Christian piety finds in the Rosary devotion a most fruitful and satisfying means of expression. Truly enlightened are they who know how to appreciate it. “This is the most precious treasure of the Vatican,” once exclaimed the saintly Pius IX, showing to a band of pilgrims his beloved rosary. It is likewise your treasure, Christian soul. You possess nothing more beautiful, nothing more excellent: nothing more beautiful, for the Rosary is the model and ideal of prayers, at once a prayer of praise, of thanksgiving and of petition; nothing more excellent, for the Blessed Virgin herself gave us this devotion, the practice of which has converted hundreds of thousands of heretics and millions of sinners, and has strengthened faith and love in the hearts of countless Christians.
The Rosary is the barometer, as it were, of Christianity. Wherever the Rosary devotion is cherished, the Catholic faith is still in its vigor and reigns in the hearts and lives of Christians. On the other hand, wherever the Rosary is neglected or contemptuously cast aside, there the Catholic Faith has dropped to the freezing point, there pride and false education guide the heart. One who prays the Rosary cannot forget the mysteries of Redemption, for the Rosary prayers are not only a rule of faith, but they contain a summary of Catholic doctrine as well, and embrace all that a Christian should believe, hope for, love and practice. The Rosary is a perfect catechism. It teaches Christian truths exactly and completely, and illustrates them beautifully.
Truly, we may say that the Rosary contains an infallible means for obtaining heaven. An infallible means? Yes; the following incident will disclose the “infallible means” hidden in the Rosary: It is related that Saint Edmund, Archbishop of Canterbury, when a boy of twelve years, was once walking through the field, reflecting on the Gospel passage, “Many are called but few are chosen” (Matthew 12:14). The uncertainty as to whether he himself belonged to the small number of elect filled his heart with anxiety and apprehension. He begged God to reveal to him what he could do that he might surely attain salvation. Presently a wondrously charming boy approached Edmund, bearing on his forehead, in golden letters, the name Jesus. “If you wish,” spoke the heavenly Youth, “to secure yourself against the assaults of the evil spirit, if you wish to obtain from God the necessary graces for a pious life and a happy death, meditate daily on a mystery of My life, Passion and Death. This is an infallible means of obtaining the bliss of heaven.” In no devotion can this be done so easily, so piously and so consolingly, as in the Rosary devotion.
May every Hail Mary you recite in the Rosary be like the crystal water of a limpid mountain stream, pure and fresh; not dark and muddy like the torrent of a rain-swollen river. The one is prayed with devotion and attention; the other with negligence and through routine. The one is truly a pure, fervent praise of Mary; the other a habitual, thoughtless, mechanical repetition. What a mild, joyful gaze the Queen of Heaven bends upon her clients who know how to pray the Rosary devoutly! She generously repays their devotion, recompenses it a hundredfold even here on earth. Consolation in suffering, health in sickness, conversion of obdurate hearts, help at the hour of death — these and ever so many more heavenly gifts flow from the hands of our Mother Mary to the fervent clients of her holy Rosary.
Prejudices against the Rosary
Non-Catholics understand very little about things pertaining to the Catholic Church. The Rosary, especially has ever been a stumbling block to them. They cannot comprehend how intelligent human beings can practice such a “tedious” prayer!
When Queen Mary of Bavaria contemplated joining the Catholic Church, a Protestant minister held out a pair of beads to her, saying in an ironic tone, “Well, if your Royal Highness becomes a Catholic, you will have to pray the Rosary, too.” What was his surprise and vexation when the Queen replied, “Why, I already pray the Rosary every day!”
Strange as it may seem, not only Protestants, but even so-called Catholics, have their prejudices. They say, for instance, that the Rosary, on account of its constant repetition, is wearisome and stupefying. True, the Rosary may sometimes seem tedious; the fault, however, rests not with the Rosary, but with him who prays it. It is because he prays in a tedious, thoughtless, cold, distracted manner.
Others think the Rosary is suitable only for children, old women, and simple-minded persons, but that educated, intelligent people can surely find no satisfaction in it. This opinion, too, is erroneous. The Rosary is indeed the prayer of the humble and the little ones, but it is likewise the prayer of the great and learned. For the little ones it is so simple that even the youngest can pray and understand it; for the great and learned it is so sublime that no one, not even the most intelligent, can fathom its mysteries.
