Three months before the “Miracle of the Sun” at the exact hour and day foretold, Our Lady told the children of Fatima: “In October I will tell you who I am and what I want, and I will perform a miracle so that all may believe.” When she gave us her name, it was not “Our Lady of Fatima.” The name she gave herself was “The Lady of the Rosary.” Consequently, the basilica at Fatima is properly named Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima. It is fitting to reflect upon this title of Mary on Oct. 7, as it is the feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary (and October is the month of the Rosary).
The Mother of God, in her apparitions at Fatima, Portugal, has come to be known widely as “Our Lady of Fatima” only because she appeared near the village of Fatima. Each of the six times Our Lady appeared, she told the children that she wanted them “to say the Rosary every day.” The children were also taught by Our Lady to say the Rosary properly.
Little Jacinta, who was only 6 years old when the angelic apparitions began a year before Our Lady came, was taught by Our Lady herself how to meditate on the mysteries. In the parish church at Fatima, Our Lady showed her 15 tableaus representing the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary. In remembrance of this, over the main altar in the parish church of Fatima, is a painting of Our Lady before the kneeling Jacinta as she is being taught the Rosary.
Why did the Mother of God come with a message for the whole world but each time repeated her desire that the Rosary be prayed each day? The answer lies in understanding the proper praying of the Rosary and the effect it will have on our faith and love for God and his Church — as well as peace for the world and peace for the universal Church.
Little 9-year-old Francisco at first did not see Our Lady. When Lucia told Mary, “Francisco wants to see you too,” the beautiful Lady from heaven replied, “Tell him to say the Rosary, and he will see me.” The shepherd boy had said but five or six Hail Marys when he saw the Lady from heaven, who was all light and love.
The Soul and Body of the Rosary
The soul of the Rosary consists of meditation on the mysteries. The body of the Rosary consists of the vocal prayers: the Our Father, Hail Marys, Glory Be, etc. Pope Paul VI, in Marialis Cultus, said that to pray the prayers of the Rosary without meditation on the mysteries was “like a body without a soul.” We can understand, then, why Our Lady insisted the Fatima children pray the Rosary properly.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of the Marian dimension of the Church and our faith. It quotes Scripture and writings of the popes. “The Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship. .... 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” (971).
“Medieval piety in the West developed the prayer of the Rosary as a popular substitute for the Liturgy of the Hours,” the Catechism adds (2678). When one has prayed the Glorious, Joyful and Sorrowful Mysteries, then one has meditated on all the chief mysteries of the Christian faith. One has also prayed 150 Hail Marys in the 15 decades, which represent the 150 Psalms of David in the Bible.
The Church’s Liturgy of the Hours, a large portion of which is the Psalms, had its roots already under the Old Covenant. At certain hours God’s people would go to pray the Psalms. Priests and religious of the New Covenant through the centuries have continued to pray at certain times to the present day through the Liturgy of the Hours.
Before the invention of the printing press, when it was difficult or impossible for the faithful to have access to the hand-inscribed Bible and its scrolls, or to memorize the Psalms, the faithful substituted 150 Hail Marys for the 150 Psalms in imitation of priests and religious. As of 2002, the Luminous Mysteries are part of the Rosary, as well, thanks to Pope John Paul II.
By running one’s fingers over the beads, contemplating the mysteries of Christ, vocal and mental prayer are involved.
The 20 mysteries we meditate upon while praying the Rosary are actually encountered in the Sacrifice of the Mass during the Church year. In the Joyful Mysteries, we contemplate the Incarnation and childhood of God become man. In the Sorrowful Mysteries, we meditate on the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ, which the Mass really perpetuates. In the Glorious Mysteries, we meditate on the risen and ascended Lord, who is substantially living and present in the Eucharist. The Luminous Mysteries help us to focus on the early life of Christ. In this way, we also meditate together with Mary, Mother of the Church, on her assumption and crowning as Queen of Heaven.
As Pope St. John Paul II has said: “The Rosary is my favorite prayer.”
It is indeed a powerful prayer: Praying the Rosary has changed the course of history.
Meditation With Mary
We pray the Rosary in union with Mary as we meditate upon the mysteries of Christ. We identify with the faith of Mary that she had upon earth, too. Our Lady has requested the faithful “keep me company for a quarter of an hour while meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me.” Consider the words “keep me company.” Is that not “meditating together with Mary”?
Our Mother in the order of grace wants us to keep her company, especially while praying the Rosary. May we lovingly respond to her motherly request, today and always.
John Preiss is president of Fatima Family Apostolate International.