THE HOLY ROSARY
There is no point in talking about The Holy Rosary unless we have learned to love Our Lady. How do we learn to love her? By knowing that she loves us with a love greater than we can ever understand. By knowing that Our Lady is the Mediatrix between Jesus and ourselves. There is an understanding that all our prayers go to Jesus through her. By knowing that at the foot of the cross she offered herself as a Co-redemptrix along with her Son who she saw die in appalling agony. Then there was that most poignant moment when from his agony on the Cross Jesus spoke to St John and said “Here is your mother”. At that moment she became the mother of us all and she deserves our love.
What can we say about Mary? When God created her soul he kept it pure and devoid of original sin. So from the very first she was given special heavenly blessings. But her Free Will was the same as ours. She was free to make whatever choice suited her. And when the Angel Gabriel told her of God’s plan she had to make a choice. We thank God that she chose to be His Mother and the Mother of us all. In doing that she replaced Eve as Jesus, her Son, replaced Adam. It is only when we love Our Lady that we can prepare ourselves for trying to understand her Holy Rosary.
How did the Rosary commence and how did I come to its present form of twenty decades made up of a total of two hundred Hail Mary’s spilt into four Mysteries; Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful and Glorious?
Until October 2002 the Rosary was made up of fifteen decades which totalled One Hundred & Fifty Hail Mary’s and as far as can be discovered the use of ‘one hundred and fifty’ came from the early Monasteries where the monks obeyed the strict rule of St Benedict by daily recitation of King David’s one hundred and fifty Psalms. In those early days, some of the monks were illiterate so to either read or memorise the Psalms was beyond them. To enable them to take part in the prayer of the community they were allowed to recite an appropriate number of Our Fathers (known as Paternosters) and to keep track of the numbers they used a knotted string. People from the neighbouring villages would attend the services and they too followed the monk’s example and so the use of beads was accepted by the laity.
The next stage in the story takes us to the eleventh century and to St Anselm who was Archbishop of Canterbury. He composed a prayer to Mary which was based on the Psalms and consisted of one hundred and fifty verses, which he divided into three, each verse commencing with the word ‘Ave’. This prayer became know as ‘Our Lady’s Psalter’. Now we move forward to the fourteenth century when a famous Carthusian monk, Henry Egher, claimed to have had a remarkable vision of Our Lady in which she taught him to say the ‘Psalter’ in her honour. He described this occurrence to one of the Priors and in a short space of time the prayer became known throughout the country.
In the same century Eton College was founded by King Henry VI which Included in its statutes that the students were required to recite, every day, ‘the complete Psalter of the Blessed Virgin consisting of a Credo, fifteen Paters and one hundred and fifty Ave Marias’. This was in accordance with the instructions given by Our Lady to the Carthusian monk. Gradually, from being based on the psalms, the Ave-Psalter began to develop a clear character of its own, and the division into the fifties came to represent the three moods that make up the rosary.
But why the name ‘Rosary’? In the early days of the church statues of Mary (Our Lady) would have roses put on her head in the shape of a crown or halo. It seems very credible that it is from those roses has come the name Rosary.
Some of the Joyful Mysteries are attributed to St Thomas a Becket who was Archbishop of Canterbury in the time of King Henry II. He composed a hymn on the seven joys of Our Lady. Some of his themes are now used as Joyful Mysteries. Over many centuries there followed a natural progression. Having prayed and meditated on the Joyful mysteries is was a natural to want to pray and meditate on the Sorrowful and then the Glorious themes in the life of Jesus and Mary so the other mysteries came into being.
There is a tradition that Our Lady gave the Rosary in its present form to St. Dominic. It is believed that on 16th July 1251 Our Lady gave the brown scapular to St Dominic so it is not hard to believe the tradition that she also gave the Rosary to him. The church often accepts tradition. It has always done so in the case of the Sixth Station of the Cross. There is nothing in the Bible regarding Veronica Wiping the Face of Jesus – it is ‘tradition’. That St Dominic was a man of remarkable character is not in doubt. He had the deepest compassion for every sort of human suffering. It is possible that he prayed the Rosary when working with the sick and it is from that the tradition began of him having being given the Rosary by Our Lady.
