The month of September has come and gone like a bolt of lightning for me, that is, it has been a bright month of many powerful experiences but seemingly momentary, so that we find ourselves at the beginning of Mary's month, the month of the Holy Rosary, this October.
Year of the Rosary draws to conclusion
During this month, the Year of the Rosary celebrated by the universal Church will draw to conclusion as we celebrate the 25th anniversary as Bishop of Rome of our Holy Father.
Regrettably, my arrival here in late summer did not present me with much opportunity to observe with you this wonderful Year of the Rosary. But as it draws to an end, let us reflect together on two aspects of the rosary as I encourage you to join me in making it part of your daily prayer, or at least in celebrating together a family rosary, where possible, once a week.
Rosary is Scriptural prayer
The rosary is in the first place a thoroughly Scriptural prayer. The very words of the "Hail Mary," repeated over and over again, are taken for the most part, word for word, from the Gospel according to Luke.
We find the repetition of the words uttered by the angel to Our Lady: "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you," with the addition of the words of Mary's cousin Elizabeth, "blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb." The Scriptural word itself is power which brings salvation to believers, and so the repetition of these words is in itself a very powerful release of the power of the Scriptural word.
As we repeat these words from Luke's Gospel, we are called to meditate upon the Joyful Mysteries in the life of Christ, that is, the mysteries of His young hidden life, or the mysteries of Holy Week; of His suffering and death, that is, the Sorrowful Mysteries; or the mysteries associated with His Resurrection, or the Glorious Mysteries; and then the new Luminous Mysteries, introduced by our Holy Father at the beginning of the observance of this Year of the Rosary.
The Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries do not take account of the public life of Christ between the time when he was found in the temple at the age of 12 and the events of His suffering, death, and resurrection at the very end of His life on earth. And so Pope John Paul II was inspired to fill in this gap with the five Luminous Mysteries pinpointing major moments in the public life of Christ: the Baptism of Jesus, the Wedding Feast of Cana, the Proclamation of the Kingdom, the Transfiguration, and the Institution of the Eucharist. But as we repeat the Scriptural words and ponder these mysteries in the life of Christ, it is clear that we are focused on the Gospel revelations of the life of Christ.
To pray the rosary is always to pray about the Scriptural word, even as we repeat those very words from the Gospel of Luke. Along with the intercession of Our Lady, which is extremely powerful as we know, the power of Christ, Himself, unleashed by the Gospel word is also present as the rosary is devoutly prayed.
Prayer about Christ and His life
Secondly, it should be clear from what has been said above, that the rosary, as it seeks Mary's intercession "now and at the hour of our death," over and over again, is not a prayer about Mary. It is a prayer about Christ and the mysteries of His life.
Insofar as we turn to Mary in this beautiful prayer, her words to us are always those which she spoke at Cana, her last recorded words in Scripture: "Do whatever He tells you." Mary never seeks to absorb our attention herself. As the perfect disciple of Christ she points us to Him as her own and our only Savior. The devout praying of the rosary brings us intensely close to Jesus the Lord through the eyes of His beloved mother who knew Him best of all.
It should also be said that as He drew near to death on the cross, Jesus considered our devotion to His mother so important that He explicitly gave us the wonderful gift of this devotion when He said to the disciple whom He loved, "there is your mother."
Someone who is close to death doesn't waste words; he or she saves those words for matters terribly important. How important it was for Jesus to give us the gift of His mother to be our own, and how important it is for us to take her into our heart in imitation of the disciple whom Jesus loved.
Reminder of Mary's holiness
Lastly, devout recitation of the rosary can be a very fruitful reminder of the wonderful genius of women - that is the witness to holiness. The greatest Christian, the first among all believers, the perfect disciple, as I say so often, was not any pope, bishop, priest, or anyone else but Mary, the woman, the new Eve, the new mother of all the living.
In the end, when we face up to the Lord in judgment, nothing counts except holiness, and only Mary, conceived without sin, is perfect in holiness so that her essential free maternal cooperation in our redemption could be lived out.
I dare say there is no other religion whose belief so exalts and appreciates the gifts of being woman as does our own, as we venerate this exemplar of holiness, our Blessed Mother. Forgetfulness of her can result in decreased appreciation for the gifts and genius of women, which where it happens, is all too regrettable.
Daily recitation of the rosary
And so with great joy, and without the least hesitation, as we draw near to the end of the Year of the Rosary, I invite you once again to take up the devout praying of the rosary as part of your daily life.
It is possible easily to spread it out through the course of the day taking one decade at a time. It is possible to pray the rosary while we sit stuck in traffic, when that happens, rather than be tempted to road rage. It is the wonderful gift that can bring the whole family together for some brief but wonderful moments of faith in Jesus through Mary.
If you haven't done much to celebrate the Year of the Rosary up to now, it is by no means too late. A wonderful observance would be to incorporate the rosary into your personal pattern of prayer before the Year of the Rosary ends in mid October.
Thank you for reading this. God love you. Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us! Praised be Jesus Christ!