The following is an excerpt from the book by St. Louis de Montfort. For information on ordering the book, including part II, check out the Rosary Center Store.
Part I – What The Rosary Is
The rosary is made up of two things: mental prayer and vocal prayer. In the Holy Rosary mental prayer is none other than meditation of the chief mysteries of the life, death and glory of Jesus Christ and of His Blessed Mother. Vocal prayer consists in saying fifteen decades of the Hail Mary, each decade headed by an Our Father, while at the same time meditating on and contemplating the fifteen principal virtues which Jesus and Mary practiced in the fifteen mysteries of the Holy Rosary.
In the first five decades we must honor the five Joyous Mysteries and meditate on them; in the second five decades the Sorrowful Mysteries and in the third group of five, the Glorious Mysteries. So the Rosary is a blessed blending of mental and vocal prayer by which we honor and learn to imitate the mysteries and virtues of the life, death, passion and glory of Jesus and Mary.
Since the Holy Rosary is composed, principally and in substance, of the Prayer of Christ and the Angelic Salutation, that is, the Our Father and the Hail Mary, it was without doubt the first prayer and the first devotion of the faithful and has been in use all through the centuries from the time of the Apostles and disciples down to the present.
But it was only in the year 1214, however, that Holy Mother Church received the Rosary in its present form and according to the method we use today. It was given to the Church by Saint Dominic who had received it from the Blessed Virgin as a powerful means of converting the Albigensians and other sinners.
I will tell you the story of how he received it, which is found in the very well-known book “De Dignitate Psalterii” by Blessed Alan de la Roche . Saint Dominic, seeing that the gravity of people’s sins was hindering the conversion of the Albigensians, withdrew into a forest near Toulouse where he prayed unceasingly for three days and three nights. During this time he did nothing but weep and do harsh penances in order to appease the anger of Almighty God. He used his discipline so much that his body was lacerated, and finally he fell into a coma.
At this point Our Lady appeared to him, accompanied by three angels, and she said:
“Dear Dominic, do you know which weapon the Blessed Trinity wants to use to reform the world?”
“Oh, my Lady,” answered Saint Dominic, “you know far better than I do because next to your Son Jesus Christ you have always been the chief instrument of our salvation.”
Then Our Lady replied:
“I want you to know that, in this kind of warfare, the battering ram has always been the Angelic Psalter which is the foundation stone of the New Testament. Therefore if you want to reach these hardened souls and win them over to God, preach my Psalter.”
So he arose, comforted, and burning with zeal, for the conversion of the people in that district he made straight for the Cathedral. At once unseen angels rang the bells to gather the people together and Saint Dominic began to preach.
At the very beginning of his sermon an appalling storm broke, out, the earth shook, the sun was darkened, and there was so much thunder and lightning that all were very much afraid. Even greater was their fear when looking at a picture of Our Lady exposed in a prominent place they saw her raise her arms to heaven three times to call down God’s vengeance upon them if they failed to be converted, to amend their lives, and seek the protection of the Holy Mother of God.
God wished, by means of these supernatural phenomena, to spread the new devotion of the Holy Rosary and to make it more widely known.
At last, at the prayer of Saint Dominic, the storm came to an end, and he went on preaching. So fervently and compellingly did he explain the importance and value of the Holy Rosary that almost all the people of Toulouse embraced it and renounced their false beliefs. In a very short time a great improvement was seen in the town; people began leading Christian lives and gave up their former bad habits. . De Dignitate Psalterii. The importance and Beauty of the Holy Rosary, by Blessed Alan de la Roche, O.P., French Dominican Father and Apostle of the Holy Rosary.
This miraculous way in which the devotion to the Holy Rosary was established is something of a parallel to the way in which Almighty God gave His law to the world on Mount Sinai and obviously proves its value and importance.