To complete the history of the Holy Rosary it is necessary to mention the Mysteries of Light which The Holy Father Saint John Paul II introduced in October 2002. It was always possible to meditate on The Marriage Feast at Cana and The Last Supper. Now we have the authority which makes it very acceptable.
In thinking about the Holy Rosary we come to realise that Our Lady follows on from Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, The Judges, and The Prophets. Those Patriarchs and Spiritual Leaders of their time have been replaced with one Perfect Prophet, the Mother of God. John the Baptist was the last of the Prophets and we can recall what Jesus said of him; “In truth I tell you, of all the children born to women, there has never been anyone greater than John the Baptist”. Now there is one who is greater, Mary, and God sends her to us to guide us on our way to Everlasting Life in Heaven. She is greater than all the Patriarchs and Prophets put together. That being the case why is it that many, even good Catholics, find the Rosary difficult to pray and refuse to even make a start by taking up the beads and trying.
The answer must be that not much has changed. As the Old Testament Prophets were ignored by the people of their time so now Our Lady is equally ignored. At Lourdes and Fatima, she has made her request perfectly clear ‘Pray the Rosary’. If we were to only pray one decade a day, then we are putting her request into practice. But to turn one’s back on Mary’s request and not even attempt to carry out her request is very sad. When Mary comes to us she is surely doing so at the behest of her Son. Therefore, to ignore Mary is to ignore Jesus.
It all comes down to devotion. If we are devoted to Jesus, then it follows that we are devoted to His Sacred Heart. If we are devoted to Mary, then it follows that we are devoted to her Holy Rosary.
In October 2002. John Paul II declared ‘A Year of the Holy Rosary’ from October 2002 to October 2003. He also announced five New Decades to be known as the Luminous Decades (Or Decades of Light).
The forty decades are:-
The Joyful Mysteries
1. The Annunciation
2. The Visitation
3. The Nativity
4. The Presentation in the Temple
5. The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple
The Mysteries of Light
1. Christ’s Baptism in the Jordan
2. The Marriage Feast of Cana
3. Christ’s Proclamation of the Kingdom and His Call to Conversion
4. The Transfiguration
5. The Last Supper
The Sorrowful Mysteries
1. The Agony in the Garden
2. The Scourging at the Pillar
3. The Crowning with Thorns
4. Jesus Carries His Cross
5. The Crucifixion
The Glorious Mysteries
1. The Resurrection
2. The Ascension
3. Descent of the Holy Spirit on Our Lady and the Apostles
4. Our Lady is Assumed Body and Soul into Heaven
5. Our Lady Crowned Queen of Heaven and Glory of the Saints
The Holy Father suggested that the days for praying the decades can be:
Monday. The Joyful Mysteries
Tuesday. The Sorrowful Mysteries
Wednesday. The Glorious Mysteries
Thursday. The Mysteries of Light
Friday. The Sorrowful Mysteries
Saturday. The Joyful Mysteries
Sunday. The Glorious Mysteries
The Fifteen Promises of Mary to those Who Recite the Rosary
1. Whoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the Rosary, shall receive signal graces.
2. I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all those who shall recite the Rosary.
3. The Rosary shall be a powerful armour against hell, it will destroy vice, decrease sin, and defeat heresies.
4. It will cause virtue and good works to flourish; it will obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God; it will with- draw 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.
5. The soul which recommends itself to me by the recitation of the Rosary, shall not perish.
6. Whoever shall recite the Rosary devoutly, applying 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 un-provided death; if he be just he shall remain in the grace of God, and become worthy of eternal life.
7. Whoever shall have a true devotion for the Rosary shall not die without the sacraments of the Church.
8. Those who are faithful to recite the Rosary shall have during their life and at their death the light of God and the plentitude of His graces; at the moment of death they shall participate in the merits of the saints in paradise.
9. I shall deliver from purgatory those who have been devoted to the Rosary.
10. The faithful children of the Rosary shall merit a high degree of glory in heaven.
11. You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the Rosary.
12. All those who propagate the holy Rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities.
13. 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.
14. All who recite the Rosary are my sons, and brothers of my only Son Jesus Christ.
15. Devotion of my Rosary is a great sign of predestination.
(Given to St. Dominic and Blessed Alan)
Imprimatur: Patrick J. Hayes, D.D.
Archbishop of New York