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JPII on the Rosary

October is the month of the Rosary. This week, we continue to focus on this amazing prayer by citing excerpts from St. John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae (On the Most Holy Rosary). Again, we invite you to join us in praying the Rosary for peace in the world and for peace, unity, and harmony in all Christian families.

The Rosary of the Virgin Mary…is a prayer loved by countless Saints and encouraged by the Magisterium. Simple yet profound, it still remains, at the dawn of this third millennium, a prayer of great significance, destined to bring forth a harvest of holiness. It blends easily into the spiritual journey of the Christian life, which, after two thousand years, has lost none of the freshness of its beginnings and feels drawn by the Spirit of God to ‘set out into the deep’ (duc in altum!) in order once more to proclaim, and even cry out, before the world that Jesus Christ is Lord and Saviour, ‘the way, and the truth and the life’ (Jn 14:6), ‘the goal of human history and the point on which the desires of history and civilization turn.’[1]

“The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer. In the sobriety of its elements, it has all the depth of the Gospel message in its entirety, of which it can be said to be a compendium.[2] It is an echo of the prayer of Mary, her perennial Magnificat for the work of the redemptive Incarnation which began in her virginal womb. With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love. Through the Rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer.” (RVM, 1, emphasis added)

A Path of Contemplation

But the most important reason for strongly encouraging the practice of the Rosary is that it represents a most effective means of fostering among the faithful that commitment to the contemplation of the Christian mystery which I have proposed in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte as a genuine ‘training in holiness’: ‘What is needed is a Christian life distinguished above all in the art of prayer.[3] Inasmuch as contemporary culture, even amid so many indications to the contrary, has witnessed the flowering of a new call for spirituality, due also to the influence of other religions, it is more urgent than ever that our Christian communities should become ‘genuine schools of prayer.’[4]…The Rosary belongs among the finest and most praiseworthy traditions of Christian contemplation.” (RVM, 5, emphasis added)

Following the witnesses

“It would be impossible to name all the many Saints who discovered in the Rosary a genuine path to growth in holiness. We need but mention Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, the author of an excellent work on the Rosary,[5] and, closer to ourselves, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, whom I recently had the joy of canonizing. As a true apostle of the Rosary, Blessed Bartolo Longo had a special charism. His path to holiness rested on an inspiration heard in the depths of his heart: ‘Whoever spreads the Rosary is saved’[6] As a result, he felt called to build a Church dedicated to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in Pompei…By his whole life’s work and especially by the practice of the ‘Fifteen Saturdays’, Bartolo Longo promoted the Christocentric and contemplative heart of the Rosary, and received great encouragement and support from Leo XIII, the ‘Pope of the Rosary.’” (RVM, 8)

The Rosary, a contemplative prayer

The Rosary, precisely because it starts with Mary’s own experience, is an exquisitely contemplative prayer. Without this contemplative dimension, it would lose its meaning, as Pope Paul VI clearly pointed out: ‘Without contemplation, the Rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation runs the risk of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas, in violation of the admonition of Christ: “In praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think they will be heard for their many words” (Mt 6:7). By its nature the recitation of the Rosary calls for a quiet rhythm and a lingering pace, helping the individual to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord’s life as seen through the eyes of her who was closest to the Lord. In this way the unfathomable riches of these mysteries are disclosed.’

“It is worth pausing to consider this profound insight of Paul VI, in order to bring out certain aspects of the Rosary which show that it is really a form of Christocentric contemplation.”[7] (RVM, 12, emphasis added)

Remembering Christ with Mary

“Mary’s contemplation is above all a remembering. We need to understand this word in the biblical sense of remembrance (zakar) as a making present of the works brought about by God in the history of salvation. The Bible is an account of saving events culminating in Christ himself. These events not only belong to ‘yesterday’; they are also part of the ‘today’ of salvation.” (RVM, 13)

Learning Christ from Mary

“Christ is the supreme Teacher, the revealer and the one revealed. It is not just a question of learning what he taught but of ‘learning him’. In this regard could we have any better teacher than Mary? From the divine standpoint, the Spirit is the interior teacher who leads us to the full truth of Christ (cf. Jn 14:26; 15:26; 16:13). But among creatures no one knows Christ better than Mary; no one can introduce us to a profound knowledge of his mystery better than his Mother.” (RVM, 14, emphasis added)

Being conformed to Christ with Mary

In this process of being conformed to Christ in the Rosary, we entrust ourselves in a special way to the maternal care of the Blessed Virgin. She who is both the Mother of Christ and a member of the Church, indeed her ‘pre-eminent and altogether singular member’,[8] is at the same time the ‘Mother of the Church’. As such, she continually brings to birth children for the mystical Body of her Son. She does so through her intercession, imploring upon them the inexhaustible outpouring of the Spirit. Mary is the perfect icon of the motherhood of the Church.” (RVM, 15, emphasis added)

Concluding Thoughts

I look to all of you, brothers and sisters of every state of life, to you, Christian families, to you, the sick and elderly, and to you, young people: confidently take up the Rosary once again. Rediscover the Rosary in the light of Scripture, in harmony with the Liturgy, and in the context of your daily lives…May this appeal of mine not go unheard!” (RVM, 43, emphasis added)

Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us!

[1] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Gaudium et Spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World), 45.

[2] Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus (2 February 1974), 42: AAS 66 (1974), 153.

[3] No. 32: AAS 93 (2001), 288.

[4] Ibid., 33: loc. cit., 289.

[5] The Secret of the Rosary.

[6] Blessed Bartolo Longo, Storia del Santuario di Pompei, Pompei, 1990, 59.

[7] Marialis Cultus, 156.

[8] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church), 53.