The word “rosary” is derived from the Latin word rosarium, which means a wreath of roses. Praying the Rosary is like offering Mary and Jesus a spiritual bouquet of roses.
The Rosary is a prayer which has influenced many saints. This is how St Louis Grignion de Montfort encouraged us to pray it: “Waking up or going to sleep, at home or away, I always have ‘Hail Mary’ on my tongue. I am undefeated when I say it.” In 1978, John Paul II said: “This is my much beloved prayer. An amazing prayer! Amazing at once in its simplicity and depth. Against the words of the Angelic Salutation (Ave Maria), the main events of Jesus Christ’s life unfold in front of our soul’s eyes. They fall into place as complete mysteries: joyful, sorrowful and glorious. One could say that it’s like dwelling with our Lord Jesus through the Heart of His Mother. At the same time, our hearts can entrust to the decades of the Rosary all the issues which make up the lives of individuals, nations, the Church and all humanity.” In Rosarium Virginis Mariae, an apostolic letter about the Rosary, the pope wrote: “The Rosary accompanied me during the times of difficulties and trials. I entrusted many concerns to it. Thanks to it, I always found comfort.”
A short history of the Rosary
The Rosary is called “Mary’s Psalter”, because, just like the psalter, it’s made up of 150 prayers. Its origins go back to the twelfth century, when it became a substitute prayer for those monks who couldn’t read psalms. In the fourteenth century the Carthusian father Henry of Kalkar divided 150 Hail Marys into 15 “decades”, adding “Our Father” to each of them. The contemporary form of the Rosary became prevalent in the fifteenth century, when people started praying the Rosary divided into three parts: joyful, sorrowful and glorious. At the same time, they started combining the Rosary with meditations on Gospel mysteries. St Dominic and the Dominican order spread the prayer around the world. In 2002, John Paul II announced the addition of the luminous mysteries as the fourth part of the Rosary.
St Mary and the Rosary
Marian apparitions in Lourdes, Fatima and La Salette, as well as in Gietrzwald in Poland, helped spread devotion to the Rosary. In all these apparitions, Mary emphasised the significance of prayer, especially of the Rosary prayer, in Christian life. She says that the Rosary is a tool for changing human hearts, because it opens them to the love of God, which heals them, transforms them and fills them with peace. Praying for someone means loving, so when Mary is asking us to pray the Rosary, she is calling us to love God and our neighbour. Mary told the children of Fatima: “there is no personal or international issue which couldn’t be resolved through the Rosary”. This prayer is also a means of bringing peace to the world. When Sister Lucy was asked when world peace would be restored, she answered: “When a sufficient number of people respond to the Blessed Virgin Mary’s call to pray the Rosary and to offer sacrifices for the conversion of sinners”. Therefore, the people who pray the Rosary are the builders of world peace.
The Rosary is a tool for changing human hearts, because it opens them to the love of God, which heals them, transforms them and fills them with peace
A chain which links us with God
The Rosary could be seen as a summary of the New Testament. In his apostolic letter about the Rosary, John Paul II writes: “Repeating the angelic salutation ‘Hail Mary’ offers perpetual glory to Christ. It’s the background to meditation on the mysteries of Christ’s life. It’s a clearly contemplative prayer.” Pope Paul VI also highlights the contemplative nature of the Rosary: “By its nature, the Rosary requires the rhythm of calm prayer and slow reflection, so that the person praying might contemplate the mysteries of Christ’s life more easily, as though they were meditated by the heart of the One who was closest of all to the Lord and so that the unfathomable riches of these mysteries might be opened. Blessed Bartolo Longo saw the Rosary as a ‘chain’ which linked us to God.”
Since the teacher of this prayer is Mary, the Intercessor of graces, then we can be sure that by praying the Rosary we will obtain graces for ourselves and our loved ones – as long as they follow God’s will. And so, Mary plays the role of intercessor between God and people, awakening love and helping it to mature.
The fruits of the Rosary
Praying the Rosary brings peace and joy. When we recite this prayer, our trust in God increases and we also have more patience for ourselves and others. This prayer has the power of exorcism: the “Angelic Salutation” protects us from attacks of the evil spirit. Our Lady of Guadalupe reminded us that while we are praying the Rosary, She is standing in front of the throne of God advocating on our behalf, and Satan can’t touch us during this time.
This can be illustrated by a specific event. A young girl was sharing a hospital room with a person who kept repeating mantras. She realised that this woman was in fact calling on an evil spirit. So she started praying the Rosary in her thoughts. After a while, the person who was repeating the mantras said that she couldn’t repeat them anymore because “something” was disturbing her. So the Rosary is like firing bullets at the evil spirit. Satan hates this prayer and will try all possible means to discourage us from praying it. Let’s keep persistently at it and treat the Rosary as great help in our maturing for heaven. Let’s learn how to contemplate God and imitate Mary, whose every fiat to God was offered with great trust.