The History, Authenticity, and Power of the Rosary by Sr. Lucia of Fatima

by admin on September 18, 2011

We have seen already how God, knowing the great need we have to pray, but also that everyone cannot be asked to pray in the same way be­cause the possibilities and situations in each one’s life are so different, called for the daily recitation of the Rosary, thus condescending to the simple level which is common to all of us. During the very first apparition, on 13* May, 1917, Our Lady asked: “Pray the Rosary every day”; and this request was to be repeated by her every month until October.

So, calling to mind the insistence with which God, by means of the Fatima Message, recommends the prayer of the Rosary, and also all that the Church’s Magisterium has said about it over the years, we can conclude that the Rosary is a form of vocal prayer which, in general, suits all of us, for which we should have the highest regard, and which we should make the greatest effort never to abandon.

Unfortunately, in these confused times, there are those who venture to criticize the Rosary, saying, for example, that it is not a liturgical prayer. Some time ago, I heard about an article of this nature and was greatly saddened by it. Someone asked the author of it how he had dared to write and publish such nonsense, to which he replied: I was forced to do it!  Did he not know, then, that there is no authority in the world which can force us to go against our own conscience ? It is the mystery of human weakness, which, in many cases, in order to please creatures, perhaps for earthly rea­sons, does not mind incurring God’s anger and the penalties with which He punishes sin. Contrary to what this person, and others of the same mind, have written, I assure you that the Rosary is a biblical prayer and that it is part of the sacred Liturgy.

We begin the Rosary with the words: “Deus in adjutorium meum intende, Domine ad adjuvandum me festina” or, in English: “O God, come to our aid, Lord, make haste to help us”. This is the prayer we say at the begin­ning of the different parts of the Liturgy of the Hours.

Then we pray: Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc et semper, et in saecula saculorum, Amen”. Or, in English, ” Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen”, This prayer of praise, which we recite at the end of each decade of the Rosary, is the same as that with which we end the psalms in the Liturgy of the Hours, and it is also used at Mass, whether in the Gospel Acclamation on the Solemnity of the Blessed Trinity, or in the longer form of the hymn: “Glory to God in the highest”, begun by the Angels in Bethlehem.

The Our Father, which we recite at the beginning of each decade, was taught to us by Jesus Christ when his disciples asked Him to teach them to pray: «.Pray then like this: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. “» (Mt 6, 9-13). This prayer, which we say in all the decades of the Rosary, is a biblical prayer and is part of the Liturgy; it is recited daily in the Mass and in the Liturgy of the Hours.

The next prayer is the Hail Mary, which we repeat ten times, thus forming a decade of our Rosary. It, too, is a biblical prayer. It begins with the words which the Angel Gabriel addressed to Mary when he was sent by God to announce to her the Incarnation of the Word: « The angel Gabriel was sent from God (…) to a virgin (…) and the virgins name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!”» (Lk 1,26-28). I think that when He was sending the Angel, God must have sug­gested to him the words with which he was to salute Mary, announcing to her, on the part of God, the mystery of the incarnation of the Word.

And St. Elizabeth, moved by the Holy Spirit, said: “Blessedare you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Lk 1, 42).

Thus, the Hail Mary was formed under God’s inspiration: “HailMary, full of grace, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus”.

We must regard this salutation as having been addressed to the Virgin Mary by God Himself, on the natural level insofar as the words of the heavenly messenger are concerned, and supernaturally in the case of the words which were spoken by St. Elizabeth under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: «And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled, with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ” Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Lkl, 41-42). If St. Elizabeth was moved by the Holy Spirit when she uttered these words, as Sacred Scripture tells us; then this praise comes from the Holy Spirit.

But it is more praise of God than of Mary: You are blessed because the fruit of your womb is blessed; and it is in this fruit, and by this fruit, that the blessing of God has come to you and that you are blessed among all women. And this was how the Virgin Mary understood it when she sang: «My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all gen­erations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation* (Lk 1, 46-50). As we see, all praise of Mary rises up to God; He looked with mercy on his lowly handmaid.

So the Ave Maria is indeed a biblical prayer. But it is also part of the Liturgy, being recited on various feasts of the year, both in the Mass and in the Liturgy of the Hours.

Later on, the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit Who enlightens and helps it, rounded off the formula of the Ave Maria with the humble suppli­cation: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen”.

This prayer, in which we ask Mary to intercede for us with the Lord, does not contradict in any way the truth taught by St. Paul: « There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus* (1 Tm 2, 5). There is only one Mediator endowed with the divine nature and possessing natural access to God, namely: Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, «an intermediary im­plies more than one; but God is one.» (Gal 3, 20) which means that there is a second party to be served and represented by the Mediator, namely hu­manity.

