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"I was sitting with Abba Poemen one day and I saw him in ecstasy and as I was on terms of great freedom of speech with him, I prostrated myself before him and begged him, saying, 'Tell me where you were.' He was forced to answer and he said, 'My thought was with Saint Mary, the Mother of God, as she wept by the cross of the Saviour. I wish I could always weep like that.'"

Come, O Mother, love's sweet spring,
Let me share thy sorrowing,
Let my tears unite with thine.

Let my heart be all on fire,
Still to seek with fond desire
Christ, my God, my Love divine.

Holy Mother, this impart,
Deeply print within my heart,
All the wounds my Saviour bore.

The experience of Abba Poemen in the fourth century, like that of the author of the Stabat Mater, the "queen of sequences" in the Middle Ages, attests to a sweet and compelling gift of the Holy Spirit to souls in every age: the desire to approach the Blessed Virgin Mary in her sorrows and to avail oneself of the grace of her tears.

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Paul VI on the Rosary and the Liturgy

"The Rosary is a practice of piety which easily harmonizes with the liturgy. In fact, like the liturgy, it is of a community 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 new, 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 practiced in conformity with its original inspiration." Pope Paul VI, Marialis Cultus, 2 February 1974

The Rosary and Lectio Divina

For some years now on the Sundays of Lent, when praying part of my daily Rosary, I have prolonged my lectio divina by taking the great Gospels of the season as "Lenten Mysteries of the Rosary."

The 1st Lenten Mystery: The Temptation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Desert

And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the desert, for the space of forty days; and was tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry. (Luke 4:1-2)

The 2nd Lenten Mystery: The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ

And after six days Jesus taketh unto him Peter and James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart: And he was transfigured before them. And his face did shine as the sun: and his garments became white as snow. (Matthew 17:1-2)

The 3rd Lenten Mystery: The Promise of Living Water to the Woman at the Well

Jesus answered, and said to her: If thou didst know the gift of God, and who he is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou perhaps wouldst have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. (John 4:10)

The 4th Lenten Mystery: The Healing of the Man Born Blind

He answered: That man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me: Go to the pool of Siloe, and wash. And I went, I washed, and I see. (John 9:11)

The 5th Lenten Mystery: The Resurrection of Lazarus

Jesus said to her: I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, although he be dead, shall live: And every one that liveth, and believeth in me, shall not die for ever. (John 11: 27)

Rosary Mysteries of the Epiphany

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For many years now, I have "mined" the Holy Gospels, as given to us by the Church in the Sacred Liturgy, following the cycle of feasts and seasons, and found therein a rich sequence of Mystery-Events suited to meditation and contemplation in the sublime and simple prayer of the Rosary.

Those who recite a third of the Rosary sometimes assign the various mysteries to particular days: joyful (Monday and Thursday), sorrowful (Tuesday and Friday), glorious (Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday).
Where this system is rigidly adhered to, conflict can arise between the content of the mysteries and that of the Liturgy of the day: the recitation of the sorrowful mysteries on Christmas day, should it fall on a Friday. In cases such as this it can be reckoned that "the liturgical character of a given day takes precedence over the usual assignment of a mystery of the Rosary to a given day; the Rosary is such that, on particular days, it can appropriately substitute meditation on a mystery so as to harmonize this pious practice with the liturgical season"(242). Hence, the faithful act correctly when, for example, they contemplate the arrival of the three Kings on the Solemnity of the Epiphany, rather than the finding of Jesus in the Temple. Clearly, such substitutions can only take place after much careful thought, adherence to Sacred Scripture and liturgical propriety.
Article 200, Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Vatican City, 2001

In private prayer, at least, the Mysteries of the Holy Rosary need not be limited to The Fifteen Mysteries familiar to most Catholics, or even to the expansion of The Fifteen Mysteries brought about by Blessed Pope John Paul II's proposal of Five Mysteries of Light. There must be, all the same, certain objective criteria by which other Mysteries can be prudently introduced and meditated. What might these criteria be? I can think of at least two.

• The Rosary is based on the meditation of Mystery-Events found in the Holy Gospels or recognized by the Church as part of the corpus of Sacred Tradition.
• The choice of these Mystery-Events must be guided by a docile adherence to the Sacred Liturgy. A rule of thumb might be that any Mystery-Event celebrated by the Church in the Liturgy can also serve in the prayer of the Rosary.

The Mysteries of the Epiphany

This being said, I thought it might be useful, at least to some readers, if I shared the Mysteries of the Epiphany that we pray here in the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle during Epiphanytide.

The Five Mysteries of the Epiphany correspond to the five great Epiphany Gospels given us by the Church (in the traditional calendar and Liturgy) on the day of the Epiphany, 6 January; on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, 13 January; and on the Second, Third, and Fourth Sundays after Epiphany. Each of these Gospels presents a particular manifestation of the Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

1. Matthew 2:1-12, Our Lord makes himself known to the Magi by means of a star, and receives their adoration in Bethlehem.

And behold the star which they had seen in the east, went before them, until it came and stood over where the child was. And seeing the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they adored him. (Mt 2:9-11)

2. John 1:29-34 -- At His Baptism in the Jordan by John, the Holy Ghost descends in the form of a dove, and the voice of the Father reveals Jesus as His Beloved Son, in whom He is well pleased.

Now it came to pass, when all the people were baptized, that Jesus also being baptized and praying, heaven was opened; And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape, as a dove upon him; and a voice came from heaven: Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased. (Lk 3:21-22)

3. John 2:1-11 -- At the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee, Jesus, at His Mother's bidding, changes water into wine.

And the wine failing, the mother of Jesus saith to him: They have no wine. And Jesus saith to her: Woman, what is that to me and to thee? my hour is not yet come. His mother saith to the waiters: Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye. (Jn 2:3-5)

4. Matthew 8:1-13 -- Jesus, with a word, cleanses a leper.

And behold a leper came and adored him, saying: Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus stretching forth his hand, touched him, saying: I will, be thou made clean. And forthwith his leprosy was cleansed. (Mt 8:2-3)

5. Matthew 8:23-27 -- Jesus calms the raging sea.

And behold a great tempest arose in the sea, so that the boat was covered with waves, but he was asleep. And they came to him, and awaked him, saying: Lord, save us, we perish. And Jesus saith to them: Why are you fearful, O ye of little faith? Then rising up he commanded the winds, and the sea, and there came a great calm. (Mt 8:24-25)

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Saint Luke, Evangelist

The Evangelist

Saint Luke comes to us today as the evangelist of the Holy Spirit, as the evangelist of the little and of the poor, the evangelist of the Virgin Mary, and of the holy angels. He comes to us as the iconographer of the healing Christ, the Divine Physician of our souls and bodies. Saint Luke comes to us as the advocate and friend of the women disciples of the Lord, and as the witness of the Acts of the Apostles and of the life of the infant Church. He comes to us as the poet of the Magnificat, the Benedictus, and the Nunc Dimittis, as the evangelist of the sacred liturgy, the one who closes his Gospel with the radiant image of a joyful Church semper in templo benedicentes Deum, “continually in the temple blessing God” (Lk 24:52).

Iconographer of the Holy Mother of God

According to an old tradition, Saint Luke, in addition to being a physician (Col 4:14), was a painter. It is recounted that Saint Luke depicted the Virgin Mother with the Infant Christ in three icons. He showed them to her. The Mother of God looked at them with joy and then blessed them, saying, “May the grace of Him to Whom I gave birth be within them.” The iconography of Saint Luke himself makes for a fascinating study; he is nearly always portrayed painting the Blessed Virgin and her Son. Paintings of a saint painting!

Saint Luke at the Cross

I know also of one painting of Saint Luke, different from all others and profoundly moving. It is by the Spanish artist Francisco Zurbaràn and dates from 1660. Zurbaràn shows Saint Luke standing on Calvary; he is holding an artist's palette in his hands and contemplating Jesus Crucified with rapt attention. Saint Luke is memorizing the scene so as to depict it in a painting, just as he depicts it in his Gospel.

A Rosary of Icons

Open the Gospel of Saint Luke and what do you see? Icons of the Virgin Mother and the Child Christ, of the healing Christ, of Christ in prayer, of the suffering Christ, of the Crucified Christ, and of the mysterious risen Christ appearing on the road to Emmaus. These Gospel icons, written by Saint Luke with an extraordinary spiritual sensitivity, invite us to the contemplation of the Face of Christ in much the same way, as do the Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary.

The Lectio Divina of the Icon

Irish Benedictine Dom Gregory Collins has written an extraordinary little book on icons: “The Icons and Lectio Divina: Ancient and Post Modern Insights.” Dom Gregory applies the four moments of lectio divina to the practice of prayer before an icon. Lectio becomes a reading of the imagery, an attempt to “receive” the message it expresses through colour and form.

Meditatio takes the images received and turns them over in the mind; it can also mean focusing on a single detail of the icon: the face, the eyes, a hand, a gesture. Meditatio before an icon allows one to linger for a long time in the transforming presence of the light of God. “We all,” says Saint Paul, “with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor 3:18).

Oratio is the prayer that, like a flame, shoots up in the heart. Gazing upon the icon, like repeating the sacred text, feeds the flame of oratio. Finally, one is surprised by a holy stillness. The “fiery darts of prayer” are absorbed into something more obscure: contemplatio. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face” (1 Cor 13:12).

Dom Gregory’s insights may help us to read the Gospel of Saint Luke more deeply, searching on each page for the icon that slowly emerges from between the lines and behind the words, becoming visible to the eyes of faith. “It is your face, O Lord, that I seek; hide not your face from me” (Ps 26:8-9).

We Become What We Contemplate

Philosophers, psychologists and saints agree that we become what we contemplate. Look at goodness and you will become good. Look at beauty and you will become beautiful. Look at truth and you will become true. Look at purity and you will become pure. Saint Clare of Assisi, herself so marked by Gospel of Saint Luke, wrote to Agnes of Prague: “Gaze upon Him, consider Him, contemplate Him, as you desire to imitate Him” (Second Letter to Agnes of Prague).

Contemplating the Mysteries With Saint Luke

Understood in this way, the contemplation of the “icons” of Saint Luke’s Gospel, especially through the prayer of the Rosary, is transforming. The Rosary is, I have always believed, a uniquely Lukan prayer. Consider Saint Luke’s icon of the Annunciation (Lk 1:26 38) and, with Mary, become “Yes” to the Word. Look at the Visitation (Lk 1:39 56) and learn the language of Mary’s praise. Look at the Child lying in the manger (Lk 2:16) and become little and poor.

Look at the merciful Christ (Lk 4:40 - 5:26) and become merciful; at the healing Christ (Lk 7:1-10) and become an instrument of healing; at the solitary Christ in prayer (Lk 11:1), and learn to converse with the Father.

Look at the icon of Christ in Gethsemane (Lk 22:39-46), agonizing and comforted by an angel, and enter into his submission to the Father’s will. Look at the crucified Jesus (Lk 23:33-47) and learn from him to forgive and to show mercy, even in the hour of darkness. Look at the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24:13-32) and know that he walks with you always, opening the Scriptures, breaking the Bread, causing your hearts to burn with a mysterious fire. Finally, look at the icon of the Church in the last sentence of Saint Luke’s Gospel -- “They were continually in the temple blessing God” (Lk 24:53) -- and learn to bless God always and everywhere, learn to give the last word to praise.

