October is known as the month of the Holy Rosary. In honor of this recognition, let’s examine some of the history of the rosary, what it is and what it is not, how to say it, and answer some common objections to its use.
The origin of the Holy Rosary is somewhat cloudy. Originally, monks recited all 150 psalms in prayer (how anyone could memorize all 150 psalms is a miracle!). This proved to be very hard for most people to do, so eventually 150 “Hail Mary’s” were said instead, interspersed with the “Our Father” between every ten Hail Mary’s. Small pebbles were used as counters. Over time, meditations on the life of Jesus and Mary were added to every five decades of the Hail Mary’s, and the pebbles were strung together.
Some say that the Virgin Mary Herself gave all of this to St. Dominic in the thirteenth Century, while others deny that assertion. But most certainly, St. Dominic, the founder of the Dominicans (the Order of Preachers), did preach the Holy Rosary, and he was very successful in overcoming the Albigensian heresy with it. After St. Dominic died, the use of the Rosary waned, but later on, Blessed Alan de la Roche, under the inspiration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, rekindled the use of the Rosary.
The Rosary was instrumental in the defeat of the Muslims at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. The Muslims had already taken Constantinople, and were looking at taking over Italy and Austria as well. Pope St. Pius V asked the Holy Roman Empire to say the Holy Rosary to help defeat the Muslims. Even though the Catholic forces were outnumbered, the Muslims were defeated at the Battle of Lepanto, and driven out of Europe. The next year, the Pope declared October 7 to be the Feast of the Holy Rosary, and this is still celebrated today in the Holy Catholic Church.
The Blessed Virgin Mary, at Fatima in 1917, told us all to say the Rosary daily, because Communism and the errors of Russia were about to spread worldwide. In an ironic twist of fate, a 1917 godless workers’ revolt in the streets of Russia (Communist Bolsheviks) was overcome with a 1989 Catholic workers’ revolt in the streets of Poland (Solidarity). The faithful in Poland said millions of rosaries during the fifty years that they were occupied by the Nazis and the Communists, and they thus helped to free the world from Russia’s errors! This fulfilled the Divine Mercy promise of Jesus to St. Faustina in the 1920’s:
“I bear a special love for Poland, and if she will be obedient to My will, I will exalt her in might and holiness. From her will come forth the spark that will prepare the world for My final coming” (Diary, 1732) ”.
The Jesuit priests in Hiroshima, Japan were living the message of Fatima during WWII. They said the rosary daily. When the US dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima, none of the eight priests there were killed, nor did they have radiation poisoning, even though they were very close to ground zero. This medical miracle cannot be explained by modern science, but it can be explained by the power of the rosary. St. Maximilian Kolbe’s Franciscan Friary in Nagasaki also survived the atomic blast there as well. An interesting fact is that Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941, in the US, but in Japan, across the international date line, it was December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. WWII officially ended on August 15, 1945 the Feast of the Assumption of Mary.
What Is the Rosary?
The rosary is nothing more than vocal prayer mixed with the meditation on the 20 mysteries of sacred scripture. These 20 mysteries are broken down into the subsets of the Joyful, the Luminous, the Sorrowful, and the Glorious mysteries. Each subset is usually said on a different day. It combines the physical movement of the beads as counters, with repetitive prayer out loud, along with silent meditative prayer. It takes some practice to get this done properly, but once it’s accomplished, the prayer of the rosary is, after the Eucharist, the most powerful force on earth.
How to Say the Rosary
You should offer up each rosary you say for somebody or something, like for your family, or to overcome a sinful addiction, or for an end to abortion, etc. The rosary prayers are simple – it starts out with the Apostles Creed on the Crucifix, then an “Our Father” on each large bead. Each small bead is a “Hail Mary.” After meditation on each mystery on each decade (ten Hail Mary’s), a “Glory Be” and the Fatima prayer is said. It all ends with the “Hail Holy Queen.” Five decades on one set of mysteries (Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, or Glorious) is usually considered one rosary. The key to saying the rosary successfully is not to concentrate on the Hail Mary’s during your meditation on the mystery. Total meditation on each mystery is the key. It helps the meditation if you put yourself into the mystery, i.e., you are standing next to Mary watching Jesus being crucified, or you are at the Last Supper watching Jesus consecrate the bread and wine. It also helps to personalize the mystery. For example, during the “Presentation of the Lord” mystery, you can ask yourself if you are ready to have Mary present you to the Lord to be admitted into Heaven. During the “Finding in the Temple” mystery, you can meditate on finding Jesus on the altar in the Tabernacle or during Adoration, and ask yourself if He is teaching you anything. During the “Crucifixion” mystery, you can think about which of your own sins helped to nail Jesus to that cross. During the “Resurrection” mystery, you can ponder Jesus asking you three times if you really love Him, like He asked Peter after he rose from the dead. The list is endless for personification of these mysteries, but it really is the key to unlocking the power of the rosary.
