In southwestern France, alongside the Pyrenees mountains, rests a small town called Lourdes. In the year 1858, a fourteen year old girl named Bernadette started to see apparitions of a “small young lady” holding a rosary. It wasn’t until the sixteenth apparition that Bernadette learned the name of the lady, who told Bernadette: “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
Years after the final apparition, once the local bishop and civil authorities accepted Bernadette’s claims, the decision was made to create a statue of the Immaculate Conception. It stands today in the center of the main square in front of the basilicas in Lourdes. Preparations took a long time because Bernadette insisted that every detail of the statue correspond to what she had seen. The artist grew rather exasperated, but Bernadette was insistent.
Among the many details that Bernadette pointed out, one concerned the rosary that the Immaculate Conception held. Bernadette had to correct the artist because he initially portrayed the Immaculate Conception holding a five-decade rosary. Bernadette explained to the artist that when the Immaculate Conception appeared to her, she was holding a six-decade rosary, which is called a Carmelite Rosary.
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Many Catholics are unaware that there is such a thing as a six-decade rosary, or that it’s been prayed by Catholics for centuries, although the even-older five-decade rosary, called the Dominican rosary, is the form of the Rosary most often prayed.
The point is that there’s not a single form for the Rosary. The form of the Rosary is not regulated by the Church as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is. If someone wants to pray the six-decade Carmelite rosary instead of the five-decade Dominican rosary, that person is free to do so. Likewise, if someone wishes to read a verse or verses of Scripture at the start of each decade, that person is free to do so. Likewise, if a person wishes on Thursdays to pray the Luminous Mysteries that St. John Paul proposed, that person is free to do so. The form by which the Rosary is prayed is not essential. What is essential is to pray the Rosary.
So since I’ve mentioned the Carmelite Rosary, let me say a little about the sixth mystery of each set of mysteries. Within the Joyful Mysteries, the additional mystery is added at the start, as the First Joyful Mystery. The First Joyful Mystery of the Carmelite Rosary is the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary by her mother, St. Anne. Then the customary Joyful Mysteries follow, with the Annunciation being the Second Joyful Mystery, the Visitation being the Third Joyful Mystery, and so on.
Within the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Carmelite Rosary, the additional mystery is added at the end. So the sixth Sorrowful Mystery is the scene of the Thirteenth Station of the Cross: the Deposition of the Body of Christ into the arms of His Sorrowful Mother.
Within the Glorious Mysteries of the Carmelite Rosary, the additional mystery is also added at the end. So the sixth Glorious Mystery is The Patronage of Mary, Queen and Beauty of Carmel (“Carmel” being the name for the entire family of those friars, nuns, and laypersons who have dedicated their lives to Christ under the patronage of Our Lady of Mount Carmel).
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During this month of October, the Church calls all Christians to go out of their way to grow in their devotion to Our Blessed Mother through the prayer of the Rosary. Our Lady’s side altar is beautifully decorated during this month: a reminder of this call to the Rosary.
Consider a suggestion about one way to do this. While there are a lot of both pros and cons to the modern media, one of the pros that’s helped many Catholics grow in their Faith are Catholic apps available for smartphones or tablets. While there are surely several good apps that can help you grow in your Catholic Faith, I’d recommend the app called “Hallow”. There are both a free version and a paid version. Recently I gave my mother her first Christmas gift, a year’s subscription to Hallow. This app offers, in addition to audio recordings of the Rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and the entire Bible, reflections on Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Catholic Faith. These features make it easy to use time travelling in your vehicle in a spiritually profitable way.
Venerable Sister Lucia, one of the visionaries of Fatima, said late in her life that “All people of good will can, and must say the Rosary every day.” By contrast, she continued by pointing out that “if God, through Our Lady, had asked us to go to Mass and receive Holy Communion every day, there would undoubtedly have been a great many people who would have said, quite rightly, that this was not possible. Some, on account of the distance separating them from the nearest Church where Mass was celebrated; others on account of the circumstances of their lives, their state in life, their job, the state of their health, etc.”
“On the other hand to pray the Rosary is something everybody can do, rich and poor, wise and ignorant, great and small.” It is “a prayer which is within our reach…”. The “Rosary … can be recited either in common or in private, either in church in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament or at home, either when traveling or while walking quietly in the fields.” “A mother of a family can say the Rosary while she rocks her baby’s cradle or does the house work.”
Venerable Sister Lucia continues by noting that “God, who is our Father and understands better than we do the needs of His children, chose to stoop to the simple ordinary level of all of us in asking for the daily recitation of the Rosary, in order to smooth for us the way to Him.”
Statue of Our Lady of Lourdes holding the Carmelite Rosary. The statue is located in the square in front of the main basilicas. In the photo below the same statue is shown from behind.