To the Altar

The Benedictine vocation is that of the Church in the temple at Jerusalem: to bless. The transformation that begins in the contemplation of Saint Luke’s Rosary of Gospel icons is perfected, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Blessed Bartolo Longo

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Blessed Bartolo Longo

There is a marvelous figure of holiness inscribed on the calendar today: Blessed Bartolo Longo, the great Apostle of the Rosary and the founder of the shrine of the Madonna of the Rosary at Pompei in Italy. Born in 1841, Blessed Longo died in 1926. He was a contemporary of Saint Faustina. Pope John Paul II beatified him in 1980. Several times in his pontificate, Pope John Paul II called our attention to the example of this holy layman, calling him “l’uomo della Madonna,” Our Lady’s man.

Divine Mercy Displayed

Blessed Bartolo Longo’s story is a dramatic illustration of Divine Mercy. The mystery of Mercy announced by Saint Faustina played itself out in the life of Blessed Longo. As a young man, following studies in Law, Bartolo Longo abandoned his faith and allowed himself to be drawn into paths of great spiritual darkness. He practiced spiritism, found himself entrenched in the occult, and became a practicing Satanist. Longo went so far as to have himself ordained a priest of Satan. He very nearly lost his sanity, becoming a mere shadow of himself.

Spiritually Sick

In one particular séance Longo was distressed to see the face of the deceased king of Naples and the Two Sicilies: Ferdinand II. That same night he saw the soul of his mother circling his bed, begging him to return to the Catholic faith. His practice of the occult had so affected him that he was barely recognizable to those who once knew him as a handsome young man, full of vitality and promise. A Catholic friend, seeing him in such a pitiful spiritual, psychological, and physical state, begged him to at least meet with Father Radente, a wise Dominican priest. After some time, Longo made a thorough confession and, under the direction of this priest, began the reform of his life. He entered the Third Order of Saint Dominic, receiving the name, Brother Rosario.

Conversion and Healing

Bartolo’s Dominican spiritual father told him that the Mother of God promised that anyone who promoted her Rosary would assuredly be saved. The rest of Blessed Barolo’s life was dedicated to the Most Holy Rosary. The Rosary was his lifeline. The Rosary was the anchor of his salvation. The Rosary was the means by which the Holy Mother of God brought him back from hell. It was through the prayer of the Rosary that the Blessed Virgin healed his soul, restored him to health, and entrusted him with a mission. Later Blessed Bartolo wrote, “What is my vocation? To write about Mary, to have Mary praised, to have Mary loved.”

Rosary Apostolate

Blessed Longo reached out to the desperately poor, ignorant, and needy people of the town of Pompei. He taught them to pray the Rosary. The Rosary did for that entire town what it had done for him in his personal life; it brought healing, refreshment, holiness, joy, and peace. With the help of the Countess Mariana de Fusco whom he later married on the advice of Pope Leo XIII, while preserving with her his vow of chastity, Bartolo Longo undertook the construction of the church of the Madonna of the Rosary of Pompei. The city that grew up around it became the City of the Rosary.

He founded a congregation of Dominican Sisters to care for the poor. He established a school for boys. He wrote tirelessly in the service of Madonna and of her Rosary. His beautiful supplication to the Madonna of the Rosary has been translated into countless languages. Pope John Paul II prayed it when, on October 7, 2003, he visited Pompei to conclude the Year of the Rosary. In Italy, every year on the first Sunday of October, everything comes to a halt at noon while people, young and old, poor and rich, healthy and sick, pause to pray Blessed Longo’s supplication to the Virgin of the Rosary.

Divine Mercy Available to All

Saint Faustina made known the mystery of Divine Mercy. Blessed Bartolo Longo experienced Divine Mercy in a dramatic and deeply personal way. The same Divine Mercy is available to us: the mercy that brings back from hell, the mercy that raises the soul from spiritual death, the mercy that heals, restores, forgives, and repairs the past.

The Divine Mercy comes to us through the intercession of the Mother of God and, most efficaciously, through the humble prayer of the Rosary. It comes to us in the Sacrament of Penance: the mystery of the blood and the water from the side of Christ washing over the soul. And the Divine Mercy comes to us in the mystery of the Eucharist. The Mass is the real presence of Crucified Love. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is Divine Mercy flowing from the Heart of the Lamb, making saints out of sinners.

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Blessed Abbot Marmion chose Rosary Sunday for his reception of the Abbatial Blessing in 1909, and commemorated this event each year with a procession in honour of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Here is an example to help you understand the efficacy of the Rosary. You remember the story of David who vanquished Goliath. What steps did the young Israelite take to overthrow the giant? He struck him in the middle of the forehead with a pebble from his sling. If we regard the Philistine as representing evil and all its powers: heresy, impurity, pride, we can consider the little stones from the sling capable of overthrowing the enemy as symbolizing the Aves of the Rosary.
The ways of God are entirely different from our ways. To us it seems necessary to employ powerful means in order to produce great effects. This is not God's method; quite the contrary. He likes to choose the weakest instruments that He may confound the strong: "God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong -- Infirma mundi elegit ut confundat fortia" (1 Cor 1:27).
Have you not often met poor old women who are most faithful to the pious recitation of the Rosary? You also must do all that you can to recite it with fervour. Get right down, at the feet of Jesus: it is a good thing to make onself small in the presence of so great a God.
Dom Columba Marmion, Christ, the Ideal of the Priest

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Drawing upon the traditional mysteries of the rosary -- Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious, and the new mysteries of Light proposed by Pope John Paul II -- it becomes possible to pray through seven mysteries that, in a special way, reveal the presence and work of the Holy Spirit. I find it practical to use my Seven Dolours Rosary, with its "seven times seven" series of beads for this persevering invocation of the Holy Spirit through Mary.

1. The Annunciation, the “Proto-Pentecost” in which the Virgin is overshadowed by the Holy Spirit (cf. Lk 1:35). Ask for the Gift of Wisdom.

2. The Visitation in which Elizabeth, “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Lk 1:42), greets the Mother of her Lord. Ask for the Gift of Understanding.

3. The Baptism of Jesus, at which the Holy Spirit descended upon him “in bodily form, as a dove” (Lk 3:22). Ask for the Gift of Counsel.

4. The Wedding Feast at Cana (Jn 2:1-11) at which, in response to the intervention of his Mother, Jesus provides wine in abundance prefiguring the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Ask for the Gift of Fortitude.

5. The Death of Jesus Crucified who, “bowing his head, handed over his spirit” (Jn 19:30). Ask for the Gift of Knowledge.

6. The Resurrection of Jesus who, appearing to the disciples “on the evening of that day, the first day of the week” (Jn 20:19), “breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit’” (Jn 20:22). Ask for the Gift of Piety.

7. The Descent of the Holy Spirit “when the day of Pentecost had come” (Ac 2:1). Ask for the Gift of Holy Fear.

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For some years now, from the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary on November 21st until that of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th, I have prayed my rosary while dwelling on five mysteries of the first part of Our Lady's life. These five mysteries of the Blessed Virgin are:

-- the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the womb of her mother, Saint Anne;
-- the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary;
-- the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple;
-- the Betrothal of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Saint Joseph;
-- the Annunciation of the Lord to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

There is a particular sweetness in dwelling on these mysteries of Maria Bambina, the Infant Mary, the Child Mary. They distill graces of purity, of childlike simplicity, and of littleness.

All five mysteries are commemorated in the Sacred Liturgy. The liturgical books are rich in texts to nourish the meditation of each one. It is enough to take an antiphon, a verse, a single phrase, and to hold it in the heart while telling one's beads.

The Rosary corresponds to the meditatio and the oratio of monastic prayer; it begins necessarily in lectio divina, the hearing of the Word and then, gently, almost imperceptibly, draws the soul into contemplatio.

The Rosary is, I am convinced, the surest and easiest school of contemplative prayer. The Rosary decapitates pride, the single greatest obstacle to union with God. The repetition of the Aves, like a stream of pure water, cleanses the heart.

The Rosary of the Seven Dolours

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The Rosary of the Seven Dolours of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a way of holding in one's heart the mystery/events of the Childhood and Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Compassion of His Virgin Mother.

The fruits of this particular prayer are well known to those who pray it habitually: compunction of heart, detachment from the occasions of sin, chastity, humility, reparation, compassion, intimacy with the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, and desire to contemplate the adorable Face of Christ.

The power of this prayer -- something that many have experienced -- comes from allowing one's own heart to be irrigated and purified by the tears of the Mother of God. The tears of the Sorrowful Mother bring purity and healing wherever they fall. Appearing in Kibeho, Rwanda in 1982 and 1983, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Word, asked that the prayer of the Rosary of the Seven Dolours be renewed and promoted in the Church.

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The Mercy of God

Saint Dominic would spend whole nights weeping and groaning in prayer before the altar. Over and over again he would say, "What will become of sinners? What will become of sinners?" Saint Dominic's great passion was to reconcile sinners by preaching the mercy of God.

The Power of Preaching

Dominic understood that the power of preaching comes from ceaseless prayer. His prayer had three characteristics:
-humble adoration,
-heartfelt pity for sinners,
-and exultation in the Divine Mercy.

Saint Dominic prayed constantly; he prayed at home and on the road, in church and in his cell. For Saint Dominic there was no place or time foreign to prayer. He loved to pray at night. He engaged his whole body in prayer by standing with outstretched arms, by bowing, prostrating, genuflecting, and kissing the sacred page. If you are not familiar with the extraordinary little booklet entitled The Nine Ways of Prayer of Saint Dominic, today would be a good day to find it and read it.

The Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary

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Saint Dominic had a tenth way of prayer too: the Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary that today we call the rosary. The use of beads was widespread and the repetition of the Hail Mary were both widespread before the time of Saint Dominic. The Hail Mary prayed 150 times in reference to the 150 psalms was practiced in Carthusian and Cistercian cloisters before the time of Saint Dominic.

Irrigated by Grace

Saint Dominic understood that preaching alone was not enough. Preaching has to be irrigated by grace, and grace is obtained by prayer. Inspired by the Mother of God, Saint Dominic interspersed his sermons with the Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He exhorted his hearers to continue praying the Psalter of 150 Aves as a way of prolonging the benefits of holy preaching. The rosary allows the seed of the Word sown by holy preaching to germinate in the soul and bear fruit.

Simple Means

Divine Wisdom has so ordered things that the simplest material means -- humble and adapted to our weakness -- produce the greatest spiritual effects. Father Raphael Simon, the saintly Trappist psychiatrist, said that, "five decades of the rosary or even three Hail Marys daily may mean the difference between eternal life and death." The effect of the rosary is entirely disproportionate to its simplicity. The fruits of the rosary are well known: among them are detachment from sin and from the occasions of sin, peace of heart, humility, chastity, and joy. The rosary, and all authentic prayer, is always realistic -- that is to say, honest about human weakness and sin -- and, at the same, full of hope -- that is to say, open to the glorious plan of God's mercy.


The Supplication of the Rosary

If Saint Dominic preached the rosary and prayed it, it was because he knew it to be a prayer capable of winning every grace. The rosary is a prayer of repetition. It is a prayer of confidence. It helps one to persevere in supplication, bead by bead, and decade by decade. Our Lord finds the rosary irresistible because His own Mother "subsidizes" it. She stands behind it. The rosary is the voice of the poor, the needy, the downtrodden, and the weak. Persevere in praying the rosary and one day you will hear Our Lord say to you what He said to the woman of the Gospel: "Great is thy faith! Be it done for thee as thou wilt" (Mt 15:28). Saint Dominic shows us that, with the rosary in hand, we will experience the triumph of grace.