And “Jesus Christ, Man” is our Mediator by nature – the human na­ture which He assumed in the womb of the Virgin Mary. But Christ did not become man to be the one and only survivor of humanity, but to be «the first born among many brethren* (Rom 8, 29) whom He saved, restor­ing to them the access to the presence of God and intimacy with Him which they had enjoyed in the earthly paradise. In fact He did more: He bound us to Himself as members of his Mystical Body which is the Church, the saving presence of Jesus until the end of time and to the ends of the earth, sharing, by grace and calling, the Saviour’s threefold mission — that of prophet, priest and king.

There is, thus, only one divine Mediator: Jesus Christ; but as suppli­ant intercessors we have Mary, the Saints, and each one of us, if we so wish. St. Paul himself, in various passages in his letters, asks people to pray both for him and for one another. «To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that utterance may be given in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak” (Eph 6,18-20).

So, if the Apostle tells us to pray for one another, we have much more reason to ask Mary to pray for us, because her prayer will be much more pleasing to the Lord in view of her dignity as Mother of God and her closer union with Christ, true God and true Man, by reason of her mission of co-Redemptrix with Christ as well as of her great sanctity.

Returning, now, to the biblical and liturgical dimension of the Ro­sary, let us consider the prayer which the Message taught us to pray at the end of each decade. A similar request occurs in the Mass, since the rubrics order us to begin the Holy Sacrifice by confessing our sins, and the prayer taught us by Our Lady leads us to ask pardon for these same sins: “Oh my Jesus, forgive us, save us from the fire of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need. (Apparition of 13* July, 1917).

“Those who are most in need” I think this refers to those in greatest danger of damnation. With this prayer, we ask God to apply to us the fruit of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, that is, the salvation of souls, together with forgiveness for our own sins.

Thus, I believe that, after the liturgical prayer of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the prayer of the holy Rosary, because of its origin and the sub­lime nature of the prayers which compose it and also on account of the mysteries of our redemption which we recall and contemplate in each decade, is the most pleasing prayer we can offer to God, and the one most beneficial to our own souls. If this were not so, Our Lady would not have recommended it to us with such insistence.

The saying of the Rosary is the form of prayer which has been most recommended by all the Popes who have served the Church in recent cen­turies, beginning with Gregory XIII who, in the Bull “Monete Apostolos”, calls it “the Psalter of the Most Holy Virgin which we pray in order to placate God’s anger and implore her intercession”. (1st April, 1573).

Sixtus Valso, in the Bull “Dum ineffabilis” of 30th January, 1586, calls the Rosary the “Psalter of the glorious and ever Virgin Mary, Mother of God, instituted by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit”.

Before these two Popes, St. Pius V had also governed the Church. He attributed the victory obtained by the Christians against the Turks at Lepanto on 7th October, 1571 to the praying of the Rosary. In thanksgiv­ing, he ordered the Feast of Our Lady of Victories to be celebrated annu­ally on that day, a feast which one of his successors changed to that of Our Lady of the Rosary.

About three hundred years after that war, Pope Pius IX was serving the Church. On his death bed, he said to those around him: ” The Rosary is a compendium of the Gospel, and gives to those who pray it those rivers of peace of which the Scriptures speak; it is the most beautiful devotion, the most abun­dant in grace, and the most pleasing to the Heart of Mary. My sons, let this be the testimony by which you remember me on earth”. (February, 1878). It is marvellous to see how this great Pope linked the prayer of the Rosary to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. But was he not the Pope of Mary Immaculate, the one who proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary by the Bull “Ineffabilis Deus” in 1854?

Leo XIII, in the Encyclical “Fidentem piumque”, of 20th September, 1896, said: «In the devotion of the Rosary, Christ occupies the first place; (…. ) by means of the vocal prayers of which it is formed, we can express and profess our faith in God, our most provident Father, in eternal life, in the forgiveness of sins, and also in the mysteries of the Most Holy Trinity, the Incarnate Word, the divine Maternity, and others. Certainly, nobody is ignorant of the great value and merit of faith. Faith, in fact, is nothing else than the chosen seed which, in the present, produces the flowers of all the virtues which render us pleasing to God and yield fruits which will last for eternity: since “To know You is indeed the perfect virtue and to know Your power is the root of immortality” (cf. Wisdom, 15 : 3)».

