The Rosary: A Prayer for All Times
The Indispensible Prayer for Our Times
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
Our title for this conference is, The Rosary: A Prayer for All Times. I would
like to add a subtitle, so that the full title will read: The Rosary: A Prayer
for All Times - The Indispensable Prayer for Our Times."
There are so many wonderful things we can say about the Rosary that I thought
we should focus on what I sincerely believe. The Rosary is necessary in order
to obtain from God the miraculous graces that the world so desperately needs
in our day.
The moment we say the modern world needs miraculous
graces we imply that these graces are indeed to be obtained from God; but they
must come through the intercession of the Mother of God.
Here is the logic I wish to follow in speaking to you. It comes in a series
of five questions:
- Why was the Feast of the Holy Rosary instituted?
- Why is it so important to stress Mary's Divine Maternity in our day?
- How is Mary the Mother of Divine Grace?
- How is Mary the Mother of Miracles?
- How is the Rosary such an effective form of the apostolate?
Origin of The Feast of The Holy Rosary
The Feast of the Holy Rosary
was instituted by the Dominican
Pope St. Pius V. As a member
of the Order of Preachers,
he had inherited a great devotion to the Holy Rosary from St. Dominic. He knew
that it was devotion to the Rosary that saved the Church in Western Europe in
the thirteenth century from the plague of Albigensianism. This was the heresy
that claimed a good god created a world of the spirit, and an evil god the material
world, including the human body, which is under the control of the wicked deity.
Albigensianism was overcome, in large measure, by the preaching of the Dominicans
and their promotion of the Rosary.
St. Pius V saw that the Muslims were bent on taking
over the Western world. So he urged the faithful to beg Our Lady of the Rosary
to spare Christian Europe from being overtaken by Islam.
In 1571, the Christian forces won the historic battle
against the overwhelming Muslim navies. The Holy Father saw this as a miraculous
intervention by the Blessed Virgin. He therefore instituted the Feast of the
Most Holy Rosary.
In order to appreciate the significance of the Battle
of Lepanto, we must realize why the Muslims wanted to take over Europe.
They saw Europe as a stronghold of Christianity.
They saw Europe as a stronghold of idolatry. They saw Europe as an enemy that
must be conquered as the will of Allah. They saw Europe as an enemy, which their
sacred Koran told them to either convert from its idolatry or destroy. They
saw Europe as a grand opportunity to convert people to Islam and therefore away
from the idolatry of Christianity.
Why did (and do) Muslims think that Christians were
(and are) idolaters? Because Christians believe that Mary is not only the Mother
of Jesus, but the Mother of God. Muslims do not believe that the Son of Mary
is the Son of God. Because, in Islam, Isa (Jesus) is the Ibn Mariam
(Son of Mary) but is not the Ibn Allah (Son of God).
It was the Christians' faith in Mary as the Mother
of God, expressed by their ardent recitation of the Rosary, which saved Christian
Europe from being taken over by the non-Christian Muslims.
Why Stress Mary's Divine Maternity Today?
There is an urgent reason for stressing the Divine
Maternity of Our Lady today. It is a widespread undermining of this cardinal
truth of our faith in nominally Catholic circles of the twentieth century. The
movie The Last Temptation was a blasphemous portrayal of Christ as a sinner.
This movie was warmly endorsed and had not a few Catholic supporters, including
a professedly Catholic scripture scholar whom I had as a teacher.
On a wider scale, the teaching of sex education in
many Catholic schools today presents Christ, in so many words, as a human person,
who had the same fallen human nature as our own.
It is therefore imperative that, in today's confused
world, we emphasize, underline, underscore, focus on, stress, concentrate on
Mary as the Mother of God. I do not hesitate saying that recitation of the Rosary
is an outstanding sign of our profession of faith in Our Lady's Divine Motherhood.
Remember, too, why we Catholics have two parts to
what we now call the Hail Mary.
The second part is really the Holy Mary, which was officially added to the
Hail Mary by the Church. Why? Precisely in order to profess our Catholic Faith
in Mary as the Mother of God, which was being undermined by the founders of
Protestantism in the sixteenth century.