Into the Garden of the Rosary

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Telling One's Beads Over Saint Luke's Gospel

I have always thought the Rosary a particularly Lukan prayer. So many of the mysteries are drawn from Saint Luke's Gospel. It is Saint Luke who gives us the Gospel of the Holy Spirit; the Gospel of the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary; the Gospel of the liturgical canticles sung by the Church at sunrise, eventide, and nightfall; the Gospel of the Angels; the Gospel of mercy.

The Face of Christ

But there is more. According to tradition, Saint Luke was an iconographer. I very much like this painting of Luke painting! He seems to have just completed his image of the Virgin Mother with the Infant Christ. An Angel looks on approvingly. Could it be Saint Gabriel, the Archangel who figures so prominently in the first chapters of Saint Luke's Gospel? The Evangelist is showing us his painting and inviting us to contemplate the Mother and the Child. The Rosary is just that: a contemplation of the Face of Christ and of the Mother who presents Him to the eyes of the soul.

Veni, veni de Libano

The Rosary, like the Psalter it parallels, grows with the one who prays it. It is like the manna in the desert that accommodated itself to the taste of each one. There are seasons in each man's life with God, and the garden of the Rosary changes with these seasons. The Rosary is especially valuable in times of dryness; it becomes a way of inviting Our Blessed Lady into one's desert. When Mary comes into the dry and weary land of our soulscapes, she irrigates it with the grace of her presence, causing it to blossom like the rose.

Young Man With a Rosary

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German artist Hans Baldung Grien depicts a prosperous young fellow wearing what appears to be a velvet coat with a warm fur collar. The pearl grey cap nicely sets off his reddish hair and picks up the grey blue of his eyes. The young man's Rosary beads are, in some way, central to the whole painting. The hand emerging from the russet sleeve draws the eye to the beads. He is right in the middle of a decade of the Rosary, having completed five Aves. His Rosary, with the large pearl grey Pater bead is beautifully crafted; it looks, in fact, like it might have come from The Rosary Workshop.

If you allow your eye to travel up from the large Pater bead to the very top of the painting you will discover there the image of an owl attacking a bird on a branch. What is the painter saying? Is he intimating that the prayer of the Rosary comes between the soul, depicted by the bird, and the attacks of the devil, represented by the owl, a bird of the night? Is he suggesting that the young man is using the Rosary to pray his way out a conflict? Perhaps. But another meaning is also possible. The owl can be an image of Christ who chooses to hide Himself in the dark night of faith. He comes not to attack the soul praying like a bird on a branch, but to make His mystic presence known.

I, for one, do not see conflict on the young man's face. It seems to me that he is pondering one of the mysteries of the Rosary, even as he ponders his own future. The beads passing through his fingers bespeak the passage of time. Perhaps, the Rosary has induced him to make a change in his life? Will he forsake his fashionable coat and cap for the habit of monastic conversion?

One wonders if the Rosary was not for him the means of a gradual conversion. Nothing attacks the knotty roots of the seven capital sins as effectively as the prayer of the Rosary. The Rosary is the undoing of Pride, Covetousness, Lust, Anger, Gluttony, Anger, and Sloth.

An old confessor of mine, Father Cajetan Sheehan, O.P., after every confession used to ask, "Do you pray the Rosary, son?" "Yes, Father," I would reply. "Good, son. Then everything will turn out alright. Pray the Rosary." I imagine this young man's confessor said the very same thing to him.

The Chain that Sets Free

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Father Francesco Bamonte's witness to the power of the Holy Rosary in his book, Possessioni diabolici ed esorcismo (Paoline, 2006) so impressed me that I decided to translate it for the readers of Vultus Christi. Father Bamonte is one of the teachers of the course on Exorcism and the Prayer of Deliverance given at the Pontifical Atheneum Regina Apostolorum in Rome.

Concerning the Holy Rosary, once while the priest placed a rosary around the neck of the person who was being exorcised, all of a sudden the demon began crying out, "It is crushing me, it weighs on me, it is crushing me, this chain with the Cross on the end of it." The exorcist exclaimed, "From this day forward this sister of ours will pray the Rosary every day." Immediately the demon replied, "But you are so few who say it (the Rosary), compared to the whole world!" It is just as well for me that it should be so, because it (the Rosary) harms me. You invoke That One (referring to our Lady), you make me remember the life of That One (referring to the life of Jesus meditated in the mysteries of the Rosary).

Another day, while exorcising the demon, the exorcist pulled a rosary out of his pocket; immediately the demon cried out: "Take away that chain, take away that chain!" "What chain?" "The one with the Cross on the end. She whips us with that chain." This, of course is metaphorical language; it makes us understand, all the same, in very concrete terms, the power of the Rosary and how much the devil fears it.

There are certain situations of spiritual bondage and patterns of sin that, by a mysterious disposition of God's providence, are broken only by perseverance in the humble prayer of the Rosary. A holy Passionist priest here in Rome, one of the chief exorcists of the diocese, teaches that the Rosary is the most powerful of prayers in overcoming the forces of evil in one's life. The Rosary is, in fact, a "preaching to the meek." It "heals the contrite of heart," and "brings release to the captives." It is "deliverance to those who are shut up" (cf. Is 61:1).

O Rosario benedetto di Maria

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Prayer at Noon

For Catholics in Italy and throughout the world, today, Sunday, 3 October 2010, marks the return of an appointment with the Supplica, the passionate supplication to the Madonna of the Rosary, born in the heart of Blessed Bartolo Longo. This year the Supplica -- always prayed at noon on the first Sunday of October -- falls on the liturgical memorial of Blessed Abbot Columba Marmion. After his election as Abbot of Maredsous (Belgium) in 1909, Blessed Columba chose to receive the Abbatial Blessing on the first Sunday of October, 3 October, because in 1909 it was the Solemnity of Our Lady of the Rosary.

127th Anniversary of the Supplica

Blessed Bartolo Long wrote his inspired petition to the Queen of the Holy Rosary 127 years ago, in 1883. The lengthy supplication has lost nothing of its power to soften even the most hardened hearts; it continues to obtain graces in abundance from the hands of the Madonna of the Rosary. It is a prayer for all peoples and for universal peace, a prayer for the whole Church: for the Holy Father and the bishops, for priests, deacons, and the lay faithful of every state in life, with their special intentions, their burdens, and their hopes.

The Supplica is, of all Blessed Bartolo Longo's published prayers to the Mother of God, the most famous. Its incandescent words have opened countless souls to the merciful love of Christ through the all-powerful intercession of His Mother.

The Supplica is a prayer that people have made their own. It is known on every continent; it has been translated into hundreds of languages. No authority ever imposed it, it is not part of the liturgy of the Church, it was never submitted to revision by ICEL, and yet, it has become universal. Sociologists of religion, take note! Translators of liturgical texts, wake up and smell the Neapolitan coffee!

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A Prayer of the Heart

Certain rationalistic types sniff with disdain at the Supplica. They see it as representative of an unenlightened, sentimental, southern Italian piety bordering on superstition. They find its emphases embarrassing, its display of emotion unnerving.

Rich in Sentiment

The literary style of Blessed Bartolo Longo is the expression of his own character. He was capable of gentleness and of passion. He was, like all meridionals, rich in sentiment and quick to express it both in song and in tears. He was moved, before all else, by the reason of the heart.

The Discovery of Truth Through Love

Blessed Bartolo Longo, a Dominican Tertiary, was a lover of Truth; but his particular grace was the discovery of Truth through love. He found Truth, not in syllogisms and in concepts, but in the Heart and on the Face of the Word Made Flesh in the womb of the Virgin, and held in her arms.

The Prayer of One Delivered From Evil

The Rosary was the means by which, at the age of twenty-eight, a confused and desperate Avvocato Bartolo Longo -- a practicing Satanist and medium at the time -- was converted to the Truth and delivered from the powers of darkness. He vowed that he would spend his life proclaiming to others the Rosary's liberating and healing power. This is why, at the end of the Supplica, he exclaims: "O blessed Rosary of Mary, sweet chain which unites us to God, bond of love which unites us to the angels, tower of salvation against the assaults of hell, safe port in our universal shipwreck, we shall never abandon you."

Bound to Mary by the Rosary

Even pious folks may find the Supplica a bit too baroque, a bit overdone. It may be the Borboni southern Italian blood (mixed with Irish) that runs hot in my veins, but I love the Supplica and I plan on saying it with thousands of other people today. It is the prayer of a man very like myself: a poor sinner who fears nothing when he holds the Rosary in his hands, knowing that the Mother of God holds her end of the chain, and will not let it go.

Here is the text:

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A group of the Spiritual Mothers of Priests of the Diocese of Tulsa gathered in the oratory of the monastery this morning at 10:00 to pray a scriptural rosary on the Mysteries of Our Lord's Eternal Priesthood. They offered their prayer for all priests and, in a special way, interceded for our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI in this moment of assault from below.

The Mysteries of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Eternal High Priest:
A Rosary for Priests

First Mystery: The Incarnation

1. Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Eternal High Priest, we recall that mystery by which the Word entered thy virginal womb, overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, to make it the first sanctuary of His priesthood on earth, and to offer Himself therein as a sacrificial Victim to the Eternal Father.

Mother of Priests and their Advocate, we offer the prayers of this mystery, imploring thee to obtain for every priest the grace of a deeper identification with Jesus in His obedience and self-offering to the Father.

Second Mystery: The Presentation in the Temple

2. Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Eternal High Priest, we recall the prophecy of Simeon that a sword of sorrow would pierce thy soul, which prophecy was fulfilled on Calvary. The Infant, already offered to the God of Israel in thy arms, was to become the Victim raised high on the cross, the Host lifted to the Father in every Mass by the hands of the priest, and the immolated Lamb in the glory of heaven and in the tabernacles of the Church on earth.

Mother of Priests and their Advocate, we offer the prayers of this mystery, imploring thee to obtain for every priest the grace of a spotless chastity so that, in the joy that springs from purity of heart, he might follow the Lamb wheresover He goeth.

Third Mystery: The Cenacle

3. Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Eternal High Priest, we recall thy Son's institution of the Priesthood and of the Most Holy Eucharist in the Cenacle on the night before He suffered. There His sacrifice was consummated in mystery; the next day it would be consummated in His Blood.

Mother of Priests and their Advocate, we offer the prayers of this mystery, imploring thee to obtain for every priest the grace of a holy awe in the daily celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, so that he might know by faith the blessed presence of the Lamb and, lost in wonder, adore Him truly present in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

Fourth Mystery: The Sacrifice on Calvary

4. Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Eternal High Priest, we recall the Sacrifice in His Blood, offered from the altar of the Cross on Calvary. With thee, we want to receive the outpouring of the Spirit from His mouth; with thee we want to gaze upon His pierced side; with thee we want to intercede for all priests, but especially for the weakest and most wounded among them.

Mother of Priests and their Advocate, we offer the prayers of this mystery, imploring thee to obtain for every priest the grace of a tender and filial relationship with thee, that in the valley of the shadow of death, thou wouldst be to them a fountain of life; that in bitterness, thou wouldst be their sweetness; and that in hours of despair, thou wouldst be their hope.

