almost two and a half centuries ago, contains everything that can be said about the Rosary, about its content, form, it’s real worth, about the instruction necessary for it’s appreciation and use. The Secret of the Rosary will bring to the reader not only a better understanding of the Rosary as a prayer, but especially as a way of spiritual life.
For St. Louis De Montfort, the Rosary was not only a method of prayer, but like St. Dominic, an effective tool and weapon in his apostolic work. Saint Louis De Montfort preached the Rosary in and out of season, established it in every parish where he gave a mission and judged the fruits of the mission by the subsequent perseverance of its recitation. Saint Louis De Montfort knew there was no limit to the power of the Rosary and to it he attributed much of his success with sinners, as he is quoted as saying, “Let me but place my Rosary around a sinner’s neck…and he will not escape me.”
Reciting the Rosary is a mystical time, transporting us to Mary’s side as she molds and trains us to be more conformed to Christ. The the Blessed Pope John Paul II who so powerfully experienced this Marian guidance in his life, revealed in his apostolic letter, ROSARIUM VIRGINIS MARIAE that he adopted the motto “Totus Tuus,” inspired by the teaching of St. Louis De Montfort, who explained in the following words Mary’s role in the process of our configuration to Christ:
Our entire perfection consists in being conformed, united and consecrated to Jesus Christ. Hence the most perfect of all devotions is undoubtedly that which conforms, unites and consecrates us most perfectly to Jesus Christ. Now, since Mary is of all creatures the one most conformed to Jesus Christ, it follows that among all devotions that which most consecrates and conforms a soul to our Lord is devotion to Mary, his Holy Mother, and that the more a soul is consecrated to her the more will it be consecrated to Jesus Christ”. Never as in the Rosary do the life of Jesus and that of Mary appear so deeply joined. Mary lives only in Christ and for Christ!(22)
The Servant of God Pope John Paul II also stressed that the Rosary must be devoutly prayed, not merely routinely recited. To recite the Rosary properly, our Holy Father states, “is nothing other than to contemplate with Mary the face of Christ.” Precisely because it starts with Mary’s own experience, the Rosary is an exquisitely contemplative prayer.
In his apostolic exhortation Marialis Cultus, Pope Paul VI points out that without the contemplative dimension, the Rosary would lose its meaning:
There has also been felt with greater urgency the need to point out once more the importance of a further essential element in the Rosary, in addition to the value of the elements of praise and petition, namely the element of contemplation. Without this the Rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation is in danger of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas and of going counter to the warning of Christ: “And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words” (Mt. 6:7). By its nature the recitation of the Rosary calls for a quiet rhythm and a lingering pace, helping the individual to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord’s life as seen through the eyes of her who was closest to the Lord. In this way the unfathomable riches of these mysteries are unfolded. (47)
The great invitation of the Rosary to meditate and reflect on the joyful, sorrowful, luminous and glorious mysteries is a remedy to help us through severe trials, temptations and the hardships of life. The Rosary is one of the great weapons given to us in our battle against every evil. To further encourage and assure us, our Blessed Mother has given Fifteen Promises to Christians who faithfully pray the Rosary:
As history has shown the Rosary was used in particular by the Dominicans at a difficult time for the Church due to the spread of heresy, let us too have recourse to Mary with the same trust, confidence and faith, as those who have gone before us, to face the many and new challenges of our day. At this encounter let us hand over our burdens to the merciful hearts of Christ and His Mother.