Our Lady of the Rosary

Our Lady of the Rosary
Acts 1:12-14  +  Luke 1:26-38

“Hail, full of grace!  The Lord is with you.”

Is there a better manner in which to offer prayer and sacrifices for Holy Mother Church than through the intercession of Our Blessed Mother Mary?  Like the many lay faithful who’ve expressed to me a desire to do something more for the Church in these difficult times, I prayed about a desire to pray something more.  One of my responses following that prayer was to begin praying the Carmelite Rosary.

The Carmelite Rosary has six decades, rather than the five decades of the Dominican Rosary.  Another difference is that whenever in the Dominican Rosary the Glory Be is prayed, in the Carmelite Rosary the Apostles’ Creed is prayed.

St. Teresa of Jesus, who with St. John of the Cross reformed the Carmelite Order during the Catholic Reformation, adopted this six-decade rosary from the Sisters of St. Bridget of Sweden.  However, since the Carmelites friars and nuns are more numerous than the Brigittine Sisters, this rosary is more often known as the Carmelite Rosary.  The Carmelite Rosary is a beautiful means by which to grow in Carmelite spirituality.

Because this rosary has six decades following the usual introductory beads, there are a total of seven Our Fathers (six decades plus the introductory Our Father), and sixty-three Hail Marys (six decades plus the three introductory Hail Marys).  These seven Our Fathers honor the sorrows and joys of the Blessed Virgin, while the sixty-three Hail Marys commemorate the number of years that Mary, according to tradition, lived on this earth.

Since there are six rather than five decades to the Carmelite Rosary, each set of mysteries has one additional mystery to be pondered in prayer.  Within the Joyful and Luminous Mysteries, the extra mystery is added at the beginning:  the first Joyful Mystery is The Immaculate Conception, while the first Luminous Mystery is Jesus Being Obedient to Mary and Joseph at Nazareth.  By contrast, within the Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries, the extra mystery is added at the end.  The sixth Sorrowful Mystery is the scene of the Pietá:  The Deposition of the Lord’s Body into the Arms of His Sorrowful Mother.  The sixth Glorious Mystery is The Patronage of Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel.  These mysteries help us not simply to pray more words, but also to pray with more fervor and devotion.

Many might feel overwhelmed in the midst of so much confusion today:  what the bishop calls “the current crisis in the Church”.  Many might feel that there’s nothing they can do to help.  But that’s wrong.  Making sacrifice and praying to Our Blessed Mother means joining Our Lady within the very heart of the Church:  not only seeking solace, but joining one’s self to the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

To understand better how our own praying of the daily Rosary can contribute to the Church in her current need, we would profit from reflecting back on the wisdom of St. John Paul II about the Rosary.  At the beginning of the twenty-fifth year of his papacy, the Pope promulgated an apostolic letter on the Rosary, titled Rosarium Virginis Mariae.

In this letter, the Pope teaches that the “Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer.  … it has all the depth of the Gospel message in its entirety, of which it can be said to be a compendium.  It is an echo of the prayer of Mary, her perennial Magnificat for the work of the redemptive Incarnation which began in her virginal womb.  With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love.  Through the Rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer.”[1]

The saintly Pope offers two reasons for the emphasis that he was putting upon the Rosary at that particular time within his papacy.  These reasons are justly as timely today.  One reason is negative, the other very positive.

St. John Paul first explains that there is an “urgent need to counter a certain crisis of the Rosary”, caused by two objections.  The first objection is posed by those “who think that the centrality of the Liturgy, rightly stressed by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, necessarily entails giving lesser importance to the Rosary.  Yet, as Pope Paul VI made clear, not only does [the Rosary] not conflict with the Liturgy, it sustains it, since it serves as an excellent introduction and a faithful echo of the Liturgy, enabling people to participate fully and interiorly in it and to reap its fruits in their daily lives.”[2]

Also, “there are some who fear that the Rosary is somehow unecumenical because of its distinctly Marian character.  Yet the Rosary clearly belongs to the kind of veneration of the Mother of God described by the Council:  a devotion directed to the Christological center of the Christian faith, in such a way that ‘when the Mother is honored, the Son … is duly known, loved and glorified’.  If properly revitalized, the Rosary is an aid and certainly not a hindrance to ecumenism!”[3]

But then St. John Paul the Great moves on to present the very positive reason for his decision to focus this apostolic letter and other endeavors upon the Rosary.  Given that the reason that he explains is a timeless lesson for the Church’s members, let me leave off today with this thought from our saintly pope:  “the most important reason for strongly encouraging the practice of the Rosary is that it represents a most effective means of fostering among the faithful that commitment to the contemplation of the Christian mystery which I have proposed in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte as a genuine ‘training in holiness’:  ‘What is needed is a Christian life distinguished above all in the art of prayer’.  Inasmuch as contemporary culture, even amid so many indications to the contrary, has witnessed the flowering of a new call for spirituality, due also to the influence of other religions, it is more urgent than ever that our Christian communities should become ‘genuine schools of prayer’.

[1] St. John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae (Oct. 16, 2002), 1.

[2] Ibid., 4.

[3] Ibid., quoting Lumen Gentium 66.

For a video in which the Carmelite Rosary is further explained, please click HERE.