Fifth Mystery: The Ascension

5. Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Eternal High Priest, we recall the glorious Ascension of thy Son into the sanctuary of heaven where He stands forever before the Father, displaying His radiant wounds, and interceding for us.

Mother of Priests and their Advocate, we offer the prayers of this mystery, begging thee to obtain from the Eternal Father an abundance of priestly vocations from the rising of the sun to its setting and, in particular, for this diocese, that the earth may be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, and that His Sacrifice may be offered in every place by men of holy life, ablaze with the fire of the Holy Spirit.

Hail, Holy Queen.

V. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.

O God, by Whose will, the Blessed Virgin Mary
became the Mother of Thy Son, the Eternal High Priest,
and was associated most intimately to Him in the Work of Redemption,
grant that by pondering with her the mysteries of His Priesthood,
we may, through her who is our Mother in the order of grace,
so contribute to the sanctification of Thy priests,
that they more worthily represent Jesus Christ
the Head, Shepherd, and Spouse of His Church,
who is Lord forever and ever.
R. Amen.

The Comfort of the Beads

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There is a certain comfort in praying on beads that are beautiful and sturdy, beads that somehow feel like they were destined to be held, caressed, and cherished. The beads are, after all, a visible, tangible sign of the prayer by which we place our hand in the hand of Mary, and bind our heart to hers.

Sacramentals should be things of beauty. The soul thrives in an environment of chaste loveliness, harmony, and order. Finely crafted beads invite to prayer. It is right that we should go to God by means of the senses He has given us. The Word became flesh so that we, in our flesh and not in spite of it, might be able to go to God.

Although one can obtain Seven Dolours Beads from the Servite Fathers and from any number of other sources, my own were made by the wonderful ladies at the Rosary Workshop.

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Drawing upon the traditional mysteries of the rosary -- Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious, and the new mysteries of Light proposed by Pope John Paul II -- it becomes possible to pray through seven mysteries that, in a special way, reveal the presence and work of the Holy Spirit. I find it practical to use my Seven Dolours Rosary, with its "seven times seven" series of beads for this persevering invocation of the Holy Spirit through Mary.

1. The Annunciation, the “Proto-Pentecost” in which the Virgin is overshadowed by the Holy Spirit (cf. Lk 1:35). Ask for the Gift of Wisdom.

2. The Visitation in which Elizabeth, “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Lk 1:42), greets the Mother of her Lord. Ask for the Gift of Understanding.

3. The Baptism of Jesus, at which the Holy Spirit descended upon him “in bodily form, as a dove” (Lk 3:22). Ask for the Gift of Counsel.

4. The Wedding Feast at Cana (Jn 2:1-11) at which, in response to the intervention of his Mother, Jesus provides wine in abundance prefiguring the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Ask for the Gift of Fortitude.

5. The Death of Jesus Crucified who, “bowing his head, handed over his spirit” (Jn 19:30). Ask for the Gift of Knowledge.

6. The Resurrection of Jesus who, appearing to the disciples “on the evening of that day, the first day of the week” (Jn 20:19), “breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit’” (Jn 20:22). Ask for the Gift of Piety.

7. The Descent of the Holy Spirit “when the day of Pentecost had come” (Ac 2:1). Ask for the Gift of Holy Fear.

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One of Barbara Pym's characters -- I don't remember which one -- sometimes exclaims, "Too much richness!" Exactly my sentiments concerning this past weekend! There was altogether too much going on: the Synod in Rome with the Ecumenical Patriarch's extraordinary address, the Holy Father's visit to the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Rosario at Pompei, the beatification of Louis and Zélie Martin at Lisieux, and the feasts of Saint Philip Howard, of the Jesuit Martyrs of North America, of Blessed Agnès de Langeac, and of Saint Paul of the Cross. Finally, I decided to translate the Holy Father's address at Pompei for the dear readers of Vultus Christi. Here it is:

A Gift from the Heart of Our Lady

Before entering the Sanctuary to recite the Holy Rosary together with you, I paused briefly before the tomb of Blessed Bartolo Longo and, praying, I asked myself: "Whence did this great apostle of Mary draw the energy and constancy necessary to bring to completion so imposing a work, now known in all the world? Is it not from the Rosary that he received as a true gift from the heart of Our Lady?"

The School of the Virgin

Yes, it was really so! The experience of the saints witnesses to this: this popular Marian prayer is a precious spiritual means to grow in intimacy with Jesus and learn, at the school of the Holy Virgin, to carry out always the Divine Will.

The Rosary is contemplation of the mysteries of Christ in spiritual union with Mary, as the Servant of God Paul VI emphasized in the Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus, and then, as my venerated predecessor John Paul II amply illustrated in the Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, which, ideally, I give again to the community of Pompei and to each one of you.

Authentic Apostles of the Rosary

You who live and work here at Pompei, especially you, dear priests, religious, and layfolk engaged in this singular portion of the Church, are called -- all of you -- to make the charism of Blessed Bartolo Longo your own and to become, in the measure and in the ways granted by God to each one, authentic apostles of the Holy Rosary.

Contemplate the Face of Christ

But, in order to be apostles of the Rosary, it is necessary to experience first hand the beauty and depth of this prayer that is simple and accessible to all. It is, above all, necessary to allow oneself to be led by the hand of the Holy Virgin to contemplate the Face of Christ: His joyful, luminous, sorrowful, and glorious Face.

One who, like Mary and together with her, assiduously keeps and meditates the mysteries of Jesus, assimilates His sentiments more and more, and is conformed to Him. It pleases me, in this regard, to quote a beautiful consideration of Blessed Bartolo Longo.

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Familiarity with Jesus and Mary

"Just as two friends," he writes, "going about frequently together, are wont to conform themselves to each other in their manners, so too do we, conversing familiarly with Jesus and the Virgin in the meditation of the Mysteries of the Rosary, and forming together one and the same life by means of communion with them, become like them, whatever be our lowliness, and learn from these consummate examples how to live humbly, in poverty, in hiddenness, patience, and perfection."

Contemplation and Silence

The Rosary is a school of contemplation and of silence. At a first glance, it may seem like a prayer that accumulates words, one that it is difficult to reconcile with the silence rightly required for meditation and contemplation. In reality, the cadenced repetition of the Ave Maria does not disturb interior silence; on the contrary it calls it forth and sustains it.

Akin to the Divine Office

It is analogous to what happens with the psalms when one prays the Liturgy of the Hours. Silence flowers through the words and the phrases, not as a void, but as a presence of their ultimate meaning, which goes beyond the words themselves and, together with them, speaks to the heart.

Like the Whisper of a Gentle Breeze

Thus, in reciting the Ave Marias, one must pay attention in such wise that our voices do not "cover" the voice of God, which always speaks through silence, like "the whisper of a gentle breeze" (1 K 19:12).

Interior Silence in the Recitation of the Rosary

How important it is, then, to foster this silence full of God, be it in personal or communal recitation [of the Rosary]. Even when it happens that the Rosary is prayed in great assemblies, as we did, and as is done each day in this Sanctuary, it is necessary that the Rosary be perceived as a contemplative prayer, and this cannot happen if a climate of interior silence is lacking.

The Rosary: Response to the Word of God

I should like to add another reflection relative to the Word of God in the Rosary. This is particularly opportune at this period in which the Synod of Bishops on the theme "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church" is taking place in the Vatican. If Christian contemplation cannot prescind from the Word of God, so too must the Rosary, if it is to be a contemplative prayer, emerge always from the silence of the heart as a response to the Word, modeled after the prayer of Mary.

Woven of Sacred Scripture

Considered well, one sees that the Rosary is entirely woven of Sacred Scripture. There is, first of all, the enunciation of the mystery, preferably done with words drawn from the Bible. Then follows the Our Father: by impressing upon our prayer its vertical orientation, it opens the mind of one reciting the Rosary to the correct filial attitude: "When you pray, say Father . . ." (Lk 11:2). The first part of the Hail Mary, also drawn from the Gospel, makes us each time hear anew the words with which God addressed the Virgin through the Angel, and the blessing of her cousin, Elizabeth. The second part of the Hail Mary resounds as the response of children who, in addressing petitions to their Mother, do nothing other than express their own adhesion to the saving plan revealed by God. In this way, the thought of the one praying remains always anchored to Scripture and to the mysteries presented therein.

Charity and Peace

Finally, remembering that today we are celebrating the World Day of Missions, I am pleased to recall the apostolic dimension of the Rosary, a dimension that Blessed Bartolo Longo lived intensely, drawing from it inspiration to undertake here in this place so many works of charity and of human and social promotion. Moreover, he wished that this Sanctuary should be open to the entire world, as a centre of irradiation of the prayer of the Rosary and a place of intercession for peace among peoples. Dear friends, I desire to confirm both of these aims -- the apostolate of charity and prayer for peace-- and I entrust them to your spiritual and pastoral labours. Following the example, and with the support of your venerated Founder, do not grow weary of working with passion in this part of the vineyard of the Lord for which the Madonna has shown a special love.

Farewell

Dear brothers and sisters, the moment has come for me to take leave of you and of this beautiful Sanctuary. I thank you for the warm welcome and, above all, for your prayers. I thank the Archbishop Prelate and Pontifical Delegate and his collaborators, and those who worked to prepare my visit so well. I must leave you, but my heart remains close to this place and to this community. I entrust you all to the Blessed Virgin of the Holy Rosary, and to each one, from the heart, I impart my Apostolic Blessing.


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For some years now, especially around the Marian feasts of September 8th, September 12th, November 21st, and December 8th, I have prayed my rosary while dwelling on five mysteries of the first part of Our Lady's life. These five mysteries of the Blessed Virgin are:

-- the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the womb of her mother, Saint Anne;
-- the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary;
-- the Most Holy Name of Mary
-- the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple;
-- the Betrothal of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Saint Joseph;

There is a particular sweetness in dwelling on these mysteries of Maria Bambina, the Infant Mary, the Child Mary. They distill graces of purity, of childlike simplicity, and of littleness.

All five mysteries are commemorated in the Sacred Liturgy. The liturgical books are rich in texts to nourish the meditation of each one. It is enough to take an antiphon, a verse, a single phrase, and to hold it in the heart while telling one's beads. The Rosary corresponds to the meditatio and the oratio of monastic prayer; it begins necessarily in lectio divina, the hearing of the Word and then, gently, almost imperceptibly, draws the soul into contemplatio.

The Rosary is, I am convinced, the surest and easiest school of contemplative prayer. The Rosary decapitates pride, the single greatest obstacle to union with God. The repetition of the Aves, like a stream of pure water, cleanses the heart.

Setting An Example

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Yesterday was the First Saturday of the month of May. Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI gave an edifying example of pastoral zeal to all the bishops and parish priests of the Church by praying the Rosary with the faithful in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major. It was profoundly moving to see the Holy Father on his knees, telling his beads with simplicity, humility, and piety. He recited the prayers of the Rosary in Latin. A suitable antiphon in Gregorian Chant and a passage from Sacred Scripture preceded each decade. The Salve Regina, Litany of Loreto, and Regina Caeli concluded the celebration: a model for every cathedral and parish church in the world. At the end of the prayer, the Holy Father said:

"Today we are demonstrating together that the Holy Rosary is not a pious practice relegated to the past, like a prayer of former times that one thinks of nostalgia. The Rosary is, as it were, coming into a new springtime. This is, without any doubt, one of the most eloquent signs of the love that the young generations nourish for Jesus and for Mary His Mother.

