A decade ago, at Dubrovnik Airport in Croatia, I found myself on the receiving end of suspicious looks from dour-faced security guards. Their metal detector kept squealing and squawking, even after I had already emptied my pockets of loose change, keys and other possible culprits.
It was the eve of the Balkans' eruption into violence and, in those strained moments, I interpreted the guards' glaring stares and icy directions to mean, “He might have a concealed weapon.” I had no choice but to reach for one last innocent item. I reluctantly pulled out my rosary, put it on the tray and satisfied the metal detectors.
On my way to the plane, I chuckled as it hit me: I was packing a concealed weapon. A weapon more powerful than a pistol. After all, Blessed Padre Pio taught, “The rosary is The Weapon.”
That moment came to my mind watching the events unfold in New York and Washington, D.C. on Sept. 11—on the eve, in a way, of October: the month of the rosary.
“Dear Dominic, do you know which weapon the Blessed Trinity wants to use to reform the world?,” the Blessed Mother asked the Dominican founder. Answer: the rosary.
Seventy decades later, at Fatima, Mary chose to identify herself as Our Lady of the Rosary. She strongly reminded us to pick up this real weapon again and use it daily. The Blessed Mother referred to the rosary as the most powerful weapon of prayer to combat and overcome evil.
Although some thought the rosary was on the way to extinction in the 1970s and '80s, the devotion remained alive and well. And it's experiencing a strong resurgence today.
Pope John Paul II has certainly been a great promoter of the rosary, igniting the masses with his devotion to Mary. Witness Oct. 8, 2000, in St. Peter's Square, when he entrusted the third millennium to Mary. Joined by 1,500 bishops and worldwide representatives, he led the world in praying the rosary before the statue of the Virgin of Fatima.
The rosary devotion is definitely on the upswing, says Father Thomas Feeley of the Congregation of the Holy Cross and national director of the Family Rosary, headquartered in Easton, Mass. He notices a “hunger in people for a deeper prayer life” that's being answered with the rosary.
Recent sales of rosaries have quadrupled in the United States. Better yet, in 2000 The Family Rosary reached its Jubilee-year goal: It gave away 10 million free rosaries. Families, religion teachers and chaplains in hospitals, prisons and military installations from around the world requested them. The recipients also got a voluntary commitment form to pray the rosary every day, especially with families.
This summer in Rome, Father Feeley and the Family Rosary handed the Holy Father “a book with the names of tens of thousands of people who have written in from all over the world” making this commitment.
Lists flowed in from Indian villages, where one literate member carefully inscribed the names of the others; from Africa, with names painstakingly pecked out on beat-up typewriters; from nursing homes where elderly residents promised a daily rosary. Already the next 5 million rosary giveaway project is underway.
“Families are redis-covering the rosary's importance,” says Father Feeley. It's “great for children” as well as adults, because “the rosary is a catechism on a string.” It presents all the truths of the faith, “summarizes the basic mysteries of our Christian faith, and so is a good way to instruct children in their understanding of faith.
“It helps all members of the family to share the same spiritual ideals and to walk with Jesus and Mary all their lives,” he adds.
On Oct. 7, 1995, the Feast of the Holy Rosary, John Paul II reminded everyone of the slogan of faith coined by Father Patrick Peyton, founder of the Family Rosary and Family Theatre Productions: “The family that prays together stays together.”
Servant of God Father Peyton, whose canonization cause opened in June, aimed to strengthen families through prayer, especially the rosary, which would allow them to grow in the understanding of their faith, in grace, and in their commitment to serve God and one another.
Pope Pius XII thought the same. He wrote, in Ingruentium Malorum, “it is above all in the bosom of the family that we desire the custom of the Holy Rosary to be everywhere adopted, religiously preserved, and evermore intensely practiced.” Then, he added, the Christian family's home will become an “abode of sanctity” and “sacred temple” like Nazareth.
Through prayer, the family truly becomes the “domestic church” John Paul II calls it to be. He recommends that “two immediate things the Catholic families of America can do to strengthen home life” are to “learn about faith to answer the questions ... especially the moral questions which confront everyone today; and pray, especially the rosary.”
Families find the rosary “catechism” becomes the armor of God that Paul describes in Ephesians, the frontline weapon in the battle of the Church Militant with secularism, materialism, senseless violence and increasingly vile TV and media.
Promotion of the rosary is a mainstay of the Knights of Columbus, too. An average 10,000 new members per month receive a rosary and instructions. That's a potential vast army outfitted with heaven's heavy weaponry.
As we slip beads through our fingers and our minds and souls soar to spiritual realms, we battle the moral decline of our town, city, country and world. Take aim at poverty by praying for a better life for others. Target health problems with a rosary for healings and comfort for others and ourselves. Counter terrorism with a decade each rosary dedicated to world peace.
More than 140 countries are expected to participate in World rosary Day this Oct. 6. For more information, go to www.-churchforum.org/rosario/index_eng.htm.
A rosary is made up of five decades—five groups of 10 beads, each separated by a single bead. Each decade is dedicated to a different mystery of salvation history. The person praying the rosary will meditate on the mystery appropriate for each decade as he prays one Our Father on the single bead and one Hail Mary on each of the 10 beads. At the end of the last Hail Mary in each set he will pray the Glory Be. He will pray one of the five sets of mysteries:
The Five Joyful Mysteries
1. The Annunciation (see Luke 1:26-38)
2. The Visitation (Luke 1:39-56)
3. The Nativity (Luke 2:1-20)
4. The Presentation (Luke 2:22-38)
5. Finding the Child Jesus in the Temple (Luke 3:41-52)
The Five Sorrowful Mysteries
1. The Agony in the Garden (see Mark 14:32-42)
2. The Scourging at the Pillar (Mark 15:6-15)
3. The Crowning with Thorns (Mark 15:16-20)
4. The Carrying of the Cross (Luke 23:26-32)
5. The Crucifixion (Mark 15:22-39)
The Five Glorious Mysteries
1. The Resurrection (see Matthew 28:1-10)
2. The Ascension (Acts 1:6-11)
3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and Mary (Acts 2:1-13)
4. The Assumption of Mary into Heaven (Revelation 12:13-18)
5. The Coronation of Mary (Revelation 12:1-6)
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.
Joseph Pronechen writes from Trumbull, Connecticut.