Nowadays many Christians have forgotten how to pray, and especially how to meditate. The spirit of the world with all its pomp and glamor, its love of pleasure and gaiety, enthralls the hearts of many. The worldly spirit and the Rosary devotion can never agree. The world and the Cross, sensual pleasures and piety, will ever be in opposition. Wherever the spirit of the world reigns in a soul, the Rosary seems tedious and stupefying.
If we do not wish to be ruined by the spirit of worldliness, this evil spirit must be driven from our heart. Praying the holy Rosary will accomplish this in a very effectual manner.
The Threefold Antidote
The spirit of the world is threefold, and exercises power over the mind, heart and body. It is like a triple-headed serpent which throttles numbers of Christians and ruins them. What weapon is capable of killing this gigantic serpent? Lo, it is the Rosary, which is also threefold in form. With invincible power it drives this hideous spirit-serpent from the heart.
The grace-abounding, joyful Rosary is directed against the pride of life, haughtiness, and revolt against the commandments of God. It shows us the Son of God in His unspeakable humility and abasement; it shows us the true God become incarnate, the Omnipotent as a weak, helpless Child; the Most High debasing Himself to an amazing degree of lowliness. A person who .understands how to pray the joyful Rosary properly can hear from each mystery this exhortation of the Son of God: “Learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of Heart” (Matthew 11:29).
Against the concupiscence of the flesh, against the sinful desires which degrade man from the sublime state of resemblance to God, and place him on a level with the beast, the sori*o\vful Rosary is directed. For it shows us the unutterable sufferings endured by our Savior in His agony. In His scourging, in His crowning with thorns, on the way to Calvary, and on the Cross. How dreadful was the martyrdom of Jesus in His most sacred Body, in His immaculate Flesh, for the sensual sins of mankind! Realizing these sufferings, how can anyone still commit sins of the flesh, and thus pollute this soul purchased with the Precious Blood of Christ?
Against the concupiscence of the eyes, the insatiable craving for possessions and wealth, the glorious Rosary is directed. It shows us our Savior in His victory over death, in His triumphal entry into heaven, in the richness of His heavenly possessions, which He dispenses through the Holy Ghost, The glorious Rosary shows us the eternal, infinitely sublime possessions that await us in our beautiful heavenly home. If we walk the Way of the Cross with Jesus and Mary, we shall also be crowned by Jesus in union with Mary. Whoever contemplates the beauties of heaven will be filled with contempt for the passing goods of earth and with longing for the priceless treasures of eternity.
In taking certain food we find that at first we do not relish it then we begin to like it, and finally discover in it a delicious savor. What is the reason? The palate at first was unaccustomed to it. Similarly, many Christians do not at first relish the Rosary; but if they will continue to pray it, they will like it; it will become their delight, and after they have once deeply penetrated its meaning, they will never relinquish it. The Rosary is one of the most popular of devotions because it is one of the most beautiful and most profitable.
The Rosary, a Key to Heaven
For many, the Rosary has become a key to heaven. By the frequent or daily recital of this beautiful prayer, they have gained victories over sin and temptation, have strengthened their faith, animated their hope and enkindled their charity.
A lay-brother was on his deathbed. His superiors asked whether he had any wish. “Only this one,” he answered, “that you pray the Rosary for me when I am dying. Last night I dreamt that I had departed from this life. At the gate of heaven I saw a soul holding a large bunch of keys, but none of them would unlock the gate of paradise. Finally, in her dilemma she seized her beads, and lo! the Crucifix of the Rosary turned the lock. For this soul the Rosary was the key to heaven, and I hope it will be so for me also.”
If the Rosary is to be a true key to heaven, our prayer must be like precious metal and costly jewels. For this, the sterling silver of faith is needed above all, then the emerald of hope, and finally the pure gold of charity. “He who does not believe shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16), says our Redeemer. The Rosary is in reality our expression of faith, with special prominence given to the greatest mysteries of our holy religion, the great works of God accomplished by Jesus and Mary.
In the Rosary, therefore, we have the first and most essential part of the key to heaven, faith. Never did a person lose his faith who zealously prayed his Rosary. Faith, true Catholic faith, speaks from every word of the Rosary. Happy, therefore, is he who loves and prays the Rosary; he may confidently expect to be admitted into the heavenly city of God.