Answering Objections to the Rosary
- Repetitive prayer is forbidden by the Bible.
The verse in question here is from Matthew 6:7, which states the following:
“In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.”
As usual, this verse is ripped out of its context. Pagans prayed a lot to idols, repeating their names over and over again in hopes of getting something. Praying the rosary is NOT praying to idols! A verse later, we learn that Jesus is talking about petitionary prayer here:
“Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
The rosary can be used for petitions, but the main body of the rosary is meditation on the life of Jesus and Mary, and not petitionary in nature. The Hail Mary’s are only time-markers on how long to meditate on the mysteries.
“My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!”
And it is hardly “babbling” when you are repeating the words of sacred scripture, which the “Our Father” and “Hail Mary” are taken from.
- Mary’s dead and is not God. How can she possibly hear our prayers, much less answer them?
All people ever born are alive somewhere, in heaven, hell, or purgatory. God says in Luke 20:38 that “He is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” Moses and Elijah, both “dead” for some time, appeared very much alive at the Transfiguration and conversed with Jesus about His coming exodus from earth. Mary says in Luke 1:46 that “her soul magnifies the Lord.” Her soul is still alive, and still magnifying Jesus. As to how she can hear our prayers, we know from 2 Peter 1:4 that those who go to heaven become “partakers in the divine nature.” 1 Corinthians 6:17 says that those who are united to the Lord become one spirit with Him, and Mary certainly is united to the Lord. All prayers to Mary only ask her for her intercession with Jesus anyway; she is not some divine goddess acting on her own. Paul highly recommends intercessory prayer in 1 Timothy 2:1.
- But scripture says that Jesus is the one mediator between God and man, not Mary.
Hebrews 12:24 says that Jesus is “the one mediator of the new covenant,” which has nothing to do with intercessory prayer.
- Talking to dead people is forbidden by the bible.
No, it’s not. Conjuring up dead people (necromancy) to gain arcane knowledge is certainly forbidden. But saying the rosary is not conjuring up dead people. It is only asking for intercessory prayer. As a matter or fact, Jesus talked to the dead Lazarus (Lazarus, come out!), the dead little girl in Mark 5:41 (“Talitha, koum.”), and to the dead Moses and Elijah during His Transfiguration. Peter also talked to a dead little girl when he said in Acts 9:40, “Tabitha, rise up.”
Quotes on the Holy Rosary
“If you say the Rosary faithfully until death, I assure you that in spite of the gravity of your sins, you shall receive a never-fading crown of glory. Even if you are on the brink of damnation, even if you have one foot in Hell, even if you have sold your soul to the devil as sorcerers do who practice black magic, and even if you are a heretic as obstinate as a devil, sooner or later you will be converted and will amend your life and save your soul, if, and mark well what I say — if you say the Holy Rosary devoutly every day until death for the purpose of knowing the truth and obtaining contrition and pardon of your sins.”
– St. Louis de Montfort
“No one can live continually in sin and continue to say the Rosary. Either he will give up the sin or he will give up the Rosary”
– Bishop Patrick Boyle
“The Most Holy Virgin in these last times in which we live has given a new efficacy to the recitation of the Rosary to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families…that cannot be solved by the Rosary. There is no problem, I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary.”
– Sr. Lucia de los Santos of Fatima
Pope Leo XIII, a modern day Pope, wrote twelve Encyclicals on the Rosary. St. John Paul II, in his encyclical Rosarium Virginis Mariea, highly encourages us all to make the rosary a daily event. Why? Well, if the Rosary can prevent the Muslims from taking over Europe, can free the world from the errors of Russia worldwide, and can protect us from the atomic bomb, then why wouldn’t we want to say it daily for our own problems? Surely no one can be too busy to give up twenty minutes of their day to invoke the most highly effective spiritual weapon there is! On our deathbeds we will never regret having said too many rosaries. Remember, Satan is going to show up then to accuse us of our sins. But the good news for us rosary-reciters is that Mary will also show up then to tell the devil to get lost. Now is the time to obey Mary’s request at Fatima to say the Rosary daily. The benefits are literally out of this world!