In today’s world so full of distractions, this prayer helps us to place Christ at the centre, as did the Virgin, who meditated inwardly all that was said concerning her Son, and then what He did and said. When the Rosary is recited we relive the important and significant moments of the history of salvation; we journey through the various phases of the mission of Christ. With Mary the heart turns toward the mystery of Jesus. Jesus is placed at the centre of our life, of our time, of our city, by means of the contemplation and meditation of His holy mysteries of joy, of light, of sorrow, and of glory. Mary helps us to receive within ourselves the grace that emanates from these mysteries so that through us they might irrigate society, beginning with our daily relations, and purify it of so many negative forces, while apprising it of the newness of God.

The Rosary, when prayed in an authentic way, one that is not mechanical and superficial, but profound, undeniably confers peace and reconciliation. It contains within itself the healing power of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, invoked with faith and with love at the center of each Ave Maria."

On Praying the Rosary for Unity

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Holy Mary, Mother of Unity

Tomorrow I will be celebrating the Mass of Holy Mary, Mother of Unity, formulary 38 in the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It occurred to me that this will be the perfect opportunity to recall Pope Leo XIII's desire that the Rosary be prayed specifically for the intention of reconciliation and reunion. Here is the relevant section from his Encyclical of September 20 1896, Fidentem Piumque Animum:

The Power of Prayer

That earnest desire, which We have learnt from the Divine Heart of Jesus, of fostering the work of reconciliation among those who are separated from Us daily urges Us more pressingly to action; and we are convinced that this most excellent Re-union cannot be better prepared and strengthened than by the power of prayer. The example of Christ is before us, for in order that His disciples might be one in faith and charity, he poured forth prayer and supplication to His Father.

The Patroness and Most Excellent Custodian of Unity

And concerning the efficacious prayer of His most holy Mother for the same end, there is a striking testimony in the Acts of the Apostles. Therein is described the first assembly of the Disciples, expecting with earnest hope and prayer the promised fullness of the Holy Spirit. And the presence of Mary united with them in prayer is specially indicated: All these were persevering with one mind in prayer with Mary the Mother of Jesus (Acts 1:14). Wherefore as the nascent church rightly joined itself in prayer with her as the patroness and most excellent custodian of Unity, so in these times is it most opportune to do the same all over the Catholic World.

Nothing More Acceptable to Mary

Let then the zeal for this prayer (of the Rosary) everywhere be re-kindled, particularly for the end of Holy Unity. Nothing will be more agreeable and acceptable to Mary; for, as she is most closely united with Christ she especially wishes and desires that they who have received the same Baptism with Him may be united with Him and with one another in the same faith and perfect charity. So may the sublime mysteries of this same faith by means of the Rosary devotion be more deeply impressed in men's minds, with the happy result that "we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise."


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One of my heavenly friends — in some way, I might even consider him a spiritual father of mine - is the Benedictine Dom Eugène Vandeur (1875-1967). One of my dreams is one day to facilitate the re-edition of some of Father Vandeur's works. Father Vandeur wrote extensively, passionately, and beautifully on the Blessed Virgin Mary. His point of departure was always a text of Holy Scripture or of the Sacred Liturgy; then he would allow his pen (and his soul to take flight) in what he called his elevations. His message remained simple and accessible, even as he probed the hidden and deep things of God and of the Kingdom. Here is a page of Dom Vandeur that I think suitable for the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception:

If it is possible for you, never neglect to say your beads every day,
and if you find time, even the whole fifteen decades.

Be not afraid of distractions, provided you are willing to struggle against them.
Our heavenly Mother understands so well our weakness, our tired feelings, our weariness at times.
Hail Mary's multiplied never displease her.
She appreciates your murmurings of faith, hope, and love.
Do your best. But, never give up your beads.
To carry them on your person . . . is that not as if you were saying them all day, all night secretly?
Keep them, at times, especially in time of trial, in the hollow of your hand. That is to clasp Mary's hand.

To conclude, keep this in mind, at least:
do not neglect to say three Hail Mary's morning and night to Mary, Mother of God and your Mother, to thank the Most Blessed Trinity for having given us her.

We can report marvelous results from faithfulness to that practice, among those who suffer, who labor, who undergo pain of any kind,
in body, in soul, in the midst of cares, to safeguard their interests for time and eternity.

When we love someone, we cease not to remind him of our love, and always we love him more.
In saying Hail Mary, you will never disappoint your heart, and above all the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
She is your Mother . . . Does not that say it all?
Amen! So be it! Yes, altogether, right, sweet, and good that it be so.

(Hail Mary, by Dom Eugène Vandeur, translated by John H. Collins, S.J., The Newman Press, Westminster, Maryland, 1954)

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For some years now, especially around the Marian feasts of September 8th, September 12th, November 21st, and December 8th, I have prayed my rosary while dwelling on five mysteries of the first part of Our Lady's life. These five mysteries of the Blessed Virgin are:

— the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the womb of her mother, Saint Anne;
— the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary;
— the Most Holy Name of Mary
— the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple;
— the Betrothal of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Saint Joseph;

There is a particular sweetness in dwelling on these mysteries of Maria Bambina, the Infant Mary, the Child Mary. They distill graces of purity, of childlike simplicity, and of littleness.

All five mysteries are commemorated in the Sacred Liturgy. The liturgical books are rich in texts to nourish the meditation of each one. It is enough to take an antiphon, a verse, a single phrase, and to hold it in the heart while telling one's beads. The Rosary corresponds to the meditatio and the oratio of monastic prayer; it begins necessarily in lectio divina, the hearing of the Word and then, gently, almost imperceptibly, draws the soul into contemplatio.

The Rosary is, I am convinced, the surest and easiest school of contemplative prayer. The Rosary decapitates pride, the single greatest obstacle to union with God. The repetition of the Aves, like a stream of pure water, cleanses the heart.

A l'école du Père Vayssière

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Father Vayssière

Father Marie-Etienne Vayssière, O.P. (1864-1940) has long occupied a place of honour in my gallery of friends in heaven. Little by little, he is being recognized as a man worthy of a place among the greatest spiritual masters of the Church's history. I regret that he is so little known in the English-speaking world.

Father Vayssière, a Dominican solitary at La Sainte Baume in France, and guardian of the grotto of Saint Mary Magdalene for thirty-two years, was a mystic of the Rosary. His life was marked by illness and, at the same time, by ceaseless prayer. Father Vayssière's particular charism was to guide souls to the heights of contemplation by means of the Rosary. I have translated a few excerpts from his letters explaining the benefits of the Rosary in one's life with God:

Union With Christ

The soul that lives by the Rosary makes her way quickly towards a life of union with Christ. And what are, in fact, the mysteries of the Rosary? They are the very mysteries of Jesus, the mysteries of His life, the mysteries of His grace, the mysteries of His love. The Rosary is the soul truly plunged into Jesus Himself. The Rosary is Jesus filling our spirit, our intelligence, our memory, our imagination, our vision. At each instant and in all the mysteries it is always His Person that comes to the fore, but the reality is always unique, always the same: it is Jesus.

The Flame of Love

The Rosary is not only Jesus filling the spirit; it is also Jesus penetrating and taking over the heart to warm it and set it afire. Can one remain in front of a hearth, of a blazing fire, without being penetrated, in turn, by its warmth? And what comes forth from all the mysteries of the Rosary if not warmth, and the flame of love? How can we not love the One who lavishes such love on us? The One who gives Himself without reserve?

At the Wellspring of a True Holiness

The Rosary is an hour of intimacy with Jesus and Mary, during which all the rest is forgotten. It transports us into what is most intimate to the Christian life to penetrate us with its grace and to rekindle it ceaselessly within us. One who practices the Rosary in this way is at the wellspring of a true holiness.



The Perfume of the Mysteries

One must not only say one's Rosary, but also establish oneself in the atmosphere of the Rosary and in the thought of its mysteries and, there, breathe habitually the divine perfume that emanates from them. One does this by distributing the different mysteries of the Rosary throughout the exercises of the day. The memory of Jesus, of Mary, and of Saint Dominic, impressing itself upon the soul, saves it from the material preoccupations of the day, and allows the soul to live supernatural realities here below. And so, in this way, the Rosary is not merely recited; it is lived.

The Communion of the Evening

In Father Vayssière's time, Holy Mass was always celebrated in the morning. This explains why he loved to call the Rosary "the communion of the evening":

The Rosary is a communion that lasts all the day long, and the communion of the evening that brings into light and into a fruitful resolution the communion of the morning. It is not not merely a series of Ave Marias recited piously; it is Jesus reliving in the soul through the maternal action of Mary.

From Mary to the Trinity

The Rosary is a biblical and trinitarian prayer. It is a kind of lectio divina made in the open book of Mary's Immaculate Heart. The Rosary is a Eucharistic and doxological prayer. Father Vayssière called it, "an enchainment of love from Mary to the Trinity."

Saint Dominic

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Eighteenth Wednesday of the Year I

Numbers 13:1-2, 25--14:1, 26a-29a, 34-35
Psalm 105: 6-7ab, 13-14, 21-22, 23 (R. 4a)
Matthew 15:21-28

The Mercy of God

Saint Dominic would spend whole nights weeping and groaning in prayer before the altar. Over and over again he would say, "What will become of sinners? What will become of sinners?" Saint Dominic's great passion was to reconcile sinners by preaching the mercy of God.

The Power of Preaching

Dominic understood that the power of preaching comes from ceaseless prayer. His prayer had three characteristics: humble adoration, heartfelt pity for sinners, and exultation in the Divine Mercy. Saint Dominic prayed constantly; he prayed at home and on the road, in church and in his cell. For Saint Dominic there was no place or time foreign to prayer. He loved to pray at night. He engaged his whole body in prayer by standing with outstretched arms, by bowing, prostrating, genuflecting, and kissing the sacred page. If you are not familiar with the extraordinary little booklet entitled The Nine Ways of Prayer of Saint Dominic, today would be a good day to find it and read it.

The Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary

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Saint Dominic had a tenth way of prayer too: the Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary that today we call the rosary. The use of beads was widespread and the repetition of the Hail Mary were both widespread before the time of Saint Dominic. The Hail Mary prayed 150 times in reference to the 150 psalms was practiced in Carthusian and Cistercian cloisters before the time of Saint Dominic.

Irrigated by Grace

Saint Dominic understood that preaching alone was not enough. Preaching had to be irrigated by grace, and grace is obtained by prayer. Inspired by the Mother of God, Saint Dominic interspersed his sermons with the Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He exhorted his hearers to continue praying the Psalter of 150 Aves as a way of prolonging the benefits of holy preaching. The rosary allows the seed of the Word sown by holy preaching to germinate in the soul and bear fruit.

The Family Rosary

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When Praying for Healing

It happens sometimes that the healing of a family member — in spite of persistent and fervent prayer — is impeded because of an unspoken resistance to the prayer or because of indifference to it within the family itself. In asking for the physical, emotional, or spiritual healing of a family member, it is crucial, first of all, that two or three family members — especially married couples — pray together. For this I recommend, above all, the Holy Rosary.