Hope is also a part of this key of heaven. The saints clearly realized that man, by his own strength, is utterly incapable of doing anything for his salvation, but God can do all things. “I despair of myself.” Saint Philip Neri was accustomed to say, “but I hope in God.” Yes, as long as we are children of the true Church and participate in her graces and sacraments, as long as we are aided by the Mother of God with her powerful intercession and maternal compassion, as long as our Redeemer with His Sacred Wounds and His love-glowing Heart dwells with us in the Most Blessed Sacrament, we have every reason to hope for eternal salvation.
What prayer can inspire us with more hope and confidence than the Rosary? It grants hope to the just, hope to the sinner; hope for pardon, hope for grace, hope for life eternal. In the Rosary, then, we possess the second part of the key to heaven, hope.
Charity is the third necessary part of the key of heaven. Without charity no one can enter heaven. The Rosary touches the heart, it enkindles charity and devotion within the soul. A person who frequently prays the Rosary and finds that his heart does not gradually become filled with love for Jesus and Mary, must indeed pray with great thoughtlessness.
The Rosary contains, in truth, the third, the most precious part of the heavenly key – charity – which will easily open every gate of paradise. Verily, the Rosary is a most wonderful key to heaven, a most excellent devotion, composed of the most beautiful and magnificent prayers, as the succeeding pages will unfold to you.
The Rosary, a Source of Grace
The holy Rosary is a living fountain of grace. One of the first graces issuing from it is conversion. Alas! there are sinners everywhere, yes, multitudes of them. If we wish sinners to be converted, we must zealously pray the Rosary and beg Mary to interest herself graciously in their welfare.
On 11 February 1853, Our Lady appeared upon the rock of Massabielle, in France, now famous throughout the world as the shrine of Lourdes. la her clasped fingers she held a rosary of snow-white beads on a golden chain, and her message to the little peasant girl, Bernadette Soubirous, was: “Pray the Rosary for the conversion of sinners.” Eighteen times the Virgin appeared, and each time the Rosary was prayed. The words of the Mother of God were not for Bernadette alone; they were an appeal to the whole Catholic Church to pray the Rosary for the conversion of the sinful world.
Saint Clement Hofbauer (1751-1821) relied with unswerving confidence on the Rosary to effect the reconciliation of wayward souls. He used to say, “When I am summoned to a sick person who I know is unprepared or will not hear of confession, I pray the Rosary on the way and everything goes according to my wishes when I arrive at the patient’s home. The Mother of God never denies me assistance when I invoke her with fifty or one hundred and fifty Hail Marys. It is not her wont to fail.”
The Rosary, a Source of Comfort in Trials
The human heart is often afflicted with trouble and sorrow. Most persons enter the matrimonial state amid singing and dancing, vainly imagining they have found heaven on earth. For a few years, perhaps, things go well, but in most instances crosses and trials are not wanting. Sickness, financial reverses, care and anxiety afflict the soul and cloud the horizon of happiness.
The father of a certain family though very kind-hearted, at times drank to excess, and when in this state, frequently came home late at night very ill-tempered. On such occasions the mother was filled with anxiety lest an accident befall him. The children trembled because they saw their mother’s anxiety and dreaded to see their father angry. Whenever the father did not come home for the evening meal, the mother would call the children before going to bed and say, “Papa will come home late tonight. I am so worried! Let us pray the Rosary so that he may not meet with an accident.” Mother and children would then pray the Rosary fervently. After reciting her beads the mother would say: “Now, the Rosary has relieved my heart!” A like strength and consolation has flowed into the soul of many a poor mother while invoking the Heavenly Queen.
The Rosary Molds Men of Character
Anyone who is urged by praiseworthy ambition to become a man of character, who desires to draw God’s blessing upon his labors, who desires to lead a truly Christian life and to die a happy death, should zealously pray the Rosary in honor of the Mother of God.
A young page of high nobility once escorted Napoleon I to a theatre. The emperor, however, was but slightly interested in the play that was being staged; he had little taste for the fictitious and imaginary. While gazing about, he observed that his youthful attendant was evidently not more concerned about the performance than he himself. The page sat with downcast eyes, and seemed to fumble with something hidden beneath his coat. Being curious to know what it was. Napoleon seized the youth’s hand and found it held — a rosary!
The page had been surprised at praying his beads, and in the theatre! During this epoch of history, the Rosary was not very highly thought of, and the youth expected nothing less than a” sharp reprimand. But instead, Napoleon remarked, “You will be the right kind of man some day. Continue, my boy, I shall not disturb you anymore.” And, in fact, the youth did become the “right kind of a man.” He became the bishop of Besancon, where in piety and active charity his memory lives to this day. His name was Rohan Chabat, Prince of Leon.
