Rosary: October 2006 Archives

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).

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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