When one's family life is itself fragile or shattered, one should seek out close friends with whom to pray. Again, the Rosary is, I think, the most efficacious prayer. By means of the Rosary, Blessed Bartolo Longo, a layman, rebuilt family life and renewed society in the poverty, ignorance, and desolation of 19th century Pompei. Veritable miracles of grace, all attributed to the Rosary, confirmed Blessed Longo's initiatives and continue to the present day.

The Prayer of Faith

It is possible to add after each decade some invocations drawn from the Gospels, such as: "Lord, the one whom Thou lovest is sick" (Jn 11:3); "If thou canst do any thing, help us, having compassion on us" (Mk 9:21); "I do believe, Lord: help my unbelief" (Mk 9:23); and, especially, the prayer of the centurion repeated in every Mass, "Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof: but only say the word, and N. shall be healed" (Mt 8:8).

The Sacraments

It is also indispensable that those who are praying for the healing of a loved one go to Confession frequently. Everyone — not just the penitent — benefits from the grace of sacramental absolution by which the glorious wounds of Christ are applied to the wounds of our souls.

Married couples do well to receive Holy Communion together at the same Holy Mass, at least on Sundays. So often as spouses receive Holy Communion together, the grace of the Nuptial Mass with which they began their married life can be renewed within them. The renewal of this grace benefits the entire family circle. The supernatural context of all healing is the unity that is the fruit of participation in the Most Holy Eucharist.

De Maria Numquam Satis

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Blessed Bartolo Longo wrote: "What is my vocation? To write about Mary, to have Mary praised, to have Mary loved."

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At 11:55 this morning I went down into the basilica to await the praying of the Supplica to the Madonna del Rosario di Pompei. I took a place in the front row of chairs. Behind me I could hear people arriving. There was some whispering about the requisite leaflet. Although Don Carlo had made copies available, many came prepared with their own leaflets. The atmosphere in the basilica was charged with holy anticipation. At noon, Don Carlo led us in the Supplica. The faithful read the text with the most touching piety and confidence. Blessed Bartolo Longo's prayer has an unmistakable spiritual unction. It touches hearts. It permits people to voice their need for help and their confidence in Mary in a wonderful solidarity, and without the slightest embarrassment.

After the singing of the Salve Regina in conclusion, I looked around at the people who had come. Men and women. Young and old. The nave was nearly full. Rather impressive, when one considers that the Supplica was being prayed in churches all over Rome at the same time.

O blessed Rosary of Mary,
sweet chain that unites us to God,
chain of love that unites us to the angels.
Tower of salvation against the assaults of Hell.
Safe harbor in the universal shipwreck,
we will never abandon you.
You will be our comfort in the hour of death,
to you the last kiss
of our dying life.
And the final word on our lips
will be your sweet name,
O Queen of the Rosary of Pompeii,
O dearest Mother,
O refuge of sinners,
O sovereign comforter of the afflicted.
Be everywhere blessed, today and forever,
on earth and in Heaven.
Amen.

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Our Lady of Pompei

Tuesday, May 8, 2007 is the Feast of Our Lady of Pompei. In Italy and in places all over the globe the feast will be marked by the solemn recitation at noon of Blessed Bartolo Longo's moving prayer, the Supplica, meaning supplication or petition.

The Prayer of People the World Over

The Supplica is, of Blessed Bartolo Longo's published prayers to the Mother of God, the most famous. Its incandescent words have opened countless souls to the grace of Christ through the all–powerful intercession of His Mother.

The Supplica is a prayer that people have made their own. It is known on every continent; it has been translated into hundreds of languages. No authority ever imposed it, it is not part of the liturgy of the Church, it was never submitted to revision by ICEL, and yet, it has become universal. Sociologists of religion, take note! Translators of liturgical texts, wake up and smell the Italian coffee!

A Prayer of the Heart

Certain rationalistic types disdain the Supplica. They see it as representative of an unenlightened, sentimental, southern Italian piety bordering on superstition. They find its emphases embarrassing, its display of emotion unnerving.

The literary style of Blessed Bartolo Longo is the expression of his own character. He was capable of gentleness and of passion. He was, like all meridionals, rich in sentiment and quick to express it both in song and in tears. He was moved, before all else, by the reason of the heart.

Blessed Longo was a lover of Truth; but his particular grace was the discovery of Truth through love. He found Truth, not in syllogisms and in concepts, but in the Heart and on the Face of the Word Made Flesh in the womb of the Virgin, and held in her arms.

The Prayer of One Delivered From Evil

The Rosary was the means by which, at the age of twenty–eight, a confused and desperate Avvocato Bartolo Longo — a practicing Satanist and medium at the time — was converted to the Truth and delivered from the powers of darkness. He vowed that he would spend his life proclaiming to others the Rosary's liberating and healing power. This is why, at the end of the Supplica, he exclaims: "O blessed Rosary of Mary, sweet chain which unites us to God, bond of love which unites us to the angels, tower of salvation against the assaults of hell, safe port in our universal shipwreck, we shall never abandon you."

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Bound to Mary by the Rosary

The Supplica may not be everyone's cup of tea. Even pious folks may find it a bit too baroque, a bit overdone. It may be the southern Italian blood (mixed with Irish) that runs hot in my veins, but I love the Supplica and I plan on saying it with thousands of other people at noon on Tuesday. It is the prayer of a man very like myself: a poor sinner who fears nothing when he holds the Rosary in his hands, knowing that the Mother of God holds her end of the chain, and will not let it go.

The Supplica
Prayed at Midday on May 8th

O August Queen of Victories, O Sovereign of Heaven and Earth, at whose name the heavens rejoice and the abyss trembles, O glorious Queen of the Rosary, we your devoted children, assembled in your temple of Pompeii, (on this solemn day), pour out the affection of our heart and with filial confidence expresse our miseries to you. 



From the throne of clemency, where you are seated as Queen, turn, O Mary, your merciful gaze on us, on our families, on Italy, on Europe, on the world. Have compassion on the sorrows and cares which embitter our lives. See, O Mother, how many dangers of body and soul, how many calamities and afflictions press upon us. 



O Mother, implore for us the mercy of your divine Son and conquer with clemency the heart of sinners. They are our brothers and your children who cause the heart of our sweet Jesus to bleed and who sadden your most sensitive heart. Show all that you are the Queen of Peace and of Pardon.

Hail Mary. 



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A Guest from the Irish College

The Reverend Mr. Bernard Healy of the Pontifical Irish College visited me today. He was interested in seeing the Chapel of the Madonna di Bon Aiuto. We strolled in the rain–washed monastery garden, enjoying the white roses that are blossoming in profusion, as you can see in the photo above.

May Devotions in the Chapel of Bon Aiuto

The postulants and novices returned with me for the second day of May to pray the holy rosary in the chapel of the Madonna di Bon Aiuto. The Rosary is a deceptively simple prayer. The power of the Rosary is completely disproportionate to the effort required to pray it well. The secret is to begin saying it and to persevere in saying it whether one feels consolation or not. The Rosary is powerful because, almost imperceptibly, it changes the heart of the one who prays it, liberates from sin, and heals wounds resistant to every other treatment.

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Why the Devil Hates the Rosary

The devil, of course, hates the Rosary, precisely because it changes hearts, detaches from sin, attaches to the all–pure Mother of God, and leads to conversion. One of the ploys he uses to deter people from praying it is to suggest that unless one can pray it well, i.e. perfectly, one shouldn't pray it at all. I would suggest, rather, that the Rosary, even prayed badly, is better than no Rosary at all. The Rosary, exactly like the Jesus Prayer, opens the heart to seeds of contemplation that, in the end, become the fruits of the Holy Spirit: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity.


The Rosary in Bits and Pieces

One should use every opportunity to pray the Rosary, even when can do so only in bits and pieces. The Holy Mother of God knows well how to sort out the bits and pIeces offered by her children. Those who persevere in the humble recitation of the Rosary are able to say, quoting the psalmist, that it "revives the soul, gives wisdom to the simple, rejoices the heart, and gives light to the eyes" (Ps 18:7–8).

Rosary With the Holy Father

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Tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI will lead university students and young people from all over Europe in praying the Holy Rosary in the Paul VI Hall of the Vatican. Santa Croce in Gerusalemme will be sending a delegation of postulants, novices, and simply professed monks.

There is great love for the Holy Rosary here. It is not uncommon to see young people praying their beads. I am inclined to attribute it to the example and influence of Pope John Paul II, but also to the enduring spiritual legacy of Blessed Bartolo Longo and the strong popular devotion to the Madonna of the Rosary of Pompei.

Carlo Carretto on the Rosary

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Patrick sent this text of Carlo Carretto as a comment. It merits being shared here.

"It was in the desert that I came to realize that those who debate the rosary have not understood the soul of this prayer. The rosary is a point of arrival, not of departure.

Normally it is a prayer of spiritual maturity. If a young man doesn't like saying the rosary, and says he gets bored, don't force him. Reading a text from scripture is best for him, or some intellectual kind of prayer. But if you meet a child in the remote countryside, or a peaceful old man or a simple old woman who tells you they love the rosary without knowing why, REJOICE and be glad, because the Holy Spirit prays in their hearts.

The rosary is an incomprehensible prayer for the 'common sense' person, just as it is incomprehensible to repeat "I love you" a thousand times to a God one canot see. But for the pure in heart it is understandable; the person rooted in the Kingdom and living the Beatitudes understands the rosary."

The Fruits of the Rosary

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Tomorrow is the last day of this month of the Holy Rosary. What are the fruits of the Rosary in the life of one who perseveres in praying it? They are, I think, among others, the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit enumerated in the Catechism: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self–control, and chastity.

The Rosary is a sure means of abiding in communion of mind and heart with the Blessed Virgin Mary. Where the Holy Mother of God is, there too is the Holy Spirit. One who, praying the Rosary, over and over again repeats Ave, Maria is, by the repetition of that greeting, imploring the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit.

It pleases the Holy Spirit to fashion the saints through the Blessed Virgin. Mary is the minister, the dispensatrix, the mediatrix of the Holy Spirit's gifts. It is a matter of record that where Mary is absent, there is nought but sterility and hardness of heart. Where Mary is present, on the other hand, there is spiritual fecundity and compunction. Where Mary is present, there the Holy Spirit is mysteriously and prodigiously active.

If you would open the door of your heart to Mary, pray her Rosary. She will enter in and with her will enter the Holy Spirit. "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! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?'" (Lk 1:41–43).

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The Aves of the Rosary are a stream of living water that irrigate and purify the heart. One who perseveres in the prayer of the Rosary will begin to experience, through the intercession of the all–pure Mother of God, the beatitude pronounced by Our Lord: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Mt 5:8). The Rosary, a humble path of ceaseless prayer, is a sure means to purity of heart. It is a way of "hastening to the springs and of drawing from the wells."

Hasten to the springs, draw from the wells.
In God is the wellspring of life,
A spring that can never fail.
In his light is found a light that nothing can darken.
Desire that light which your eyes know not!
Your inward eye is preparing to see the light.
Your inward thirst burns to be quenched at the spring.

Saint Augustine, Commentary on Psalm 41:2

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When fatigue and melancholy and stress seem to leave one's soul prostrate, and when every other form of prayer seems impossible, one should pick up one's Rosary and very simply begin to tell one's beads. There is no need to produce pious ideas or reflections. It is enough to hold the beads and repeat the prayers, gently, gently recalling the mystery at the beginning of decade and leaving the rest to the Holy Spirit who "helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought" (Rm 8:26).

