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Reflection on the Rosary

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Lourdes 2012 Diary

Reflections on the Rosary

Bernadette would say:
'I knew nothing but my Rosary'

During the Southwark Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes,
 the pilgrims will pray the Rosary
in the light of Bernadette,
in the light which surrounded Our Lady during the Apparitions
and in the light which God gives to each of us
to help us follow in his Son's footsteps.


Thoughts of Blessed John Paul II

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.

The Rosary centres itself in the profoundness of the Gospel message, of which it is almost a resume. With the Rosary, the Christian people sit at the school of Mary, to allow it to be introduced to the contemplation of the beauty of the face of Christ and to experience the depth of his love. Through the Rosary, the faithful find abundant graces, receiving them as though from the hands of Mary, the Mother of our Redeemer.

(Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae)


Pope Benedict XVI (Lourdes 2008)

In welcoming Mary, Bernadette welcomes Christ. "Why should I be honoured with a visit from the Mother of my Lord?",
and in welcoming Bernadette, Mary welcomes Christ, "In so far
as you did this to the least of these brothers and sisters of mine,
you did it to me."
The seal of this alliance, of this meeting and of this friendship
is the Sign of the Cross.
The sign of the Cross is a summary of our Faith.

The Rosary is a contemplative prayer accessible to all:
great or small, laity or clergy, educated or poorly instructed people.
It is a spiritual link with Mary to remain united with Jesus,
to conform to him by assimilating the lessons
and to live as he himself has lived.
The Rosary is a spiritual weapon against evil, against all violence,
for peace in our hearts, in families
and in society and in the world.


'The Holy Rosary is the synthesis of the whole Gospel.'
Pope Paul VI

Blessed are you Virgin Mary
who believed that the promise made you would be fulfilled


A Brief History of the Rosary

The 150 Psalms of the Old Testament's Psalms of David (or 'Psalter') became central to the cycle of prayer in the early Church, especially among monastic communities. As manuscripts of the Psalms were largely restricted to these communities and, indeed, as few people were able to read, a simpler form of prayer, which mirrored the recitation of the Psalms, was devised. The 'Our Father' was repeated 150 times - sometimes pebbles or knotted cords were used to keep an accurate count, but a ring of beads known as the crown or 'corona' became popular.

In the 12th century, with the growth in popularity of Marian devotion, the Hail Mary came to replace the Our Father as the prayer most associated with beads and the repeated recitation of the Hail Mary became known as the 'Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary'.

The 150 Hail Marys were subsequently subdivided into 15 decades by the young Dominican friar, Henry Kalkar (1328-1408), with each decade referring to an event in the life of Jesus and Mary. The Dominican, Alanus de Rupe (1428-1478) further divided the episodes in the history of salvation into the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries. He also attributed the origin of the Rosary to St Dominic and so spurred the Dominican Order to make the Apostolate of the Rosary their special concern.

The tradition that Our Lady gave the Rosary to St Dominic (1170-1221) is well known, but disputed by some scholars. Pope Leo XIII was in no doubt. In his encyclical Octobri Mense, he states that the Rosary does in fact have its origin from Our Lady  herself 'by her command and counsel' to Saint Dominic. Pope Leo XIII teaches: 'That the Queen of Heaven herself has granted a great efficacy to this devotion is demonstrated by the fact that it was, by her command and counsel, instituted and propagated by the illustrious St Dominic, in times particularly dangerous for the Catholic cause.' This tradition has been depicted in many paintings.

The Dominican pope, St Pius V, did much to further the spread of the Rosary which became one of the most popular devotions in Christendom. It was the same Pope St. Pius V, who in 1569 officially approved the Rosary in its present form with the Papal Bull, Consueverunt Romani Pontifices. The Rosary had been completed by the addition of the second half of the 'Hail Mary' * and the 'Glory be to the Father' at the conclusion of each mystery.

* The Hail Mary incorporates two passages from Saint Luke's Gospel: the Angel Gabriel's greeting at the Annunciation 'Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee', and Elizabeth's greeting at the Visitation 'Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.' In the mid-13th-century Western Europe the prayer consisted only of these words with the single addition of the name 'Mary' after the word 'Hail', as is evident from the commentary of Saint Thomas Aquinas on the prayer. The petition 'Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.' appeared in the 15th century and was included in the Catechism of the Council of Trent in 1566.

In October 2002, Blessed John Paul II added a further set of mysteries to the meditations of the Rosary - the Mysteries of Light or Luminous Mysteries. These were first proposed in 1957 by St George Preca, Malta's first native saint, who was canonised by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.



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