Why Pray the Rosary
On the 29th of October, 1978, scarcely two weeks after his election, Blessed Pope John Paul II admitted to the world that the Rosary was his favourite prayer, ‘marvellous in its simplicity and depth’.1
Among the many reasons why the late Holy Father loved the Rosary one stands out in particular. ‘To pray the Rosary’, he said, ‘is to hand over our burdens to the merciful hearts of Christ and His Mother’.2
Let me give you a working example of what this means. It is taken from Fr. Benedict’s great book: The Rosary – Chain of Hope.
In it he describes how the Rosary can bring healing to the soul and can, even at times, be a lifeline. Such was the case for Mother Teresa who lived through decades of deep spiritual darkness. Fr. Groeschel quotes from a letter she posted to her spiritual director.
‘The other day I can’t tell you how bad I felt – there was a moment when I nearly refused to accept – deliberately I took the Rosary and very slowly without even meditating and thinking – I said it slowly and calmly – the moment passed – but the darkness is so dark, and the pain is so painful – but I accept whatever He gives and I give whatever He takes’.
Commenting Fr. Groeschel adds: ‘So even for Mother Teresa the Rosary was not only an act of devotion but also a place of refuge at certain times amid interior storms of darkness’.3
Another beautiful reason for reciting the Rosary is because this prayer leads us into the Mysteries of Christ and can even make the power of these Mysteries touch our lives deeply. With Mary we learn to contemplate His Mysteries and allow their grace transform our lives.
Take, for example, the Third Joyful Mystery: the Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem (a name which means House of Bread). What do we see here? A baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger, under the watchful gaze of His mother and foster father. What do we hear? The hosts of angels singing in the heavens: Glory to God on high and on earth peace to you, to all of goodwill. The Word is Made Flesh and pitches His tent among us. God becomes man so that man might become God. And therein lies the grace of this great Mystery.
But the scene changes. Joy yields to sorrow. The child becomes the Man of Sorrows familiar with suffering, a plaything to the powers of darkness. Bethlehem gives way to Gethsemane (a name which means a press for crushing olives). ‘Here especially’, says Dom Marmion, ‘we are at the door of a sanctuary we cannot enter except with living faith and deep reverence’.4
The Mystery of the Agony marks the start of the Hour of the Passion. For what did Jesus experience that night on the Mount of Olives? The true horror of sin from Adam down to the last inhabitant on the planet. Therefore my sin and your sin. Fr. Romano Guardini, beloved of Benedict XVI, says that ‘We participate in this Mystery only when we realize that its content is our sin.’ 5
And the great grace of this Mystery: true sorrow for sin, a humble contrite heart. ‘Why do you weep so much, Father?’ - the Curé of Ars was asked by a sinner kneeling by his side. ‘Ah! My friend, I weep because you do not weep enough!’.
Another reason praying the Rosary is because it draws us into Christ, the Prince of Peace, the one who is ‘our peace’ (Eph. 2:14). Therefore it is the great prayer for peace in our lives. This is the peace that the world cannot give. It is the peace that draws together the broken bits and scattered pieces of our lives. Therefore it is a peace that heals and unites.
As a prayer for peace, the Rosary is then also the great prayer of and for the family. Fr. Patrick Peyton, the world renowned Rosary Priest, from Bonniconlon, Co. Mayo, never tired of repeating: the family that prays together stays together.
How can this be so? Pope John Paul II gives the answer. ‘The family that recites the Rosary together reproduces something of the atmosphere of the household of Nazareth: its members place Jesus at the centre, they share his joys and sorrows, they place their needs and their plans in His hands, they draw from Him the hope and the strength to go on.’6
The Holy Father concludes his teaching on the Rosary by calling it, a treasure to be discovered and even rediscovered by the Christian community. The saints knew this and that is why they have always been fervent lovers of the Rosary. And it is said that the Curé of Ars last act, when he was on his deathbed, was to give a Rosary to somebody. Pope Paul VI loved to link the Rosary to the Liturgy, for example, as a preparation and as a thanksgiving for Holy Mass and communion. This was the practice of Padre Pio who used rise in the night to prepare for holy Mass by reciting many Rosaries.7
Both at Lourdes and Fatima Our Lady encourages us to pray the Rosary every day and in every home. We pray the Rosary in times of joy and in times of sorrow, to give thanks, to ask for spiritual or bodily health, to seek the salvation of a soul gone astray and to ask deliverance for the holy souls in purgatory.
Sr. Lucia, to whom Our Lady appeared in Fatima said, ‘From the moment that Our Lady gave importance to the Rosary, there is no problem, material or spiritual, national or international, which cannot be solved.’8
In the end Mary is God’s Secret Recipe to holiness. And such holiness, in the words of St. Maximilien Kolbe, is not a luxury, but a duty. Amen.
-- Written by Father Kilian Byrne
1. Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 2.
2. Ibid. 25.
3. Groeschel, The Rosary: Chain of Hope, 16.
4. C. Marmion, Christ in His Mysteries, 228.
5. R. Guardini, The Lord, 447.
6. Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 41.
7. Cf. S. Manelli, Devotion to Our Lady, 142, 143.
8. Ibid. 141.