One who is faithful to the prayer of the Rosary knows that while the lips pronounce the names of Mary and of Jesus, over and over again, "the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words" (Rm 8:26). The Rosary is the small, low door by which little children enter into the immense prayer of the Spirit who "intercedes for the saints according to the will of God" (Rm 8:27).

I have come to love this photo of the children of Fatima holding their beads. In this, I can imitate them. Even when I am incapable of doing anything else, I can still reach for my beads and begin to say the words. The Holy Mother of God is quite content with such childlike efforts. Her response is magnificently disproportionate to this mere token of my desire to pray well.

Father Jean Lafrance wrote that one who cannot pray well can at least pray much. The Blessed Virgin's word for little Francisco, that he would have to pray "many Rosaries," continues to inspire me. One who prays "many Rosaries" is opening his soul to the all–powerful supplication of the Mother of God and to the sweet groanings of the Holy Spirit on his behalf. There is no surer or shorter way to the "adoration in spirit and in truth" (cf. Jn 4:24) that the Father desires.

A Man of Sorrows

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The Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary are a contemplation of the Face of Christ in His sufferings. "There is no beauty in Him, nor comeliness: and we have seen Him, and there was no sightliness, that we should be desirous of Him. Despised and the most abject of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with infirmity: and His countenance was as it were hidden and despised, whereupon we esteemed Him not" (Is 53:3–3).

One who prays the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary daily, or at least frequently, will grow in the spirit of compunction. Blessed Abbot Marmion says that compunction is "an habitual feeling of regret for having offended the divine goodness." He also says that, "While making us conscious of our offences, compunction gives us also a keen realization of the divine pardon. It is thus a source of peace and confidence — a source likewise of joy, humble but profound."

The Sorrow Mysteries are, in effect, a form of lectio—meditatio—oratio—and contemplatio on Isaiah's prophecy of the Passion of Christ. They are also a way of interiorizing the prayer of the suffering Christ given us in Psalms 21, 30, and 68.

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Saint Isaac Jogues was known for his long hours of quiet prayer while journeying and for the recitation of the Rosary with his companions. The Rosary is a prayer for our hours of solitude, for times of waiting, for moments of uncertainty and disquiet. In these circumstances the Rosary becomes an anchor of hope tossed into the depths of God's wisdom and providence.

The Rosary stills the tumult within and allows the soul to hear the "still, small voice" (1 K 19:12) of the Lord. "And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance to the cave" (1 K 19:13). The Rosary is an initiation into what Pope John Paul II called, "adoring silence."

We must confess that we all have need of this silence, filled with the presence of Him who is adored: in theology, so as to exploit fully its own sapiential and spiritual soul; in prayer, so that we may never forget that seeing God means coming down the mountain with a face so radiant that we are obliged to cover it with a veil (cf. Ex 34:33), and that our gatherings may make room for God's presence and avoid self–celebration; in preaching, so as not to delude ourselves that it is enough to heap word upon word to attract people to the experience of God; in commitment, so that we will refuse to be locked in a struggle without love and forgiveness. This is what man needs today; he is often unable to be silent for fear of meeting himself, of feeling the emptiness that asks itself about meaning; man who deafens himself with noise. All, believers and non - believers alike, need to learn a silence that allows the Other to speak when and how he wishes, and allows us to understand his words.

John Paul II, Orientale Lumen, art. 16

The Rosary: A Lukan Prayer

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I have always thought of the Rosary as a particularly Lukan prayer. So many of the mysteries are drawn from Saint Luke's Gospel. It is Saint Luke who gives us the Gospel of the Holy Spirit; the Gospel of the Blessed Virgin Mary; the Gospel of the liturgical canticles sung by the Church at morning, eventide, and nightfall; the Gospel of the Angels; the Gospel of mercy.

But there is more. According to tradition, Saint Luke was an iconographer. I very much like this painting of Luke painting! He seems to have just completed his image of the Virgin Mother with the Infant Christ. An Angel looks on approvingly. Could it be Saint Gabriel, the Archangel who figures so prominently in the first chapters of Saint Luke's Gospel? The Evangelist is showing us his painting and inviting us to contemplate the Mother and the Child. The Rosary is just that: a contemplation of the Face of Christ and of the Mother who presents Him to the eyes of the soul.

I was very happy to receive Steven's comment today on the Rosary and the difficulties it sometimes presents, even to folks who are well along in the ways of prayer. The Rosary grows with the one who prays it. It is like the manna in the desert that accomodated itself to the taste of each one. There are seasons in each man's life with God and one's way of praying the Rosary changes with these seasons. The Rosary is especially valuable in times of dryness; it becomes a way of inviting Mary into one's desert.

Strong Like David With His Sling

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The power of the Rosary is utterly disproportionate to its simplicity. There is no grace that cannot be obtained, no Goliath that cannot be defeated, through the humble supplication of the Rosary.

We do not hesitate to affirm again publicly that We put great confidence in the Holy Rosary for the healing of evils which afflict our times. Not with force, not with arms, not with human power, but with Divine help obtained through the means of this prayer, strong like David with his sling, the Church undaunted shall be able to confront the infernal enemy, repeating to him the words of the young shepherd: "Thou comest to me with a sword, and a spear, and with a shield; but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of armies . . . and all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear, for this is his battle, and he will deliver you into our hands" (I Kings 17, 45-47).

Pope Pius XII
Ingruentium Malorum
15 September, 1951

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The approach of the liturgical memorial of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque confirms me in my belief that the humble repetition of the Rosary very effectively softens even the most hardened heart and wears away the sinner's resistance to the love of Christ.

There are situations in which a direct break with habitual sin is—or at least seems to be—beyond the strength of the one entrenched in it. This is especially true of sins that are bound up with patterns of addictive behaviour.

At times, a soul struggling with habitual sin so focuses on the sin and on the near occasions of sin that a kind of spiritual exhaustion occurs, sending one into depression and fits of self–loathing. What is the solution?

Curious as it may seem, the solution often is to ignore the sin and to preserve a certain "contrite equanimity," even after repeated falls while, at the same time, persevering in the humble prayer of supplication that is the Rosary. One begins, after a time, to look more at the Mysteries than at one's own miseries. Almost imperceptibly, the ugliness of habitual sin recedes before the beauty of the All–Pure Mother of God.

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It is impossible to conceive of our life, of the life of the Church, without the rosary, the Marian feasts, the Marian shrines, and the images of the Madonna. Pope John Paul I

The Rosary is a way of hearing the Word of God as Mary heard it, of repeating the Word as she repeated it, of praying the Word as she prayed it, and of allowing oneself to be indwelt by the Word as she was indwelt by it.

Perseverance in the blessed monotony of the Rosary makes of all of life a kind of lectio divina: a reading of the things of God and of the signs of His presence in the humble quotidian.

One who holds the Rosary in his hand holds the key to all of life's joyful, luminous, sorrowful, and glorious mysteries.

The Rosary is a remedy for loneliness. The solitude of one who prays the Rosary is a solitude of presence, not of absence. The prayers of the Rosary are a balm spread on the heart's secret wounds; one who submits to the disarming simplicity of the treatment — the Rosary — will experience its healing effects.

Sub tuum praesidium confugimus

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We take refuge under Thy protection,
O holy Mother of God!
Despise not our supplications in our need,
but deliver us always from all dangers,
O Virgin, glorious and blessed!

Here is yet another image of the Blessed Virgin Mary saving the little boy from the clutches of the devil while his mother, gazing up at the Madonna, prays with folded hands. One who perseveres in praying the Rosary will experience just such interventions of the Blessed Virgin in his life. Mary has been known to intervene in spectacular ways to save souls from sin; more often than not her interventions are subtle and hidden, albeit no less efficacious.

Fidelity to the humble monotony of the Rosary is precisely what makes it possible for Mary to intervene when we are most in need of her. The daily Rosary creates an intimate bond between the Mother of God and the one who prays it.

The Rosary, ceaselessly repeated by day and by night, allows one to live in the presence of Mary; it gives one the right to hide beneath her protecting mantle when the devil, like a lion seeking someone to devour, seems to be crouched at the door.

Ask, and It Will Be Given You

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Cézanne's painting of an old woman humbly telling her beads illustrates the kind of prayer recommended by Our Lord in today's Gospel. "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you" (Lk 11:10). The prayer of the Rosary makes it possible to persevere in supplication. Supplication, expressed in the repetitive prayer of the little and the poor, softens the heart of the one praying and, at the same time, touches the Heart of God.

Our Lord Himself used a prayer of repetition during His agony in the garden of Gethsemane. Saint Mark says, "and again he went away and prayed, saying the same words" (Mk 14:39). It is good for us to pray using the same words over and over again. There is something about the repetition of the prayers of the Rosary that renders us capable of receiving the graces that God would give us or, at least, less recalcitrant, less resistant to the graces that render us capable of corresponding to His will.

The Rosary breaks down our resistance to the will of God. The Rosary clears the way for the "Yes" to Love that so often we are afraid to pronounce. By means of the Rosary we begin to learn to ask not for the many things we crave, or fancy, or may think we need, but for the One Thing Necessary, the Gift of the Holy Spirit.

The prayer of supplication that is the Holy Rosary becomes, almost imperceptibly, a ceaseless prayer, an uninterrupted prayer of the heart. The Rosary is, I think, for the West, what the Jesus Prayer is for the East. In the Rosary the same Holy Name of Jesus is repeated over and over again together with the Holy Name of Mary. The repetition of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary graces the prayer of the Rosary with an unmistakable sweetness and unction. Even when this sweetness is not felt, it is present, purifying the heart of the vestiges of bitterness left by sin.

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October 11th is the liturgical memorial of Blessed John XXIII, Pope. Less than one year after his election, in his Encyclical Grata Recordatio, he recalled the impression made on him in his youth by the annual Rosary Encyclicals of Leo XIII He urged the Catholic faithful to recite the Rosary during the month of October and, with a wonderful candour, avowed that he prayed the Rosary each day in its entirety.

"Among the pleasant recollections of Our younger days are the Encyclicals which Pope Leo XIII used to write to the whole Catholic world as the month of October drew near, in order to urge the faithful to devout recitation of Mary's rosary during that month in particular.

These Encyclicals had varied contents, but they were all very wise, vibrant with fresh inspiration, and directly relevant to the practice of the Christian life. In strong and persuasive terms they exhorted Catholics to pray to God in a spirit of faith through the intercession of Mary, His Virgin Mother, by reciting the holy rosary. For the rosary is a very commendable form of prayer and meditation. In saying it we weave a mystic garland of Ave Maria's, Pater Noster's, and Gloria Patri's. And as we recite these vocal prayers, we meditate upon the principal mysteries of our religion; the Incarnation of Jesus Christ and the Redemption of the human race are proposed, one event after another, for our consideration.

These pleasant memories of Our younger days have not faded or vanished as the years of Our life have passed. On the contrary, We want to declare in complete frankness and simplicity that the years have made Mary's rosary all the dearer to Us. We never fail to recite it each day in its entirety and We intend to recite it with particular devotion during the coming month."

