‘The Mysteries of the Rosary’: New Series Highlights the ‘School of Mary’
Filmed on location in the Holy Land, video series ‘opens the heart and soul up to contemplation.’
The Mysteries of the Rosary is a new video series filmed on location in the Holy Land. It takes viewers along to the locations where these mysteries took place. The Sorrowful Mysteries, the first of the seven-episode series, premiered prior to Lent and is now available to families, groups and individuals. The man behind the series is the vice president of Paradisus Dei, Mark Hartfiel.
Hartfiel wrote and hosts this series, produced by Paradisus Dei, a lay Catholic ministry devoted to marriage and family life that is known for its popular “That Man Is You” program in more than 800 parishes. After the premiere, he spoke with Register staff writer Joseph Pronechen about The Mysteries of the Rosary.
Why did you decide to do The Mysteries of the Rosary series?
I was praying a Rosary as I was driving to work one morning, and it was one of those times where the Holy Spirit just spoke very clearly. I perceived the calling almost like a lightning bolt. The whole series was laid out before me.
How are you filming and releasing the mysteries?
What you’re seeing so far is just the Sorrowful Mysteries, which is the first series. But the full intention is to go back to the Holy Land, four times, and we’ll do all the mysteries — Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful and Glorious. We’ll film the entire series, one per year.
We’re going back this May to do the Joyful Mysteries. When we’re all said and done, we will have covered each of the 20 key moments in the life of Christ. We’re very, very excited about that.
What particular goals have you set or have in mind for this Rosary series?
I think we received our inspiration from St. John Paul II and his apostolic letter on the Rosary [Rosarium Virginis Mariae], In the very last section, he starts off, “Brothers and sisters!” with an exclamation point. So he wants us to hear what he’s saying: “Rediscover the Rosary in the light of Scripture …”
When John Paul II says rediscover it in light of Scripture, he’s calling us to essentially rediscover Jesus Christ. And this means in each of these mysteries, Christ is at the very center of them. Although it’s Marian in nature, the Rosary is a Christocentric prayer — Christ is at the center.
And when we pray the Rosary, as John Paul II says, we learn at the “School of Mary.” And she teaches us the mysteries in the life of Christ. We’re trying to enter into Mary’s contemplation. Throughout Scripture, we find her “pondering these things in her heart.” She was the first Christian contemplative. She knew him the best. John Paul says Mary’s life was a Rosary. And that, to me, is so profound and so meaningful.
So we’re trying to teach people the Rosary isn’t just a rambling of 53 Hail Marys. It’s the beginning of the contemplative life. It’s where we focus on Christ like she did. That is our goal. I think when we learn what the Rosary actually is, it will come alive in the hearts and the minds of the faithful.
How does that fit into the Sorrowful Mysteries that you filmed?
We enter into the Sorrowful Mysteries to help the viewer, or the Christian, who is called to fight. We’re not claiming that we know all the answers, but we are saying, “Jesus told us to follow him. So let’s be attentive as we walk through this Passion, to see how he fought, who he fought.” And that’s the other thing: As [I contemplated how] they’re spitting at him and mocking him, I was in prayer during this process. And on this third mystery, the Crowning of Thorns, they’re just agonizing Our Lord. They are mocking him, endlessly. They kneel before him, “Hail, King of the Jews” — that kind of stuff. And in my thought, and my prayer, I’m saying, “Lord, make it stop.” And he says, “Mark, you don’t understand, do you?” And I said, “No, I don’t.” He said, “I’m not fighting against them. I’m fighting for them.” And, and that is, in essence, what we see Our Lord doing: They persist to mock him and beat him as he persists to pray for them. And so he taught me my fight isn’t against them. It’s for them. So in our day, I think whoever the “them” is in your life, whoever’s watching, it’s not us against them. It’s not us Christians are against the world; it’s us for them — that’s what Christ did. He came not to condemn the world, but to save it, to seek and save the loss. And he does that through charity.
And we learn these things in the Rosary. When you pray the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort says, if you pray properly, you’ll learn more in your daily prayer of the Rosary than any other spiritual book. Because it becomes personal: We reflect on the life of Christ.
That is our goal, to help people pray, but also to live. Those are the two things. John Paul II says, “The Christian life is distinguished above all in the art of prayer.” So how we’re living is distinguished above all in the art of prayer; how we’re praying. If you look at the whole series, those are the two things we’re trying to teach — the art of prayer and the art of living and how they go hand in hand. They’re integral; they’re united. That’s how we transform the world.
Why did you decide to film the mysteries in the Holy Land?