This affirmation of Pope Leo XIII is admirable. He is telling us that the Most Holy Trinity and the saving work of Christ are at the centre of this great prayer, the Rosary, making it a profession of faith in these central mysteries of Catholic doctrine. The faith which we profess, and exercise, in this prayer, is of great spiritual value. Hence, the same Pope, using the words of the Apostle St. Paul, says: «For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and is saved* (Rom 10, 10). “Therefore, the Rosary provides us with the opportunity for this external profession of faith”.

In his Encyclical «Ingravescentibus malis» of 29th September 1937, Pope Pius XI says: “The Holy Rosary is not only a weapon to put to flight the enemies of God and of Religion but, above all, it fosters and nourishes the Gospel virtues. And, in the first place, it reanimates the Catholic faith by con­templation of the divine mysteries and improves our understanding of the truths revealed by God” And he granted a plenary indulgence for the recitation of the Rosary in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

On 16th October, 1940, His Holiness Pius XII said, “The Rosary is, as its name signifies, a necklace of roses; not those roses with which the ungodly adorn themselves insolently, according to the words of Scripture “Let us crown ourselves with roses before they wither!” (Wisdom 2:8) — but roses whose freshness is ceaselessly renewed in the hands of those devoted to Mary”.

Pope John XXIII in his Apostolic Letter on the Rosary, dated 29th September, 1961, says: “Moreover, this is a characteristic of the liturgical prayer of the Missal and the Breviary: each one of its parts is introduced by “Oremus”, which supposes plurality and a crowd, those who are praying, those who are hoping to be heard, and those who are being prayed for. It is the crowd which prays, united in supplication, for the whole human family, religious and civil. The Rosary of Mary is raised to the dignity of a great prayer, public and universal, for the ordinary and extraordinary needs of Holy Church, of nations and of the whole world. “

Here the Holy Father recognises, in the prayer of the Rosary, that dimension of plurality and universality characteristic of the liturgical prayer of the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours. “Moreover, this is a characteristic of the liturgical prayer of the Missal and the Breviary’. And he says that the Rosary is the supplication of the multitude praying for the ordinary and extraordinary needs of Holy Church, of nations and of the world. “It is the crowd which prays, united in supplication for the whole human family, reli­gious and civil”.

His Holiness Paul VI, after the last voting session of the Council Fa­thers on 21st November, 1964, promulgated the dogmatic constitution “Lumen Gentium’ on the Church In it we read: ” The sacred synod teaches this Catholic doctrine (the devotion offered by the Church to the Blessed Virgin,) advisedly, and at the same time admonishes all the sons of the Church that the cult, especially the liturgical cult, of the Blessed Virgin, be generously fostered, and that the practices and exercises of devotion towards her, recom­mended by the teaching authority of the Church in the course of centuries, be highly esteemed, and that those decrees, which were given in the early days regarding the cult of images of Christ, the Blessed Virgin and the saints, be religiously observed”. (Lumen Gentium, 67).

Reading this document of the Second Vatican Council, I believe that no well-disposed person could deny that the prayer of the Rosary is one of the principal practices and exercises of Marian piety which, just then, were in the mind and the thoughts of the Council Fathers, just as it cannot be denied that this prayer is one of the practices and exercises of piety which have been most recommended and approved by the Church’s Magisterium.

Then, on 2nd February, 1974, Pope Paul VI published the Apostolic Exhortation “Marialis cultus”, in which he dedicated paragraphs 42 to 55 to the prayer of the Rosary, confessing: ” We, too, from the first General Audience of our Pontificate on 13* July 1963 onwards, have shown our great esteem for the pious practice of the Rosary” (n° 42).

He also declares that he has followed very attentively the numerous meetings and researches which took place on the subject of this Marian devotion: «As a result of modern reflection, the relationships between the lit­urgy and the Rosary have been more clearly understood. (…) Not many years ago, some people began to express a desire to see the Rosary included in the rites of the liturgy, while others, anxious to avoid a repetition of former pastoral mistakes, unjustifiably disregarded the Rosary. Today the problem can easily be solved in the light of the principles of the Constitution ‘Sacrosanctum Concilium. Liturgical celebrations and the pious practice of the Rosary must neither be set in opposition to one another nor considered as being identical.

The more an expression of prayer preserves its own true nature and indi­vidual characteristics, the more fruitful it becomes. Once the pre-eminent value of liturgical rites has been reaffirmed, it will not be difficult to appreciate the fact that the Rosary is a practice of piety which easily harmonises with the liturgy. In fact, like the liturgy, it is communal in nature, draws its inspiration from Sacred Scripture and is oriented towards the mystery of Christ. The com­memoration in the liturgy and the contemplative remembrance proper to the Rosary, although existing on essentially different planes of reality, have as their object the same salvific events wrought by Christ. The former presents anew, under the veil of signs and operative in a hidden way, the great mysteries of our redemption. The latter, by means of devout contemplation, recalls these same mysteries to the mind of the person praying, and stimulates the will to draw from them the norms of living.