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When the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared at Fatima in 1917 she said that little Francisco, then nine years old, would go to heaven but that first he would have to pray many Rosaries. After that the little boy was often seen praying the Rosary intently. What intrigues me is Our Lady's insistence on — I almost hesitate to say it — quantity! Many Rosaries!

There is something to be said for persevering in praying decade after decade, and Rosary after Rosary. When one cannot pray well, one should at least pray much. "And he told them a parable, to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart" (Lk 18:1). One who prays Rosary after Rosary is, in effect, offering God the raw material of prayer, trusting that He, in His own time, will set it ablaze with the fire of the Holy Spirit.

One who prays "many Rosaries" presents to God a touching sign of the burning desire to be made worthy of the inestimable grace of ceaseless prayer. At times, the best one can do is to pray much, asking the Mother of God, all–powerful in her supplication, to obtain that the sheer materiality of one's prayers may be changed by the Holy Spirit into the "adoration in spirit and in truth" (Jn 4:24) that the Father seeks.

Blessed John XXIII prayed all fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary daily. So too did the Servant of God, Father Marie–Joseph Lagrange, O.P., distinguished exegete and founder of the École Biblique of Jerusalem. Saint Pio of Pietrelcina prayed the Rosary ceaselessly, as did Saint Gaetano Catanoso, the humble Apostle of the Holy Face. The entire life of Pope John Paul II was imbued with the Holy Rosary.

The saints demolish our alibis: "I have no time; I am too busy." Are you then busier than John XXIII, Padre Pio, or John Paul II? There is a proven wisdom in beginning the first Rosary of the day before rising in the morning. That first waking rosary sets the tone for the rest of the day. The Rosary, prayed in free moments throughout the day and again at the day's end, becomes, almost imperceptibly, a form of ceaseless prayer.

One who "prays many Rosaries," as did Blessed Francisco of Fatima, will come quickly to live in Mary and with Mary. Mary will become for that soul, as Gerard Manley Hopkins says, "like the air we breathe." And where Mary is, the Holy Spirit descends mightily to heal, to deliver from sin, to glorify Christ, and to hide us with Christ and with His Mother in the bosom of the Father.

The Rosary in the Desert

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Mary, bearing Jesus in her arms, visits those who ceaselessly pray her Rosary, her Psalter.

When the Mother and Child enter a place, darkness is put to flight, loneliness becomes communion, fear gives way to confidence, and hope triumphs over despair.

To His All–Pure Mother has Jesus entrusted the mission of sweetening the bitter waters of loneliness.

"As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you" (Is 66:13).

One who prays the Rosary faithfully is, in some way, scanning the horizon for the arrival of the Mother of God, already certain of her visitation. "Who is this coming up from the desert, leaning on her beloved?" (Ct 8:5).

"Till the day break, and the shadows retire, I will go to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense. Thou art all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee. Come from Libanus, my spouse, come from Libanus, come; thou shalt be crowned" (Ct 4:6–8).

What is this crown if not the Rosary (la corona del Rosario) woven for the Mother of God by her servants while they keep vigil? "Blessed are they that keep vigil , day by day at my threshold, watching till I open my doors. The man who wins me wins life, drinks deep of Lord's favour" (Pr 8:34–35).

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This is my 100th posting on Vultus Christi! At the beginning of October I promised to post something on the Holy Rosary each day until the end of the month. On this liturgical memorial of Blessed Bartolo Longo I can think of nothing more suitable than the conclusion of his own magnificent Supplication to Our Lady. Pope John Paul II used this very text at the end of Rosarium Virginis Mariae.

The image of Our Lady of the Rosary is the painting that Blessed Bartolo Longo obtained in Naples for the people of Pompei on November 13, 1875.

“O Blessed Rosary of Mary, sweet chain which unites us to God, bond of love which unites us to the angels, tower of salvation against the assaults of Hell, safe port in our universal shipwreck, we will never abandon you. You will be our comfort in the hour of death: yours our final kiss as life ebbs away. And the last word from our lips will be your sweet name, O Queen of the Rosary of Pompei, O dearest Mother, O Refuge of Sinners, O Sovereign Consoler of the Afflicted. May you be everywhere blessed, today and always, on earth and in heaven”.

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October 5th is the liturgical memorial of Blessed Bartolo Longo, founder of the Sanctuary of the Madonna of the Rosary of Pompei. Pope John Paul II beatified the Italian layman in 1980, calling him the man of the Madonna. On October 7, 2003, Pope John Paul went in pilgrimage to Pompei. There he recited the Rosary and prayed Blessed Longo's touching "supplication" to the Madonna of the Rosary. The pilgrimage to Pompeii marked the close of Pope John Paul II's Year of the Rosary.

"What actually is the Rosary? A compendium of the Gospel. It brings us back again and again to the most important scenes of Christ's life, almost as if to let us "breathe" his mystery. The Rosary is the privileged path to contemplation. It is, so to speak, Mary's way. Is there anyone who knows and loves Christ better than she?

Bl. Bartolo Longo, Apostle of the Rosary, was convinced of this; he paid special attention to the contemplative and Christological character of the Rosary. Thanks to this Blessed, Pompei has become an international centre for the spirituality of the Rosary.

I wanted my pilgrimage to have the meaning of a plea for peace. We have meditated upon the Mysteries of Light as if to turn the beam of Christ's light on the conflicts, tensions and dramas of the five Continents. In my Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, I explained why the Rosary is a prayer that by its very nature is oriented to peace. This is not only because it disposes us to pray for peace, strengthened by the intercession of Mary, but also because it enables us to assimilate Jesus' plan of peace, together with his mystery.

At the same time, with the tranquil rhythm of the repetition of the Hail Mary the Rosary calms our spirit and opens it to saving grace. Bl. Bartolo Longo had a prophetic intuition when he chose to add to the church dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary this facade as a monument to peace. So it was that the cause of peace came to be part of what the Rosary itself proposes. It is an intuition whose timeliness does not escape us at the beginning of this millennium, already so battered by the winds of war and streaked with blood in so many parts of the world."

Pope John Paul II
October 7, 2003

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The Rosary of the Virgin Mary, which gradually took form in the second millennium under the guidance of the Spirit of God, is a prayer loved by countless Saints and encouraged by the Magisterium. Simple yet profound, it still remains, at the dawn of this third millennium, a prayer of great significance, destined to bring forth a harvest of holiness. It blends easily into the spiritual journey of the Christian life, which, after two thousand years, has lost none of the freshness of its beginnings and feels drawn by the Spirit of God to “set out into the deep” (Duc in altum!) in order once more to proclaim, and even cry out, before the world that Jesus Christ is Lord and Saviour, “the way, and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6), “the goal of human history and the point on which the desires of history and civilization turn”.(1)

The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer. In the sobriety of its elements, it has all the depth of the Gospel message in its entirety, of which it can be said to be a compendium. It is an echo of the prayer of Mary, her perennial Magnificat for the work of the redemptive Incarnation which began in her virginal womb. With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love. Through the Rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer.

Pope John Paul II
Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, October 2002

Beads that Bind to Mary

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These are the rosary beads I use. Note the beautiful cross depicting the Face of Christ. My wonderful friends over at the Rosary Workshop made this rosary for me. They understand that beauty and careful craftsmanship serve to lift the heart and mind to God. Do visit their site. It will delight your eyes and nourish your soul.

At the recitation of the Angelus today, Pope Benedict XVI said:

The seventh of the month, next Saturday, we will celebrate the feast of the Blessed Virgin of the Rosary, and it is as if, each year, the Madonna invites us to rediscover the beauty of this prayer, so simple and so deep. The beloved John Paul II was a great apostle of the Rosary: we remember him on his knees with the rosary beads in his hands, immersed in the contemplation of Christ, just as he himself invited us to do with the Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae. The Rosary is a contemplative and Christocentric prayer, inseparable from the meditation of Sacred Scripture. It is the prayer of the christian who advances in the pilgrimage of faith, following Jesus, and preceded by Mary. I want to invite you, dear brothers and sisters, to recite the Rosary during this month in families, in community and in parishes for the intentions of the Pope, for the mission of the Church, and for peace in the world.

Cum Maria contemplemur Christi vultum!

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I intend to post something on the Rosary each day during this month of October. To begin the month, I want to share an excerpt from Pope John Paul II's Message for the World Day of Missions in 2003. He presented the whole mission of the Church in relation to the Holy Face of Christ, and the Rosary as a contemplation of the Face of Christ with Mary.

A more contemplative Church: the face of Christ contemplated

3. Cum Maria contemplemur Christi vultum! These words often come to mind: contemplate the "face" of Christ with Mary. When we speak of the "face" of Christ, we refer to his human likeness in which the eternal glory of the Father's only Son shines out (cf. Jn 1,14): "The glory of the Godhead shines forth from the face of Christ" (Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 21). Contemplating the face of Christ leads to a deeper, interior familiarity with his mystery. Contemplating Jesus with the eyes of faith impels one to penetrate the mystery of the Trinitarian God. Jesus says:"He who has seen me has seen the Father" (Jn 14,9). With the Rosary we advance on this mystical journey "in union with, and at the school of, his Most Holy Mother" (Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 3). Indeed, Mary makes herself our teacher and our guide. Under the action of the Holy Spirit, she helps us acquire that "serene boldness" which enables believers to pass on to others their experience of Jesus and the hope that motivates them (cf. Redemptoris missio, n. 24).

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The Rosary of the Seven Dolours of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a way of rememorating certain events in the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Compassion of His Virgin Mother. The fruits of this particular prayer are compunction of heart, detachment from the occasions of sin, chastity, humility, reparation, compassion, intimacy with the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, and desire to contemplate the Face of Christ.

The power of this prayer — something that many have experienced — comes from allowing one's own heart to be irrigated and purified by the tears of the Mother of God. The tears of the Sorrowful Mother bring purity and healing wherever they fall.

It is significant, I think, that the first three of Our Lady’s Sorrows were shared with Saint Joseph and the last four with Saint John, the Beloved Disciple of Jesus. Saint Joseph and Saint John, the two men chosen by God to live in the intimacy of the Virgin Mother, were also chosen by God to enter into the mystery of her sorrows.

Here is one method of saying the Rosary of the Seven Dolours:

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For some years now, especially around the Marian feasts of September 8th, November 21st, and December 8th, I have prayed my rosary while dwelling on five mysteries of the first part of Our Lady's life. These five mysteries of the Blessed Virgin are:

— the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the womb of her mother, Saint Anne;
— the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary;
— the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple;
— the Betrothal of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Saint Joseph;
— the Annunciation of the Lord to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

There is a particular sweetness in dwelling on these mysteries of Maria Bambina, the Infant Mary, the Child Mary. They distill graces of purity, of childlike simplicity, and of littleness.
All five mysteries are commemorated in the Sacred Liturgy. The liturgical books are rich in texts to nourish the meditation of each one. It is enough to take an antiphon, a verse, a single phrase, and to hold it in the heart while telling one's beads.
The Rosary corresponds to the meditatio and the oratio of monastic prayer; it begins necessarily in lectio divina, the hearing of the Word and then, gently, almost imperceptibly, draws the soul into contemplatio.
The Rosary is, I am convinced, the surest and easiest school of contemplative prayer. The Rosary decapitates pride, the single greatest obstacle to union with God. The repetition of the Aves, like a stream of pure water, cleanses the heart.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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