On Wednesday the Church celebrates the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, which commemorates the victory of the Christian armies against the Muslim Turks at the Battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571. The pope at the time was St. Pius V, who, having been a member of the Order of Preachers, was a great lover and promoter of the Holy Rosary. The Rosary had been especially given by the Blessed Mother to St. Dominic about 350 years earlier. At a time of great crisis and fear, St. Pius, ever the faithful son of St. Dominic, urged all Christians to pray the Rosary for victory in the defense of Christian Europe from the invaders. The naval victory by the “Holy League” at Lepanto was a gift from the Mother of God, into whose Immaculate Heart the Rosary brings us. The feast of her victory on October 7 makes October the Month of the Holy Rosary.
There are many books and websites and “experts” on spirituality and prayer and inner peace these days. To be sure, they are not all evil. Yet they do tend to over-complicate the matter of the spiritual life. The truth is that, in the Holy Rosary, the Christian has all he needs for a profound life of prayer and meditation.
The Rosary really is the perfect method of prayer. It contains the most sublime vocal prayers, which are largely drawn from Scripture – the Lord’s Prayer, composed by Jesus Himself, and the Angelic Salutation, composed by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – and it contains the central mysteries of our faith for our meditation as we pray the vocal prayers. It brings together the two types of prayer that man can initiate. It puts on our lips the holiest petitions and fills our minds with the loveliest divine realities.
To pray the Rosary well, we need to use good reflections on the mysteries. This keeps our minds from getting distracted as we recite the vocal prayers. The meditations composed by St. Josemaria Escrivá are particularly beautiful. Or use those of any of the saints! Only if we meditate on the mysteries with attention and devotion will the Rosary bring us the inner peace and joy that is our spiritual refreshment. It will also be helpful to use sacred art to keep our senses attuned to the mysteries. The Internet is a rich treasure-house both of meditations by the saints and masterpieces by the great artists. Use the tools available to enrich your prayer!
The Church wants us praying the Rosary very much. She attaches a plenary indulgence to the recitation of five decades of the Rosary in a church or oratory. She even grants this same indulgence to the family Rosary! St. Louis de Montfort says that children should pray five decades of the Rosary per day. He encourages adults to pray 15 decades each day (Pope Francis reportedly does this)! 15 decades of Hail Mary’s replicates in our lives the ancient monastic custom of praying each day all 150 psalms. The Rosary is the psalter of the active life!
No matter how many decades we can pray, we can always pray them with as much attention and devotion as possible, using rich reflections from the saints and beautiful images. Let us start this quality-focused approach to the Holy Rosary today, as we begin this new Month of the Rosary, 2015. Our Lady of Victory, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, teach us to pray in your Heart!
Fr. Joseph Previtali