Mother Of Divine Grace
We are so accustomed to addressing Our Lady as Mother
of Divine Grace that we are liable not to realize how literally Mary is the
Mother of God's Grace.
The Blessed Virgin is the Mother of Divine Grace
because she is the Mother of God, who is the Author of grace. Except for Jesus
Christ, the Son of Mary, the grace that was lost by the fall of Adam and Eve
would not have been restored to the human race. Our Lady's fiat mihi
(be it done to me) at the Annunciation began the restoration of God's grace
to the human family.
The moment Our Lady conceived her Divine Son in her
womb, we may say, was the beginning of the Holy Eucharist. We now have the Body
and Blood of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament only because Christ's Mother gave
Him the Flesh and Blood that He offers on the altar at Mass, that we receive
at Holy Communion, that we adore in the Blessed Sacrament. In the words of St.
Augustine, The Flesh of Jesus is the flesh of Mary. Since the Holy Eucharist
is our principal source of grace here on earth, we must thank Our Lady for making
the Eucharist possible.
We are asking, How is Mary the Mother of Divine Grace? She intercedes for
us to obtain the graces that we need. Her powerful intercession is proportionate
to her holiness, and there is no human person more holy than Mary.
But all this grace, made available through the Mother of God, depends on our
invoking her aid. That is why the Rosary is such a powerful channel of grace
to those who recite it with faith in the Divinity of Mary's Son. Fifty-three
times in every (five decade) Rosary we ask her, Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray
for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. We invoke Our Lady so that
she may intercede for us. Her power of intercession, the Saints do not hesitate
to say, partakes of infinity.
Mother of Miracles
It was through Mary's intercession that Christ worked
His first miracle at Cana. As you recall, Jesus told His Mother that His time
for working miracles had not yet come. But no matter, His Mother asked Him,
and she was so sure He would grant her request, that she simply told the servants
to, Do whatever He tells you to. They obeyed when Jesus told them to fill
the huge jars with water. And as the poet tells us, the water recognized its
Maker and blushed. It was because the Mother of the Maker of heaven and earth
had asked her Son to work the miracle. She interceded and He exercised His omnipotence.
Over the centuries, most of the Church's shrines
where miracles have been performed, have been shrines of Our Lady.
The logic behind this phenomenon is clear. No one
is closer to Jesus Christ than His Mother. No one has more influence with Christ
than His Mother. Christ wants us, He tells us to expect miracles.
But these miracles will be worked only if we believe. Believe in what? Believe
that Jesus Christ is God. Believe in what? Believe that Mary is the Mother of
As we read in the Gospels, Christ is said to have
been unable to work miracles in certain parts of Palestine. This is an incredible
statement. The Almighty could not exercise His omnipotence!
Why not? He was, by His own choice, restrained from
exercising His Divine power over the world He created because some people did
not believe in His Divinity.
What a lesson to all of us. Our Lord promised that
His followers would work miracles in His Name. But He made this promise conditional.
The condition was that those who call themselves Christians believe, and He
meant believe, that He, the Jesus of Nazareth who was the Son of Mary, was the
Creator of heaven and earth and therefore the Son of the living God.
The Apostolate of The Rosary
What do we mean by the apostolate? The apostolate
is the work of an apostle, not only of the first followers of Christ but of
all the faithful who carry on the original mission entrusted by the Savior to
make disciples of all nations. A good description of the apostolate is to
be a channel of grace to others.
So we ask, How is the Rosary a channel of grace?
By now we have the testimony of at least forty Popes who over the centuries
have recommended, even urged, the people to propagate the recitation of the
Rosary as a powerful channel of grace to the world. Our Baptism and Confirmation
give us both the right and the duty to engage in what we are calling the apostolate
of the Rosary.
Conversion of Sinners. Ours is an age of massive
apostasy. Whole nations once Christian have abandoned, not only their union
with the Vicar of Christ but their faith in Christ as the Incarnate God. In
fact, not a few have abandoned even their faith in a personal God. Thus the
underlying theme of Pope John Paul's encyclical Splendor of the Truth is a
plea to return in humble obedience and acknowledge our dependence on the Lord.