By praying the Rosary, Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847), an illustrious Irish orator, conquered the tyranny of his country’s oppressors. For more than ten years this noble Catholic fought in the English Parliament to gain Catholic emancipation and to break the chains wherewith the British held Ireland’s seven millions of Catholics fettered. In this combat for the great cause of his country and his Church. O’Connell stood in need of faithful, powerful helpers. At first he found few or none at all in the English Parliament, and so he turned to the Mother of God for aid. While his opponents were engaged in a violent dispute over his arguments, the great emancipator prayed the Rosary in a corner of the parliament hall.
A Powerful Aid in Need
The Rosary aids in bodily needs as well as in spiritual dangers. Thousands of books could be written telling of the wonderful protection of the Queen of the most holy Rosary.
During the Thirty Years’ War, the Queen of the holy Rosary gave touching proof of her powerful maternal protection. In the parish church of Mumerstadt, a Catholic town in the Rhine Province, there is a most beautiful picture of the Virgin Mother with the Infant Jesus. Two cannon balls hang beside the altar of Our Lady as a votive offering. One day the enemy advanced to bombard the town, which was fortified by double walls. Cannons were mounted on the neighboring heights, and all day long the bombardment continued. In this extreme distress, the members of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary, amidst imminent peril, held a procession in honor of their patroness and protectress. How devoutly must the Rosary have been prayed amid the thundering of the cannon! Aid, immediate, effectual aid, was needed, if the inhabitants of the town were to be spared from death and destruction.
Suddenly, Mary, the Queen of Heaven, appeared above the walls in radiant splendor. She was robed in white and wore a mantle of heavenly blue. Immediately the roaring of the cannons ceased. The soldiers, who were already advancing with scaling-ladders and pitch-rings, drew back and, forced by a mysterious, terrifying power, retreated. So quickly were the invaders routed that the next day no enemy could be seen or heard for miles around.
To many of us, life often resembles a prolonged thirty, forty, or fifty years’ war. A hostile commander, that is, our predominant passion, with all kinds of military forces of bad habits, evil desires and dangerous temptations, with the heavy artillery of concupiscence of the eyes, concupiscence of the flesh and pride of life, advances toward our poorly fortified heart to cast into it the firebrand of covetousness, to drag it into sin and take it by storm. Happy he who in this dreadful, unequal combat has powerful allies, above all in the merciful Heart of our Savior, and of the Queen of the most holy Rosary. The evil spirit is afraid of the Rosary, and many would never have lost their eternal salvation had they learned to use this weapon. Let us never, never forget, the Rosary is a key to heaven, an inexhaustible fountain of graces, comfort and blessings; it molds men of character, helps in thousands of spiritual needs and temporal dangers during life, and particularly in the struggle of our last agony.
The Rosary Affords Efficacious Aid to the Suffering Souls
It was revealed to Saint Bridget and other saints that purgatory is Mary’s kingdom, wherein she has been given all power. On her, to a great extent, depends the deliverance of the holy souls. It is Mary’s ardent desire that we pray the Rosary often for her suffering children, for the holy Rosary, the source of so many graces to the living, is also singularly efficacious in relieving the faithful departed. There is, indeed, no prayer more effectual in shortening the pains of the beloved departed than the constant and fervent repetition of the Rosary.
Of this we have a touching proof in the life of Venerable Mother Frances of the Blessed Sacrament. From her infancy, this pious soul had a consuming desire to release the suffering souls and to assist them. Besides works of penance and charity, she daily recited the Rosary, which she called her almoner. In recompense, God frequently permitted souls to visit her. Sometimes they would enter the cell of their benefactress, and if they found her praying the Rosary, they would take her hands and kiss them lovingly, as the instruments of their deliverance.
Because of the many indulgences attached to this form of prayer, the Rosary is of greater efficacy for the poor souls than many other prayers, for it has power to lighten and shorten their suffering.
More precious by far than silver and gold in the eyes of worldings is the Rosary to the poor souls. This prayer, when offered for them, is an urgent supplication which may not easily be denied. Fifty times in a single Rosary the pleading petition “pray for us” is repeated, which in this instance means “pray for the poor souls.” And this petition is directed to the most powerful Mediatrix whom the poor souls have in heaven — the holy Mother of God. So impetuous a petition the most clement Virgin will surely not refuse.
