“Go to the Madonna. Love her! Always say the Rosary. Say it well. Say it as often as you can! Be souls of prayer. Never tire of praying, it is what is essential. Prayer opens the Heart of God, it obtains necessary graces!” —St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina
As a convert from Calvinism, embracing the Holy Rosary has been quite a journey for me.
When I was at Reformed Bible College studying to be a Protestant missionary, I remember, sadly, throwing away a rosary I had been given, filled with fear at the mere sight of it. Although my heart was torn in doing so, I had heard so many deceptive doctrinal arguments that aggressively opposed the praying of the Rosary (or cherishing any sort of Marian devotion whatsoever), that I had a deep-seeded fear of simply having rosary beads in my presence.
Even months after I came into full communion with the Catholic Church and was serving as a live-in volunteer for Mother Teresa's Sisters (the Missionaries of Charity), I was terrified that I would offend Our Lord if I prayed the Rosary. I was deeply disturbed by the fact that the sisters always wore a large, full rosary around their waists, and prayed the Rosary whenever they could, embracing Mother Teresa’s teaching, “Cling to the Rosary as the creeper clings to the tree, for without Our Lady, we cannot stand.” There were even times that the sound of the sisters praying it brought me to tears, as I struggled to unearth the real, raw truth about Marian dogmas.
Was saying the Hail Mary really blasphemy as I had been told from childhood on, by so many people I loved and trusted? What was so wrong about just praying to Jesus? Why did one “need” to pray to the Blessed Mother? Where was Marian devotion mentioned in Sacred Scripture?
Over the years, I dove into book after book, desperately searching for answers to my questions. I pondered over the writings of the early Church Fathers, Thomas Merton, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Benedict, St. Teresa of Avila, Cardinal John Neumann and so many others. I read and re-read books such as: Surprised by Truth; Cardinal Newman's conversion story; Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic; Rome, Sweet Home; and stories about Servant of God Dorothy Day. The testimonies of early Saints who cherished Marian devotion, as well as fact that Greek Orthodox Christians and even Martin Luther himself did so, perplexed me. To this day, devout, conservative Anglicans and Lutherans, as well as some Orthodox Christians hold to the tradition of Marian devotion with all of their hearts. Why was it abandoned by Calvin and Zwingli, and what did this mean for me?
Over time, Our Lady healed my fears and shed light on the threatening lies I had been told about the sacred devotion of the Rosary. Little by little, mainly by praying the gorgeous, venerable prayer of the Rosary itself, did I find peace in praying it. I found my prayers to the Holy Virgin answered more and more often, and I began to feel an oasis of peace well up in my troubled soul whenever I turned to her for help. Slowly, I started to comprehend the profundity, authenticity and numinous power of Marian devotion – and most especially, of the Rosary. Quote after quote that I had read from Catholic sources about the Rosary began to make sense to me, at last, and the graces that flow from this contemplative wellspring began to inspire me like never before. As Pope Leo XIII once wrote, “The Rosary is the most excellent form of prayer and the most efficacious means of attaining eternal life. It is the remedy for all our evils, the root of all our blessings. There is no more excellent way of praying.”
For us Catholic pilgrims on the earthly journey, often battered by the trials of life and pelted by the storms of temptation, the Rosary is a bedrock of hope, a spiritual fortress, and a garden of ethereal fecundity. “The Rosary is a powerful weapon to put the demons to flight and to keep oneself from sin,” Pope Pius XI proclaimed, saying “If you desire peace in your hearts, in your homes, and in your country, assemble each evening to recite the Rosary. Let not even one day pass without saying it, no matter how burdened you may be with many cares and labors.”
I will never forget the zeal that Mother Teresa’s Sisters had in begging families to recite the Rosary. With courage and sincerity, they would knock on doors with rosaries in their hands, asking if they may pray a Rosary with the family nestled inside. In the midst of the culture of death, where families are tossed by the tempests of confusion and angst, the daily Rosary can act as an ark of salvation. As St. Pius X once said, “The Rosary is the most beautiful and the most rich in graces of all prayers; it is the prayer that touches most the Heart of the Mother of God…and if you wish peace to reign in your homes, recite the family Rosary.”
Truly, as St. John Paul II once said, “How beautiful is the family that recites the Rosary every evening!”
Let us be beautiful families, and bring our hands to the Rosary, and our hearts to Heaven together, every day, so that his splendor may reign.