About praying the Rosary
It is prayed by the Holy Father and the ordinary believer. Masses of pilgrims as well as a monk pacing around the cloisters of a monastery pray on it. They have been made of precious stones and rolled pieces of prison bread. Both the seasoned theologian and every other believer finds theological depth and simplicity it. Sometimes it is worn with religious habits, others a as a ring on the finger.
In one of his homilies, Cardinal Joachim Meissner gives the following testimony of his love for the rosary: ”When I die one day, the canons of the cathedral in Cologne will take my bishop’s ring off my finger, take my shepherd’s crozier and remove the bishop’s cross. They will put this all back in the cathedral treasury. But in my will it says: “I want to take my rosary to my coffin because it is a pledge of my faith, my hope and my love. I want to show it to Our Lady, so that, after the misery of this life, she will lead me to Jesus, the blessed fruit of her womb.” Johann Tserclaes Tilly, a steadfast 17th-century Christian said: “With a rosary in hand, looking at the cross with a last look, I would like to end my life; Mother, help me to be so fortunate.”
A rich history
The rosary is both a method of prayer and a “tool” used for prayer – a string of divided beads, on which the prayers expressed are counted. This form of the rosary that we know today was not suddenly invented, but was shaped over the centuries, going through various stages. From the beginning of Christianity, many believers took the words of St. Paul: “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17). The answer to this call, especially in the community of hermits and religious, were repetitive prayers, i.e., short, compact formulas repeated many times, which focused thoughts and lifted hearts to God. There are, for example, testimonies about the hermit Paul of Thebes (3rd century), who tried to recite the “Our Father” three hundred times every day. To count prayers, he used three hundred pebbles, which he placed on his lap and gradually dropped them off. From the 6th century on, a string with beads was already used for such counting. The oldest known testimony comes from the 9th century, indicating that one such repetitive formulas was the angelic greeting, “Hail Mary”, taken from the Gospel. This prayer greatly developed in the Middle Ages, which was marked by an extraordinary devotion to the Mother of God. It was then that the custom of saying the “Ave” 150 times appeared, which was inspired by the psalter, which consists of 150 psalms. That is why it was referred to as “the psalter of Mary”.
From about the 12th century, the custom of interweaving the “Hail Mary” prayer with the “Our Father” is known. Also in the Middle Ages, during one of the great plague epidemics, a second part was added to the angel’s greeting: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.” Giving this prayer the name “rosary” is not easy to explain, although it is known for sure that the rose has been a symbol of the Mother of God for a long time. Perhaps it was influenced by the medieval flower wreath, which in some languages was called a “rosary”. In the 15th century, the recitation of the rosary was combined with meditation on the lives of Jesus and Mary. Fifteen important moments from their lives have been identified and linked to decades of “Hail Marys”. The Mysteries are divided into three parts: joyful, sorrowful and glorious. Thus, over the centuries, the form of the rosary as we know it was shaped. For a long time, the creation of the rosary was associated with the figure of St. Dominic, who was to “receive” it from the Mother of God herself during the apparition. It can be seen, however, that the rosary was created over centuries and it is impossible to attribute its creation to one man. Undoubtedly, St. Dominic and his brothers, who travelled the world as itinerant preachers, greatly contributed to the spread of this prayer. In 1569, Pope Pius V, a Dominican, gave the rosary its present form with a special document. For centuries, Dominicans had the exclusive right to found rosary confraternities and to this day they are very closely associated with the rosary.
A Two-Layer Prayer
The specific technique of prayer, which consists in repeating prayers, prepares the heart and mind to ponder the most important events in the life of Christ and His Mother, which are also the history of our salvation. The rhythm and melody of the words in the rosary constantly maintain the relationship with God, allowing us to meditate on the mysteries in a focussed way, arouse the desire for deeper faith and open the person to God’s grace. There are fifteen of these events, called mysteries, which we consider in the rosary. Each of them corresponds to ten rosaries, that is, one “Our Father”, 10 “Hail Mary” and one “Glory be to the Father”. The three parts of the rosary are therefore a summary of the Christian message, as they speak of incarnation, redemption and glorification. The Joyful Mysteries: Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Visitation of St. Elizabeth, the Nativity of Jesus in Bethlehem, the Presentation of Jesus and the Finding of the 12-year-old Jesus teaching in the Temple in Jerusalem help to gradually fathom the truth that the Son of God became “God with us”, that He lived in a human community, becoming the brother of every human being. The sorrowful mysteries reveal the fullness of God’s love, which is stronger than all the power of evil, than fear, contempt and hatred. The Prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, The Scourging, The Crowning with Thorns, The Carrying of the Cross and His Death on the Cross – remembering these mysteries in prayer, a person may realize how much he has been redeemed from sin. God wants all people to be saved and to be able, together with Mary and all the saints, to enjoy eternal life in heaven. We contemplate this divine plan, already completed for Mary, in the Glorious Mysteries. The Resurrection of Jesus, the Ascension, Pentecost, the Assumption of the Mother of God, the Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth are the announcements of our glory.
The Pope on the rosary
When I found myself in Krakow in Dębniki, I entered the circle of the “Living Rosary” in a Salesian parish, which was associated with a special devotion to Mary, Help of Christians. In Dębniki, during the time when my priestly vocation was crystallizing, and also under the influence of Jan Tyranowski, my understanding of devotion to the Mother of God underwent a development. While in the past I was convinced that Mary was leading us to Christ, it was during this time that I began to understand that Christ also leads us to His Mother. There was a moment when I even, to some extent, questioned my Marian devotion, believing that it had an exaggerated priority over devotion to Christ Himself. I must admit that the book of St. Louis Maria Grignion de Montfort came to my assistance, having the title: “Treatise on true devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary”.
In this booklet I found a ready answer to my questions. Yes, Mary brings us closer to Christ, she leads us to Him, but on the condition that we undergo her mystery in Christ. St. Louis Maria Grignion de Montfort may offend with its exaggerated and baroque style, but the very core of theological truths contained in this treatise is priceless. The author is a great theologian. His Mariological thought is rooted in the Trinitarian mystery and in the truth about the Incarnation of the Word of God.
Then I understood why the Church says the “Angelus” three times a day, I also understood how crucial the words of this prayer are: “The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary and conceived by the Holy Spirit … be it done according to thy word … the Word became flesh and dwelt among us …”. Keywords indeed! They express the essential content of the greatest event in human history.
This explains the origin of that Totus Tuus. It originates from St. Louis Maria Grignion de Montfort.
Saint John Paul II, Gift and Mystery