I. THE POWER OF THE ROSARY OF THE MOST HOLY VIRGIN MARY
“If I had an army to say the Rosary,” Pope Pius IX once said, “I could conquer the world.” And he said this because the Rosary, next to the Mass, is the most powerful weapon in the Church’s arsenal.
Now most people are aware that the Christian Navy defeated a large Moslem fleet, against overwhelming odds, at Lepanto on October 7, 1571. And most people are aware that this victory was won because Pope Pius V organized a Rosary procession to pray for the success of the battle. However, most people are unaware of the many amazing victories won through the power of the Rosary in the Twentieth Century. And so it is fitting to study some of these miraculous and divine interventions because this will help us to strengthen our faith in Mary’s intercession and to deepen our trust in the power of her Rosary.
One of the most amazing miracles in history occurred at 8:15 a.m. on August 6, 1945, in Hiroshima, Japan. At that time the Americans dropped the first atomic bomb, and it landed just eight city blocks from the Jesuit church of Our Lady of the Assumption. A half million people were killed instantly when the bomb hit, and homes and buildings for miles around were instantly leveled. Yet the Jesuit church and rectory as well as the four Jesuit priests inside it were undamaged and unhurt. Why? Because the priests prayed the Rosary daily.
This miracle, as great as it was, however, was just the beginning of the many wonders that Mary would work through her Rosary in the second half of the twentieth century.
First, there was Austria. After WWII the communists of Russia took over Austria. To shake off this yoke, a Franciscan priest, Fr. Peter Pavlicek, organized a Rosary crusade in 1948. It began on September 12, the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary. Fr. Peter asked for a tithe of Rosaries. He asked that ten percent of all the Austrians pledge to say the Rosary daily until the Soviets left the country. The people of Austria responded generously. They prayed for seven years, and then on May 13, 1955, the Soviets mysteriously just packed up and peacefully left.
The Soviets, however, did not give up on their plans to take over western countries. Five years later Nikita Krushev visited the United Nations Headquarters in New York City and boasted that he would bury the United States and the Western world. And to emphasize his point, he took off his shoe and pounded it on top of the table.
The West seemed in danger of a Soviet takeover. But Pope John XXIII had read the third secret of Fatima, and so he had authorized the Bishop of Leiria (Fatima) to write to all the bishops of the world, inviting them to join with pilgrims of Fatima on the night of October 12-13, 1960, to pray the Rosary for peace and for Russia’s conversion. About a million pilgrims responded to the request and spent the night outdoors in a bone-chilling rain before the Blessed Sacrament praying the Rosary. And in addition to this, over 300 dioceses throughout the world joined them.
The Rosaries and sacrifices of millions obtained another astonishing intervention. For that same night the Soviets’ new long-range A-bomb missile unexpectedly blew up during a test, killing three hundred top military leaders and scientists. This set back Russia’s nuclear program twenty years.
Shortly after this happened, Dona Amelia Basto organized a Rosary campaign in Brazil to save the country from a communist takeover. She managed to recruit 600,000 women in 1962 to say the Rosary in Sao Paulo for peace. And through this demonstration of faith and prayer, the country was spared a communist dictatorship.
Something similar happened in Portugal in 1975. The communist government in that country was peacefully overthrown after a national Rosary crusade for peace was launched.
All these wonders, however, were surpassed on March 25, 1984, when Pope John Paul II called for a Rosary crusade because of the grave danger to world peace at that time. In response to his request, a major “Rosaries for peace” crusade was launched by the Blue Army and other Marian organizations. There was a magnificent response. And on May 13, 1984, one of the largest crowds in Fatima history gathered at the shrine to pray the Rosary for peace. And that very day an explosion at the Soviets’ Severomorsk Naval Base destroyed two-thirds of all the missiles stockpiled for the Soviets’ Northern Fleet. The blast also destroyed the workshops needed to maintain the missiles as well as hundreds of scientists and technicians. Western military experts called it the worst naval disaster the Soviet Navy had suffered since WWII.
Besides this, the Soviet Defense Minister, the mastermind behind the invasion plans, suddenly and mysteriously became seriously ill and then died in December of 1984. Four years later, during the night of May 12, 1988, as thousands prayed the Rosary at Fatima, another mysterious explosion wrecked the only factory that made the rocket motors for the Soviets’ deadly SS 24 long-range missiles, which carry ten nuclear bombs each.