People who’ve been to the Holy Land … so many people come back saying, “I’ve never read Scripture the same again. It jumps off the pages.” I’ve also heard, “My Rosary became a living Gospel.”
That’s one of the things Steve [Bollman, founder of “That Man Is You”] taught me. He said when he went to the Holy Land, he touched his rosary to all the places where these mysteries took place, where heaven kissed earth. Father Dave Pivonka [president of Franciscan University of Steubenville] said the same thing — “You can just close your eyes and be back in the garden; you can be in the Chapel of the Crucifixion.”
So what we wanted to do is bring the beauty of that contemplation and show people these places are very real, where they could close their eyes and be in the garden; even though they may never get to go there in their entire lives, they could see them. It all comes together when you have the backdrop of the Holy Land combined with the beautiful music that plays during the film, and the reflections on the mystery, and you bring all three of those together. I believe it opens the heart and soul up to a contemplation that’s memorable. The visuals just help to do that in a very, very beautiful way.
Is there any particular highlight that stood out for you?
There are several of them. The one that just entered my heart is the first and last episode. We were in Nazareth, at the Church of the Annunciation.
Quite honestly, just from a work perspective, pulling this off was probably the hardest project I’ve ever done — and the most meaningful. And I think it’s going to be the most fruitful. But just standing at the [site of the] Annunciation, and having a little moment with Our Lady, and asking her, “Help me always say ‘Yes’ to God.” It’s really that simple. You know, just help me always say, “Yes” to God, come what may. And at the end of the project of the Sorrowful Mysteries, that was a pretty emotional experience. I think Our Lady is the greatest spiritual director one could ever have. She’s very simple. And I think she would teach us, “Do whatever he tells you.” That’s what she says at the Wedding Feast at Cana.
Did filming bring out any new insights for you?
I began to see, only upon returning, six of the seven of the sorrows of Our Lady of Sorrows take place in Jerusalem proper. The one that does not was the Flight to Egypt, which was because of the corruption of power in Jerusalem. I didn’t really put that together. And so all seven are very much intimately related to Jerusalem. She would have felt tension there. This is where her son suffered and died, in front of her very eyes.
And I began to read [Scripture]: [Jesus] would go to in Jerusalem by day and then at night retreat to the Mount of Olives. So then, when I’m on the Mount of Olives, I felt peace, and I could pray really well there. It’s “visual,” and you can feel it. The spiritual sensibilities, feeling tension in certain places, feeling peace … was — is — very, very striking to me and profoundly moving.
Will the appearance and insights about Mary and the Mysteries of the Rosary from people like Mark Miravalle, Father Dave Pivonka, Peter Kreeft and others continue in the series?
We’ll have some new ones in each series; and some people may show up again that we’ve already seen in the first series. We interviewed 24 people for the Sorrowful Mysteries. We’ll probably interview another 15-16 people for this next set, the Joyful Mysteries. So you will continue to see new faces.
A simple companion guide is available, with some related quotes from Jesus to St. Faustina, Scripture, John Paul II, even some discussion questions and resolutions. Will this format continue?
Yes, we will continue to write those. Every single episode will have a “Leader’s Guide,” or a small-group guide. We end every session with small-group time together. We wanted to give people that opportunity, because that’s really where they break down that material and make it personal and practical in their own lives. It’s one thing to watch it and another to talk about it and to say where it struck you and to hear from other people.
The intent behind the series of who can watch it is really anybody. You can watch it by yourself, with your spouse and your family, in the comfort of your own house. And all the tools are built [in] to where people could host this for a small group at a coffee shop or their house, or with a large group. There are parishes right now running these seven weeks over Lent as a type of parish mission.
And it’s all free. We wanted to make it so anybody could view it. The only thing is you have to give your email address to watch the whole series.
What are your ultimate hopes for this series?
I hope it transforms the way people pray, and then how intimate they can become with the Rosary, and therefore that their intimacy with Christ and his mysteries would increase. That’s when the Christian message really comes alive.
These aren’t mysteries to be solved, but instead to enter into. That’s where the beauty really comes alive. Although we can’t “solve” them, they begin to reveal to us who we really are and who we’re called to be as humans.
So my hope, my dream would be that this would spread far and wide.
And at the end of the day, [the hope is that] all come to know Jesus Christ more personally, through Our Lady. And for the misconceptions about Our Lady, I hope this will serve as a catechesis on authentic Mariology. What a gift she is that Christ gives us from the cross when he gives us the Mother. So I hope, just as I hope that people come to know Jesus more intimately, I hope that they embrace Mary as their Mother, their spiritual mother, with no qualms, with no hesitation, because she always leads us to Jesus.