Once this substantial difference has been established, it is not difficult to understand that the Rosary is an exercise of piety that draws its motivating force from the liturgy and leads naturally back to it, if practised in conformity with its original inspiration. It does not however become part of the liturgy. In fact meditation on the mysteries of the Rosary, by familiarising the hearts and minds of the faithful with the mysteries of Christ, can be an excellent prepara­tion for the celebration of those same mysteries in the liturgical action, and can also become a continuing echo thereof. However, it is a mistake (…) to recite the Rosary during the celebration of the liturgy.» (n° 48)

His Holiness John Paul II expressed his intimate feelings, and his way of living the prayer of the Rosary, in these words of 29th October, 1978: “A prayer marvellous in its simplicity and in its depth! In this prayer, we repeat over and over again the words which the Virgin Mary heard from the Archan­gel and from her cousin Elizabeth. The whole Church joins in these words. (…) At the same time our heart can include in these decades of the Rosary all the events which go to make up the life of the individual, the family, the nation, the Church, and the whole of humanity. Incidents which affect us personally or our neighbour and, in a special way, those who are closest to us, whom we keep in our heart. Thus the simple prayer of the Rosary marks the rhythm of human life. (…) A prayer which is so simple and so rich! I cordially exhort all to pray it”.

To conclude this list of recommendations of, and appreciation for, the holy Rosary, I leave you one last quotation from a prominent figure in the Church. In the homily which the Archbishop of Colombo (Sri Lanka), His Eminence Cardinal Cooray, gave in Fatima on 12th August, 1967, he spoke of the religious life being lived at that time in the Sri Lankan Shrine in honour of Our Lady of Fatima: “Our ideal is to make the devotion in our Shrine a continual repetition of the Message of Fatima, that is, penance and prayer. For this purpose, two institutions were founded. On one side is the Convent of the Poor Clares whose life is made up of penance and prayer. On the other side there is the Convent of a Diocesan Congregation of native Sisters called Sisters of the Rosary: daily fast and abstinence together with hard manual work are part of their life of penance. Their special prayer is the Rosary, which is recited day and night except during Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours. The Sisters take it in turns, two by two, with arms outstretched, to recite the meditated Rosary before the Blessed Sacrament. Their ideal is the authentic personi­fication of the Message of Fatima, that is, penance and prayer, especially the Rosary’.

There are those who say that the Rosary is an antiquated and monoto­nous prayer, because of the constant repetition of the prayers which com­pose it. But I put the question: Is there anything at all which lives except through the continual repetition of the same actions?

God created everything that exists in such a way that it is kept alive by the continual repetition of the same actions. Thus, in order to preserve our life, we breathe in and breathe out always in the same way; our heart beats all the time according to the same rhythm. The stars, the sun, the moon, the planets, the earth follow always the same course, which God has laid down for them. Day follows night, year after year, always in the same way. Likewise the sun gives us light and warmth. In so many plants the leaves appear in the Spring, then they are clothed with flowers, next they yield fruit and, in autumn or winter, they lose their leaves.

Thus, everything follows the law which God has laid down for it, and yet it never occurs to anyone to say that it is monotonous; hence, nobody says so; the fact is that we need all this in order to live! Well then! In the spiritual life we experience the same need to repeat continually the same prayers, the same acts of faith, hope and charity, in order to live, since our life is a continued participation in the life of God.

As we have already seen, when the disciples asked Jesus Christ to teach them to pray, He taught them the beautiful formula of the Our Father, saying: “When you pray say: Father…” (Lk 11, 4). The Lord ordered us to pray thus, and did not say that, after a certain number of years, we were to look for a new formula of prayer, since that one had become old-fashioned and monotonous.

When lovers are together, they spend hours and hours repeating the same thing: “I love you!” What is missing in the people who think the Rosary monotonous is Love; and everything that is not done for love is worthless. Hence, the Catechism tells us that the Ten Commandments of God can be summed up in one: to love God above all things and our neighbour as ourselves.

Those who say the Rosary daily are like children who, every day, man­age to find a few moments just to be with their father, to keep him com­pany, to show him their gratitude, to do some service for him, to receive his advice and his blessing. It is an exchange of love, the love of the father for the child and the child for the father; it is a mutual giving.

Ave Maria

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