Now all these events, it should be noted, are understandable and explainable only in light of the Fatima apparitions of the Blessed Mother. For when Mary first appeared at the Cova da Ira on May 13, 1917, she said to the children: “Pray the Rosary everyday in order to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war.” And at each of the other five apparitions, she said: “Pray the Rosary every day.” Also, it should be noted that the Blessed Mother expressly asked for prayers for the conversion of Russia and that she also prophesized that this nation would endanger the peace and security of the entire world if her words were ignored. In the third apparition on July 13, 1917, she warned:
If my wishes are fulfilled, Russia will be converted and there will be peace. If not, Russia will spread her errors throughout the world, promoting wars and persecution of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, and various nations will be annihilated.
And so by making this prophecy, Mary made the Rosary the indispensable and necessary condition for world peace. In other words, there will be no peace in the world–there can be no peace in the world–until the Rosary is prayed on a wide scale.
Before going further, it should be stressed that the Rosary is not only the best protection for countries and societies, but it is also the best protection any individual person could ever hope to have. For St. Louis de Montfort states in his classic book, The Secret of the Rosary:
If you say the Rosary faithfully until death, I do assure you that, in spite of the gravity of your sins, you shall receive a never fading crown of glory. For even if you are now on the brink of damnation, even if you have one foot in hell, even if you have sold your soul to the devil…sooner or later you will be converted and will amend your life and save your soul. If–you say the Rosary devoutly every day of your life.
There are several reasons why this is so. “First, the Rosary leads us to meditate on all the major mysteries in the life of Christ and therefore to adore and thank God for his love and mercy, which is the principal duty of all the faithful. Second, this prayer takes place through the mediation of Mary, which is most pleasing to God, since she is our spiritual Mother.” Third, the Rosary puts us into contact with the holy angels. For St. Alphonsus Liguori says that at each Hail Mary the angels are attracted to us, while the devils are repelled. And Pope Leo XIII states that “each time we meditate on the mysteries of our salvation in the Rosary we in some way imitate the sacred duties once committed to the angels. For they revealed each of the mysteries in its due time; they played a great part in them with expressions of joy, of sorrow, and of triumphant exultation.” What then, he asks, “could be greater and more delightful than to mediate and pray with the angels by saying the Rosary?”
II. THE POPES ON THE POWER OF THE ROSARY
The popes, then, of modern times beginning with Pius IX, have stressed and explained the power of the Rosary and the need for saying it often. Leo XIII is especially noteworthy in this respect, for he wrote no less than twelve encyclicals on the Rosary, more than any pope before or since. “There is no question, then, that his influence on the Rosary and its development was the most significant to come from a pope.” And much of what he said led to “the greatest popularity which the Rosary enjoyed during the high period of its popular development in the first half of the twentieth century.” For this reason, it is important to examine some of his statements on the Rosary. First of all, he directed that the Rosary be recited every day in the cathedral of each diocese and on feast days in all parish churches.
Most importantly, however, he explained the power that the Rosary can unlock. For he said, “the Rosary, if devoutly used is bound to benefit not only the individual, but society at large.” In addition to this, he went so far as to state that “the Rosary is our best hope, since it can more than anything else implore from God the help that we need.” And interestingly, he added, “the Rosary is the best prayer to help the cause of Christian unity.”
To sum up his approach to the Rosary, then, he wrote, “There are, of course, more ways than one to win Mary’s protection by prayer, but as for us, we think that the best and most effective way to her lies in her Rosary.”
Pope Pius XII echoed Leo XIII’s confidence in the power of the Rosary. He believed its recitation is the key to peace and happiness in our age. For he wrote, “We put great confidence in the Rosary for the healing of the evils that affect our times.” In fact, he said, “there is no surer means of calling down God’s blessings upon the family and especially of preserving peace and happiness in the home than the daily recitation of the Rosary.”
Later on, Pope John XXIII helped to develop our understanding of the Rosary in new directions. In one document he spoke about the Rosary as “a prayer of love breathed from the heart.” And in another he gave us new insights about how to use the Rosary as a form of meditation. He wrote:
The true substance of the well-meditated Rosary consists in a three-fold element that gives unity and cohesion…to the episodes in the life of Jesus and Mary… For in each decade of Hail Marys there is a picture, and for each picture a three-fold emphasis which is simultaneously: mystical contemplation, intimate reflection and pious intention.
Now it should be noted here that John XXIII had a great love for the Rosary and that he used to recite the entire fifteen decades everyday with all of the papal household.
Pope Paul VI carried on the papal tradition of adding new insights to the Rosary. In a sermon to some children who were members of the Living Rosary Association, he explained how the Rosary can improve social life on earth and also help the poor souls in purgatory. “Through your Rosary you can succeed in giving comfort to the sick, in saving the dying, in converting sinners, in helping the missionaries, and in freeing souls from purgatory.”
