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October Meditations on the Rosary

BY Jim Cosgrove

October 24-30, 1999 Issue | Posted 10/24/99 at 1:00 PM

 

In the holy rosary are wedded simplicity and depth, and the individual and communitarian dimensions [of the Catholic faith].

The rosary, in itself, is a contemplative prayer, and it has great intercessory power. Whoever recites it, in fact, is united to Mary in meditating upon the mysteries of Christ, and is led to invoke the grace proper to these mysteries in the multiple situations of life and history.

Let us take frequent recourse to this Marian prayer during the month of October — month of the rosary — which at one time was the daily prayer of Christian families.

There are so many intentions to entrust to Our Lady.

In particular, I exhort you to recite the rosary for the Synod Assembly of the Bishops for Europe, which is taking place here in the Vatican [the first three weeks of October]. I try to participate assiduously, and I see with how much pastoral anxiety the synod fathers are confronted with the great challenges of the European Continent. What emerges forcefully is the need for a renewed and courageous evangelization, for a vast missionary action that will keep in mind the changing situations of Europe, [which is] increasingly multiethnic and multicultural.

In the past, the prayer of the rosary has helped to safeguard the integrity of the faith of the people of God. May the fervent practice of this prayer sustain the Church in the passage toward the third millennium, so that it will continue to be a prophetic “sign and instrument of the intimate union with God and of the unity of all mankind” (Lumen Gentium, 1).

For this intention and for all the needs of the Church and of the world, I ask you all, especially the children, families and the elderly, to raise a common invocation to Mary during the whole month of October.

Let us ask the Blessed Virgin to help the Church to be, ever more and ever better, the bridge that unites man with God, and men with one another.

Let us pray so that peaceful understanding and respectful dialogue between peoples, cultures, and religions will be promoted and favored.

Mary, Virgin of the holy rosary, pray for us!

From Pope John Paul II's Oct. 10 Angelus message.

Here we are again, meeting as we did a week ago to recite the Angelus together. This week has passed quickly, rich in important meetings and visits.

Today, the last Sunday of October I wish to draw your attention to the rosary. In fact, throughout the whole Church, October is the month dedicated to the rosary.

The rosary is my favorite prayer. A marvelous prayer! Marvelous in its simplicity and in its depth. In this prayer we repeat many times the words that the Virgin Mary heard from the Archangel, and from her kinswoman Elizabeth. The whole Church joins in these words. It can be said that the rosary is, in a certain way, a prayer-commentary on the last chapter of the Constitution Lumen Gentium of Vatican II, a chapter which deals with the wonderful presence of the Mother of God in the mystery of Christ and the Church.

In fact, against the background of the words “Ave Maria” there pass before the eyes of the soul the main episodes in the life of Jesus Christ. They are composed altogether of the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries, and they put us in living communion with Jesus through — we could say — his Mother's heart.

At the same time our heart can enclose in these decades of the rosary all the facts that make up the life of the individual, the family, the nation, the Church and mankind. Personal matters and those of one's neighbor, and particularly of those who are closest to us, who are dearest to us. Thus the simple prayer of the rosary beats the rhythm of human life.

During the last few weeks I have had the opportunity to meet many persons, representatives of various nations and of different environments, as well as of various Christian Churches and communities. I wish to assure you that I have not failed to translate these relations into the language of the rosary prayer, in order that everyone might find himself at the heart of the prayer which gives a full dimension to everything.

In these last weeks both I and the Holy See have had numerous proofs of good will from people in the whole world. I wish to translate my gratitude into decades of the rosary in order to express it in prayer, as well as in the human manner; in this prayer so simple and so rich.

Pope John Paul II's Angelus messagefor Oct. 29, 1978, 13 days after becoming Pope.

All generations will call me blessed”: The Church's devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship. The Church rightly honors “the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title ‘Mother of God,’ to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs. … This very special devotion … differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration” (Lumen Gentium, 66). The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an “epitome of the whole Gospel,” express this devotion to the Virgin Mary.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 972.

Medieval piety in the West developed the prayer of the rosary as a popular substitute for the Liturgy of the Hours. In the East, the litany called the Akathistos and the Paraclesis remained closer to the choral office in the Byzantine churches, while the Armenian, Coptic and Syriac traditions preferred popular hymns and songs to the Mother of God. But in the Ave Maria, the theotokia, the hymns of St. Ephrem or St. Gregory of Narek, the tradition of prayer is basically the same.

Mary is the perfect Orans (pray-er), a figure of the Church. When we pray to her, we are adhering with her to the plan of the Father, who sends his Son to save all men. Like the beloved disciple we welcome Jesus' mother into hour homes, for she has become the mother of all the living. We can pray with and to her. The prayer of the Church is sustained by the prayer of Mary and united with it in hope.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2678-9.

Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion and desire. This mobilization of faculties is necessary in order to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt the conversion of our heart and strengthen our will to follow Christ. Christian prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ, as in lectio divina or the rosary. This form of prayerful reflection is of great value, but Christian prayer should go further: to the knowledge of the love of the Lord Jesus, to union with him.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2708.

The rosary is a devotion to the 15 mysteries in which 15 groups of 10 Hail Mary prayers are recited, each of these decades being preceded by an Our Father and followed by a Glory Be.

Ordinarily, only one-third of the rosary is said on one occasion. The mysteries are divided into three groups as follows:

The Joyful Mysteries (the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity, the Presentation in the Temple, the Finding in the Temple).

The Sorrowful Mysteries (the Agony in the Garden, the Scourging, the Crowning with Thorns, the Carrying of the Cross, the Crucifixion).

The Glorious Mysteries (the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Descent of the Holy Spirit, the Assumption of Mary into Heaven, the Coronation of Mary).