The precious treasure of the Rosary is ever at our disposal. We may apply it at pleasure to pay the debts of the suffering souls in purgatory, among whom may be our parents and dearest friends. Oh, let us hasten to their relief.
The Family Rosary
For centuries the beautiful custom of the Family Rosary flourished in Catholic homes. Everywhere it was the custom for fathers and mothers to kneel with their children and any other members of the household each evening at bedtime and recite the Rosary together. The Rosary was often followed by the Litany of the Blessed Virgin. This pious practice brought untold blessings to homes, and was the means of molding the children into true Christian men and women, who when they left the parental roof went forth as staunch Catholics, whose firmly rooted faith was not to be shaken by the views of freethinkers and false philosophers; Catholics who lived their faith and did not lightly leave off the practice of virtue and their Christian duties under the influence of worldly doctrines and example; Catholics who were not afraid to defend their Faith when need arose. In homes such as these innumerable vocations to the priesthood and religious life were fostered. May not the decline of vocations so keenly felt in these later years be traced to the decline of the Family Rosary?
Though a goodly number of fervent Catholic families still keep up the beautiful practice of the Family Rosary, it is regrettable that it has fallen into disuse among the majority of Catholics. Some look upon it as unconventional; some neglect it because of work or various forms of recreation which take the individual mem- bers of the family away from the home evening after evening and make it inconvenient and impractical. Others again neglect it from sheer indifference. The sad outcome of this neglect of prayer in the family is everywhere manifest today in the broken homes, in the delinquency of youth, and in the lawlessness and lack of respect for authority now so prevalent.
The restoration in the home of the spirit of religious faith and its fervent practice is a crying need of our day. Realizing that the Rosary is one of the surest and easiest means to accomplish this end, a zealous young priest in 1942 began a Crusade to restore the Family Rosary to the homes of America. He has succeeded in getting thousands of families to pledge the daily recitation of the Rosary and is at present furthering the work through various means, such as radio broadcasts, dramatic presentations, circulars and addresses. People of all classes have taken an active interest in the Crusade and have lent their help to bring to neglectful Catholics the realization of the necessity of the Family Rosary and its inestimable value in teaching and aiding men and women to live Christian and saintly lives in their homes, in their offices, in their workshops, and in their social gatherings, in imitation of Christ and His Blessed Mother.
The daily recitation of the Rosary in the home circle teaches the members of the family to see God in all that happens in life, to think of Him reverently, to look up to Him trustingly, to acquiesce lovingly in all that He sends or permits, and to find the whole of life bright with His presence, and filled with love, joy and peace. May America and all the world hasten to restore to the home the beautiful practice of the Family Rosary!
May God grant this Crusade a worldwide success so that the faithful everywhere may seize and hold fast to this anchor of salvation in the days to come! Where the Family Rosary now flourishes, may the heads of families continue to preserve inviolate this sacred and beautiful custom; where it has been neglected, may it be restored; and where it never existed, may it be introduced at once.
The famous Bishop Martin of Paderborn, in urging the devout recitation of the Family Rosary, once exclaimed: “Every house thus blessed becomes a citadel of the Church against the assaults of immorality and irreligion. Despite all the assaults of hell, the Catholic Faith will be preserved in families, and Christian life flourish by this means.”
Family Rosary Praised by the Popes
The Popes have repeatedly stressed the need of a renewal of the practice of the Family Rosary. Pius IX urged its recital every evening as a sure means to secure the blessings of heaven. Pope Pius XI asked specifically for the Family Rosary, and presented rosaries to bridal couples who visited the Vatican. Pope Pius XII has continued this practice and on many occasions has commended the Family Rosary, reminding his hearers of the special promise attached to prayer where several are gathered together in God’s name.
“The Rosary is the mystic crown which Christian people place every day on the queenly head of the Mother of God. It is certainly the most beautiful flower of human piety and the most beautiful source of heavenly graces. This prayer is perfect because of the praise it offers, because of the lessons it imparts, because of the graces it obtains and because of the triumphs it achieves.” — Benedict XV
“The Holy Rosary not only serves admirably to overcome the enemies of God and religion, but is also a stimulus and spur to the practice of evangelical virtues which it injects and cultivates in our souls. Above all, it nourishes the Catholic Faith, which flourishes again precisely in opportune meditation of the sacred mysteries, and raises minds to the truths revealed to us by God.” — Pius XI