The Rosary: Our Lady's School of Contemplation, Evangelization and Love

Bernadette M. Laniak, the author is a laywoman who contributes regularly to the newsletter "Focus" which is published in support of the local Catholic Pregnancy Help Center in Rochester, NY (USA)

St. John Paul II, affirmed that "The Rosary is my favorite prayer". In his Apostolic Letter "Rosarium Virginis Mariae" he says "Christ is the Supreme Teacher" however, "it is not just a question of learning what He taught but of 'learning Him' and "no one knows Christ better than Mary;" who as His Mother brings us  a profound knowledge of His mystery through the prayer of the Rosary.

The origin of the Rosary is traditionally believed to be credited to its direct presentation by Our Lady to St. Dominic, Founder of the Order of Preachers, in the 13th century. Over the following two centuries this efficacious evangelical prayer was revised a number of times.   In 1464, Blessed Alan de la Roche, another Dominican, formulated the Rosary into fifteen decades, and in 2002 St. John Paul II added five more decades so that we now can contemplate and ponder Christ's life in a total of four sets of Biblical events. It is usual that at least five decades be recited daily.  The first five decades honor the Incarnation of Our Lord, the second honor the suffering Christ, the third honor the Risen Christ, ascending into Heaven and sending the Holy Spirit, and the final five decades known as the mysteries of light, reflect the public life of Christ. For more than five centuries, countless Saints and Christians in general have relied on this form of prayer consistently, often-times through the world's great trials and tribulations, calling on God, through Mary, for peace and justice.

Our Lady has appeared at various times asking for devotion to the Rosary. To emphasize Her support of the Rosary prayer in the last century, in 1917, she appeared to three children in Fatima, Portugal.  They were peasant children assigned to tend their parents' sheep. Two of the children, Blessed Francisco and Jacinta Marto died at very young ages and were beatified by the Church in 2000. From the story of Fatima, we know that while they were tending their sheep one day, Our Lady appeared and asked them to "Pray the Rosary every day in order to obtain peace for the world and an end to the war."  Of course, she was referring to World War I.  She returned to speak with the children a total of six times, always asking them to pray the Rosary.

The request of Our Lady for all to pray the Rosary is just as relevant and indeed crucial in today's modern world.  St. John Paul II says "the grave challenges confronting the world lead us to think that only an intervention from on high" ..can begin to remedy the bloody circumstances of violence and conflict and to touch the hearts of those in leadership positions so that we will begin to see a reversal of the trends of hatred and indifference, with the intention of bringing peace to this suffering world.

St. John Paul II further emphasizes that "as a prayer for peace, the Rosary is also, and always has been, a prayer of and for the family." He continues "many problems facing contemporary families result from increasing difficulty in communicating."  With multiple distractions especially of modern technology, families simply stop interacting and forget their obligations to one another. Praying the Rosary together is a sure way to return to the caring and mutual helpfulness that constitutes a truly functional Christian family.

In a call for renewed fervor on behalf of the Rosary, St. John Paul II speaks directly to: "My dear Brother Bishops, priests and deacons, and to you, pastoral agents in your different ministries: through your own personal experience of the beauty of the Rosary, may you come to promote it with conviction."

Sr. Lucia, OCD, one of the three shepherds to whom Our Lady appeared in Fatima died in 2005 at the age of 97, said, "the Rosary is the prayer of the poor and the rich, of the wise and the ignorant... it helps to preserve that flickering flame of faith that has not yet been completely extinguished from many consciences". There is no problem, no matter how great, that cannot be solved by the fervent prayer of the Holy Rosary"

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