Besides this, he also strongly recommended praying the family Rosary. “There is no doubt,” he wrote, “that the Rosary should be considered as one of the best and most powerful prayers in common that the Christian family could recite.”
Now everyone is aware of Pope John Paul II’s great love for the Rosary. For he led the Rosary every First Saturday in St. Peter’s Basilica, and he has been widely quoted as saying that “the Rosary is my favorite prayer.” And so he has, in line with the other popes of the Twentieth Century, strongly promoted devotion to the Rosary. He has stated not only that the “Rosary is a privileged means of averting the danger of war and of obtaining the gift of peace from God,” but also that the Rosary “dispels the seeds of family disintegration.” For this reason he has urged all Catholics, especially families, to pray the Rosary every day. And he has also urged priests to pray the Rosary and to teach their people how to pray it as well.
From the miracles worked through the Rosary in this century and the endorsements given to it by the popes, we can learn something, then, of the great power contained in the Rosary beads.
III. HOW TO SAY THE ROSARY
Now that we have discussed why we should say the Rosary, it is necessary to explain how we should say it, for there are many misconceptions among good Catholics on the best and most effective way to say–or to pray–the Rosary. Fr. Hardon, in a talk given to the Institute For Religious Life a few years ago, offered several interesting, original, and helpful suggestions on how the Rosary might be prayed. In fact, he stated that there are thirty-four different ways in which the Rosary can be said. Most of what follows is adapted from his conference. Not all, however, of the thirty-four different ways are discussed but just some of the more salient points.
1. Frequently. We should try to say the Rosary as often as possible and not just when we feel like it. Otherwise, we will get out of the habit of saying it altogether.
2. Regularly. This means that there should be certain set times in our lives when we pray the Rosary, for example, every morning or evening, every time we drive a car or take a walk, or before or after mass.
3. Intentionally. We should always have an intention in mind when we say the Rosary. In other words, we should always say it for someone or for some specific need.
4. Privately. We should be able to say the Rosary as easily by ourselves as with other people. Some people get into the bad habit of only saying the Rosary with others. And so because of this, they become unable to say it by themselves. The Church, however, encourages individual recitation by granting a plenary indulgence to anyone who says the Rosary in a church, even if it’s done by him or herself alone.
5. Corporately. Some people have the opposite problem, and they dislike saying the Rosary with others, so we must learn to do it both ways. Again, the Church is our guide here because it grants a plenary indulgence to those persons who pray the Rosary together in a group, that is, two or more persons, inside or outside of a church.
6. Meditatively. This is one of the more important aspects of praying the Rosary. It is most fitting to consciously think about what we are doing and meditate closely on the mystery proposed for each decade. For without doing this, says Pope Paul VI, the “Rosary is merely a body without a soul, and its recitation is in danger of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas and of going counter to the warning of Christ, who said, ‘in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will win a hearing by their many words.’”
For this reason, the very nature of the Rosary, states Paul VI, stresses a “quiet rhythm and a lingering pace…for in this way the unfathomable riches of the mysteries are unfolded.” Further on this point of method, St. Louis de Montfort says that “it is not so much the length of the prayer, but rather the fervor with which it is said that pleases Almighty God and touches his heart. For one single Hail Mary that is said properly is worth more than 150 that are badly said.”
It should be noted, however, that the Rosary meditation need not be a prolonged reflection. Rather a simple and attentive glance at the mystery is all that is required. A detailed analysis of the mystery and the corresponding prayers is not necessary, for the Hail Marys and Our Fathers should be seen as a kind of background music that gently induces contemplative prayer.
Now before going further, it is helpful if we know exactly what a “mystery” of the Rosary is. The mysteries, quite simply, are merely fifteen different scenes selected from the life of Christ. For these scenes have been found, over the centuries, to have a unique ability to help us understand the most significant events in the life of Christ. And so we can penetrate the truths of the faith more deeply, then, and also learn how to speak the language of God and His angels better by meditating on the fifteen mysteries.
7. Scripturally. From time to time it, it is helpful to say the Scriptural Rosary. “The Scriptural Rosary follows the old medieval custom of assigning a different little thought to each Hail Mary bead. The thoughts are arranged so that the story of each mystery unfolds, bead by bead, in ten consecutive steps. And most importantly, the Scriptural Rosary draws its Hail Mary thought directly from the Old and New Testaments.”
8. Attentively. We must resolve to make a serious effort to keep our mind focused on the mystery on which we are supposed to be meditating. For it is very easy to give into distractions and lapse into daydreaming if we are not vigilant. And so before beginning the Rosary, we should, first of all, put ourselves in the presence of God. Also, it is important to be aware on this point that just by looking at the Rosary beads from time to time is often enough to bring us back to reality.
