…The Holy Rosary…
(from an October 2, 1977 conference)

There are certain elements in the prayer life of the saints that must be found in the prayer life of anyone who wants to lead a thoroughly good and spiritual life.  It is true that there is a unity and a harmony and simplicity about the outlook and spiritual activities of a holy person, and complications or involved systems of spirituality are not a good thing.  But we cannot reduce the spiritual life to one undifferentiated activity.

There are certain elements that must be found in any really devout life, and it is very desirable that these elements should fit together to form a united whole.  Our spiritual life should not be composed of a lot of separate bits and pieces.  We ought to acquire a simple whole outlook on our life for God and find that different elements in it do not disperse our energies but bring them all together.

What are the different elements that are to be found in the prayer aspect of a good Christian life?  Well, there will certainly be plenty of vocal prayer.  A good person will spend considerable time engaged in spoken prayer using some of the official prayers of the Church or the prayers found in Holy Scripture.  So vocal prayer is certainly one activity we must all be accustomed to.  These vocal prayers will be ones in which we speak sincerely and reverently to God the Father, to Our Lord, to the Holy Spirit, and will include prayers to Our Lady and perhaps to some of the saints.

In addition to vocal prayers, the good Christian will very frequently have in mind as he goes through life the various mysteries in the life and death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  The prayerful person will want to think lovingly about these events in the life of Jesus in order to honor them, in order to imitate them, and in order to gain the graces that God bestows on us as a result of them.  The spiritual person will also want to give glory to God and to praise Him and thank Him.  And he will want to show towards Our Blessed Lady the respect and love that Jesus Himself has for Her.  So in our spiritual life we should have vocal prayer, mental prayer (or meditation on the mysteries), and adoration, praise, thanksgiving and other expressions of our remarkable relationship with God Who is Love.

Now there exist a great variety of devotions in the Church.  Some of them are found helpful at one period in history and not at another.  Some come and go in popular esteem as the years go by.  But there is one devotion which is unique in its value and it lasting popularity.  This particular devotion is well known to all of us, and it includes all the different elements I have just mentioned in a unified exercise.  It is a pity that even greater numbers of devout people do not realize how greatly they can please God and gain holiness for themselves and blessings for others by using this most valuable gift from heaven.  I am talking about the Holy Rosary, which is in a class all on its own as far as spiritual exercises or holy devotions are concerned.

The Rosary is a devotion in which we find a great treasure of vocal prayer.  For some people it provides almost all the private vocal prayer that they need in life.  They have two great devotions.  They love the Liturgy of the Church, and they love the Rosary.  By praying both really well they become very holy and very wise and very good.  So the Rosary is a very excellent vocal prayer.

But it is not only vocal prayer, and to treat it as if it were only vocal prayer is to impoverish it so much that you might say, as Pope Paul VI did, that it is like a body without a soul.  The Rosary is also and at the same time mental prayer.  It can supply all our needs in regard to meditation on the life and death and resurrection of Our Lord.  This mental prayer may take the form of thinking about the different mysteries lovingly, or it may take the form of loving contemplation of them without much in the way of progressive considerations.

Not only, however, do we pray vocally and mentally at the same time, but we also give glory to God and honor the mysteries of Our Lord’s life and learn to imitate these mysteries.  It is a powerful prayer too when we use it as a plea for our various intentions.  To say the Rosary really well for a particular intention for which we wish to pray is a very good way indeed of winning what we ask from God.  So it is a powerful and inspiring and effective prayer.  Like all prayer, however, its value depends upon how well we make it, on how much devotion and faith we bring with us as we say our Rosary. . .

Now let us look at one or two possible ways of making this combination of vocal and mental prayer really helpful. . . The vocal prayers we are going to say are spoken to God or to Our Lady, and here and now they are of course in heaven.  So it is a good thing to lift up our souls and prepare to talk to God and Our Lady as they are in heaven in very great light.  I suggest that in thinking about the mysteries we think of them in the presence of God and Our Lady in heaven [and] try to look at the mystery through their eyes as they look at it in eternity where it is always present and real. . .

Some people do not find it helpful to see the mysteries in the light of heaven, talking to God and Mary as together they watch the mysteries in eternity.  Some people like to put themselves into the actual scene of the mystery as if it were happening now, and they talk to the Father and to Our Lady in the actual scene.  Thus in the Our Father of the Annunciation they find their fervor arising from being present as the Angel speaks to Mary.  They hear his words and know that the Father is making God the Son a man without ceasing to be God.  And they praise and thank God the Father for it.  And in the Hail Mary they feel they are actually joining with the Angel as they say his actual words and mean them.  This is another way of combining the words and the thoughts in one action.

Another way some people use is to have a desire or intention based on the mystery and to put the feeling of that desire or intention into the vocal prayer.  For instance, at the first joyful mystery they might be struck by the extraordinary humility of Jesus in becoming man and form the desire to grow in humility themselves. . .

I will mention one more [way] which some people use.  They think of the mystery for a moment and then say the Our Father very carefully and sincerely.  Then in the Hail Mary they bow their heads at the words “Blessed is the fruit of Thy womb Jesus” and add words describing His part in that mystery.  For example, “Blessed is the fruit of Thy womb Jesus, becoming incarnate” (for the Annunciation) or “Blessed is the fruit of Thy womb Jesus, sanctifying others” (for the Visitation) or “Blessed is the fruit of Thy womb Jesus, born in poverty” (for the Nativity), and so on.  This adds the idea of the mystery to the actual words of each Hail Mary and so keeps the mystery in mind.

The Rosary is a great weapon against the devil and against evil influences of all kinds.  It is a most healthy prayer and a most effective one.  If you really want the conversion of a sinner or the recovery of an invalid or any other worthwhile blessing, say the Rosary and ask for it in that way.

There is no reason why the Rosary should be said quickly.  Its very nature seems to call for it to be said slowly and thoughtfully.  There is no reason why you should not have long pauses between the separate prayers in it or even during them.  If you feel you want to speak spontaneously to the Father or Jesus or Our Lady you can do so, and why not?  Your finger on the beads makes sure that you do not lose your place, as it were.

Some people do not like calling the Rosary of devotion or exercise.  They see it as a loving conversation with the Mother of God.  That is what it should be.  It will not be a loving conversation if you are rushing to get through it, or if you are feeling impatient to come to the end.  It should be leisurely and calm.  One mystery said really well is much better than five said thoughtlessly. . . Like all prayers, we can improve our Rosary with practice, and the good intention with which we try is much more important than the success we have.  Never give up saying the Rosary, however difficult it seems at first. . . It is a prayer for good weather and bad.  It is a pledge of Mary’s care for us.

Back to list


Website Design & Maintenance by Reach For It Media, Inc.