October is traditionally the “month of the Rosary.” The feast of Our Lady of the Rosary falls during this month on October 7. It’s a good time to recall this ancient and beautiful devotion of the Church, which St. Pope John Paul II called “a compendium of the Gospel” because we meditate on the mysteries of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The word “rosary” means “crown of roses” – the idea that the offering of our prayers is like offering a bouquet of flowers to Our Lady.
The origins of the rosary are obscure, but most scholars believe it arose out of the monastic practice of reciting the 150 Psalms. Since most people did not have the leisure or literacy of the monks to pray the Psalms, they substituted the familiar “Hail Mary.” In fact, pious legend has the Blessed Virgin refer to the rosary as “the Angelic Psalter.” (The traditional 15 decades totals 150 Hail Mary’s corresponding to the 150 Psalms.) By the 13th Century the rosary had come to take the form by which we know it today, and was promoted especially by the Domincan Order. In 2002 St. Pope John Paul added another series of mysteries, bringing the full rosary to 20 decades.
The rosary combines two forms of prayer – vocal and mental. As we recite the prayers of the rosary we are to meditate on the mysteries: joyful, luminous, sorrowful, and glorious. Having a mental image of the particular mystery or reading a relevant scripture passage prior to praying each decade can be helpful. One could also take St. Ignatius’ approach and imagine yourself in the particular scene – a shepherd at Bethlehem, or a bystander at Calvary, for instance. Ultimately, the rosary is not meant to be a mere repetition of words but a true prayer of the heart.
If you’re new to the rosary, or just out of practice, a helpful site is www.theholyrosary.org . You’ll find all the prayers and the mysteries, along with a good deal of other information. I hope that each of us will take some time during the remaining days of October to pray the rosary. Your Mother is waiting to hear from you!
PS Next weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. At each of the weekend Masses we will be remembering those from our parishes who have died during the past year. May they be numbered among the Saints in heaven!