Rosary: October 2010 Archives

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:

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.

Donations for Silverstream Priory

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