May 5, 2019 Pastors Message05/20/2019
THE YEAR OF PRAYER PART 14: THE ROSARY
“When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” (John 19:2627).
In March, as part of our Year of Prayer, we reflected on the Communion of Saints and the practice of praying for the intercession of the saints to help us grow in the life of grace. Last month, we reflected on novenas and chaplets as meditations on the mysteries of our faith. This Marian month of May, we will bring the two prayer forms together by reflecting on the Dominican Rosary, or, for most Catholics today, simply the Rosary.
As mentioned last month, the Rosary is a chaplet, a string of beads used to keep track of the number and sequence of prayers, the origins of which stretch back to ancient times in the Church and beyond. The practice grew in the early middle ages as an aid to praying ones penance after confession, which often was a certain number of Our Father’s and Hail Mary’s. According to tradition, in the 13th century St. Dominic developed the particular arrangement and number of prayers we know as the Rosary today as a way of combating the Albigensian heresy, which denied that Jesus was fully human and fully divine, hence the Rosary’s focus on the mysteries of Christ’s life. The historical accuracy of this account is questioned by scholars today, though many scholars acknowledge Dominic’s role in popularizing the Rosary.
The Rosary really came into its own in the 16th century when the Muslim Turks conquered the Christian city of Constantinople and began attacking Christian cities around the Mediterranean Sea, including the coast of Italy. Pope Pius V appealed to Christians everywhere to pray the Rosary, seeking the Blessed Mother’s intercession to stop the Muslim advance. On October 7, 1571, a Christian fleet prevailed over the Muslims at the Battle of Lepanto, and, in gratitude, the pope established October 7 as the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, which it remains to this day.
The Rosary is an extended meditation on Christ’s life, originally composed of fifteen decades of beads, one decade for each mystery of Christ’s life. The mysteries were arranged into three thematic groups: the Joyful Mysteries, focusing on Christ’s Incarnation; the Sorrowful Mysteries, focusing on Christ’s Passion and Death; and the Glorious Mysteries, focusing on Christ’s Resurrection. Pope John Paul II later added a fourth group, the Luminous Mysteries, focusing on Christ’s public ministry. Each group consists of five mysteries, and so five decades, and each decade consists of an Our Father, ten Hail Mary’s, and a Glory Be. Preceding the first decade, one prays the Apostles’ Creed, an Our Father, Three Hail Mary’s, and a Glory Be, and following the conclusion of the last decade, one prays the Hail Holy Queen. Other prayers and traditions have become part of the Rosary over the years, such as the Fatima Prayer, but the basic structure is as above.
Whether praying an entire, twenty decade Rosary, or, as is more common, only one group of mysteries, spending some time with our Blessed Mother by reflecting on the saving mysteries of the life of her Son can be a helpful way of growing closer to and sharing in the graces of both and can serve as a way of answering Christ’s command to the beloved disciple from the cross to take her into our home.
Fr. Marc Stockton