To help us pray with attention, St. Louis de Montfort recommends “that we imagine that not only God is watching us and that our guardian angel is standing at our right hand, taking our Hail Marys, if they are well said, and using them like roses to make crowns for Jesus and Mary–but also that at our left hand is standing a devil who is ready to pounce upon every Hail Mary poorly said, so that he can accuse us before the Judgment Seat of Christ after our death.”
9. Instinctively. Our motto should be as follows: “When in doubt, say the Rosary.” And so if we are faced with some insurmountable obstacle and do not know what else to do–or if we just have time on our hands because our plane is late or because we are forced to wait extra long for an appointment–then we should instinctively reach for our Rosary beads and begin to pray.
10. Liturgically. It is a good idea to begin the liturgy with a Rosary, for it is an excellent preparation for the Mass as well as an excellent means of thanksgiving afterwards. The Rosary, however, should never be said during any liturgy, especially during the Mass. Elaborating on this point, Pope Paul VI states, “Meditation on the mysteries of the Rosary can be an excellent preparation for the celebration of those same mysteries in liturgical action and can also become a continuing echo of them afterwards.” However, he stresses, “it is a mistake to recite the Rosary during the celebration of the liturgy, though unfortunately this practice still persists here and there.”
11. Ecclesiastically. There are associations approved by the Church that increase the graces we receive from praying the Rosary. Two in particular should be mentioned.
The first is the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary. This is an organization of hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world who join their prayers with others through the recitation of the Rosary. Each member promises to pray at least fifteen mysteries of the Rosary once a week, but this promise does not bind under the pain of sin. Further, each member includes the intentions not only of all the living members of the association, but also of all the deceased members as well. And so because of this, it is as if you had hundreds of thousands of people praying the Rosary for you throughout the world. This led St. John Vianney to say: “If anyone has the happiness of being in the Confraternity of the Rosary, he has in all corners of the world brothers and sisters who pray for him.” And St. Alphonsus Liguori said: “After the Mass, the best means of helping souls in purgatory is to join the Confraternity of the Rosary.”
In addition to these benefits, the Dominicans, who oversee the Confraternity, admit all members to a share in the Masses, prayers, penance, and apostolic works of all the Dominican Fathers, brothers, sisters, cloistered nuns, and third-order members throughout the world.
Next, there is the Living Rosary Association. Again, this is a Dominican-sponsored organization. It is administered by the Dominican Nuns of the Perpetual Rosary in Fatima. Members of the Association promise to spend one hour on the same day of each month praying and meditating on the fifteen decades of the Rosary. The hour is called the “Hour of Guard” and constitutes a place among the royal guard of Mary’s great Rosary family.
12. Apostolically. We should try to become Apostles of the Rosary by getting other people to say it. To do this, we must explain the power of the Rosary and the wonders Mary can work through it. To this end, it is helpful to learn something about the lives of the great saints who specialized in promoting the Rosary, such as St. Dominic and St. Louis de Montfort. Also, it would be helpful to know something about the life of Fr. Patrick Peyton, the great modern Apostle of the Rosary. His life and experiences are described in his autobiography, titled All for Her.
13. Expectively. Expect, that is plan, to say the Rosary at specific times and places and for specific intentions. Unless this is done, it is unlikely that our daily Rosary will be prayed.
14. Promisingly. Get into the habit of promising to say the Rosary for others. We must not, however, promise to say more than we can say in a reasonable period of time.
15. Giftfully. Give Rosary beads as a gift to others, especially on first communions, confirmations, and marriages. These are ideal times to introduce or reintroduce people to the Rosary. Also, give Rosaries on birthdays and anniversaries. Most good Catholics have Rosaries, but they can always use another.
16. Needfully. The Rosary is meant to meet all our needs. We should not hesitate, therefore, to concentrate on certain mysteries and associate them with particular problems we may be experiencing in our life. In other words, we should try to relate the specific mysteries of the Rosary to the specific needs of our life.
17. Openly. We should not be shy or ashamed about saying the Rosary in public or holding it in a crowd, for simply walking around with a Rosary in our hand is a kind of evangelization and a witness to the faith. And so on this point we should always keep in mind the words of Christ: “Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels(Mk 8:38).
Now to conclude, we can do no better than to end with the words of Pope Pius X, speaking of the Rosary: “Of all prayers the Rosary is the most beautiful and the richest in graces; of all it is the one which is most pleasing to Mary, the Virgin Most Holy. Therefore love the Rosary and recite it everyday with devotion.”
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