Entire nations have lapsed into secularism, godless individualism, and practical
Only a flood of miraculous graces can restore Christianity
and, within Christianity sound Catholicism. How are these miracles of moral
conversion to be performed? How to obtain the graces that millions need to return
to God? The verdict of history is, through the Rosary of the Mother of God.
Among the Bishops of Rome, Pope Benedict XV
is outstanding for advocating the apostolate of the Rosary. He says that, The
Rosary is the perfect prayer. It recognizes Mary as the Mother of God who wants
nothing more than for those who have strayed from her Son to return to His embrace.
The Rosary invokes Mary as the Mediatrix of all graces, including the graces
It was not coincidental that when Our Lady appeared
to Bernadette Soubirous
at Lourdes, she was fingering the beads of the Rosary and invited Bernadette
to join her. The year was 1858, when France and other countries of Western Europe
had become victims of the anti-Christian virus of the French Revolution.
It is also not coincidental that the Basilica at Lourdes is dedicated
to Our Lady of the Rosary. The countless miracles of healing that have taken
place at Lourdes in the past century and a half are only external witnesses
to the deeper wonders of spiritual healing through the recitation of Mary's
The same is true of Our Lady's message at Fátima.
During her apparitions to the three peasant children, she told them to tell
the faithful to do penance and pray the Rosary. Otherwise the world would be
chastised for its sins. She also told the children that when we recite the Rosary,
we should add between the decades what has now become a standard practice in
the Catholic Church. We are to pray, O my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Save
us from the fires of hell, and bring all souls to heaven, especially those who
most need Your Mercy.
Sanctification of Believers. The apostolate of the
Rosary is also directed to the sanctification of the mass of believing Christians.
If there is one truth of faith taught by the Second Vatican Council
it is the fact that we are called not only to salvation, by escaping hell, but
to sanctification by our imitation of Jesus Christ.
The Rosary, we are told by the Church is an extraordinary
means of changing tepid Christians into ardent followers of Christ. Why? Because
the foundation of holiness is the practice of mental prayer, and the foundation
of mental prayer is meditation on the truths of our faith.
The fifteen mysteries* of the Rosary are the cardinal
mysteries of Christianity. Prayerful reflection on these mysteries is at once
a deepening of the faith and a profession of the faith. There is no more effective
practice in the Catholic Church for achieving this deepening and profession
of the Christian faith than the frequent recitation of the Rosary.
If we ask how the Rosary is such a potent conduit
of sanctity, the answer is that the three* sets of mysteries of the Rosary are
the expression of our three greatest needs.
We need to grow in gratitude for all the blessings
the Lord has given us through the Incarnation of His Divine Son. The Joyful
Mysteries provide us with the grounds for our deepest gratitude to the loving
We need to grow in patience to accept the trials
and sufferings, which the Lord sends us in this valley of tears. The Sorrowful
Mysteries give us the strongest motivation in the world for patiently enduring
pain. God became man so that He might endure pain out of love for us. Should
we not be willing to suffer out of love for Him?
We need hope as we see one creature after another
disappointing us here on earth. The Glorious Mysteries are the horizon on which
we can meditate and strengthen our hope of rising from the dead, of joining
Our Lord and His Mother, in body and soul, in that heavenly kingdom for which
we were made.
All of this, and infinitely more, are locked up in
the promise of Divine blessings through the prayerful recitation of the Rosary.
One final word. All that I have said was not only
an exhortation to say the Rosary. Absolutely not! I am pleading with you to
become apostles of the Rosary. Promote the Rosary. Urge the Rosary. Teach the
Rosary. Shall I say, advertise the Rosary. It is through the Rosary that we
can bring countless souls back to Christ from whom they have strayed. It is
through the Rosary that we can make them lovers of Christ through the mediation
of His Mother, the Mother of Miracles since the marriage feast at Cana even
to the dawn of eternity.
* Father Hardon wrote and gave this conference before His Holiness, John Paul II,
issued the Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis
Mariae that added five more mysteries (the Luminous Mysteries) to the Rosary.
Copyright © 2000 by Inter Mirifica