Inspired by the Holy Ghost, instructed by the Blessed Virgin as well by his own experience, Saint Dominic preached the Holy Rosary for the rest of his life. He preached it by his example as well as by his sermons, in cities in country places, to people of high station and low, before scholars and the uneducated, to Catholics and to heretics.
The Holy Rosary which he said every day was his preparation for every sermon and his little tryst with Our Lady immediately after preaching.
One Day he had to preach at Notre Dame in Paris, and it happened to be the feast of St. John the Evangelist. He was in a little chapel behind the high altar prayerfully preparing his sermon by saying the Rosary, as he always did, when Our Lady appeared to him and said:
“Dominic, even though what you have planned to say may be very good, I am brining you a much better sermon.”
Saint Dominic took in his hands the book Our Lady proffered, read the sermon carefully and when he had understood it and meditated on it, he gave thanks to the Blessed Mother.
When the time came, he went up into the pulpit and, in spite of the feast day, made no mention of Saint John other than to say that he had been found worthy to be the guardian of the Queen of Heaven. The congregation was made up of theologians and other eminent people who were used to hearing unusual and polished discourses; but Saint Dominic told them that it was not his wish to give them a learned discourse, wise in the eyes of the world, but that he would speak in the simplicity of the Holy Spirit and with His forcefulness.
So he began preaching the Holy Rosary and explained the Hail Mary word by word as he would to a group of children and used the very simple illustrations which were in the book Our Lady had given to him.
Carthagena, the great scholar, quoting Blessed Alan de la Roche in “De Dignitate Psalterii,” describes how this took place:
“Blessed Alan writes that one day Father Dominic said to him in a vision: ‘My son, it is good to preach; but there is always a danger of looking for praise rather than the salvation of souls. Listen carefully to what happened to me in Paris so that you may be on guard against this kind of mistake: I was to preach in the great church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and I was particularly anxious to give a brilliant sermon, not out of pride, but because of the high intellectual stature of the congregation.
‘An hour before the time I had to preach, I was recollectedly saying my Rosary – as I always did before giving a sermon – when I fell into ecstasy. I saw my beloved friend the Mother of God coming towards me with a book in her hand.
‘“Dominic,” she said, “‘your sermon for today may be very good indeed, but no matter how good it is I have brought you one that is very much better.”
‘Of course I was overjoyed, took the book and read every word of it. Just as Our Lady had said, I found exactly the right things to say in my sermon, so I thanked her with all my heart.
‘When it was time to begin, I saw that the University of Paris had turned out in full force as well as a large number of noblemen. They had all seen and heard of the great things that the good Lord had been doing through me. So I went up into the pulpit.
‘It was the feast of Saint John the Apostle but all I said about him was that he had been found worthy to be the guardian of the Queen of Heaven. Then I addressed the congregation:
“‘My Lords and illustrious Doctors of the University, you are accustomed to hearing learned sermons suited to your aesthetic tastes. Now I do not want to speak to you in the scholarly language of human wisdom but, on the contrary, to show you the Spirit of God and His Greatness.'”
Here ends the quotation from Blessed Alan, after which Carthagena goes on to say in his own words:
“Then Saint Dominic explained the Angelic Salutation to them, using simple comparisons and examples from everyday life.”
Blessed Alan, according to Carthagena, mentioned several other times when Our Lord and Our Lady appeared to Saint Dominic to urge and inspire him to preach the Rosary more and more in order to wipe out sin and to convert sinners and heretics.
In another passage Cathagena says:
“Blessed Alan said Our Lady revealed to him that after she had appeared to Saint Dominic, her Blessed Son appeared to him and said:
‘Dominic, I rejoice to see that you are not relying upon your own wisdom and that, rather than seek the empty praise of men, you are working with great humility for the salvation of souls.
‘But many priests want to preach thunderously against the worst kinds of sin at the very outset, failing to realize that before a sick person is given bitter medicine he needs to be prepared by being put in the right frame of mind to really benefit by it.
‘This is why, before doing anything else, priests should try to kindle a love of prayer in people’s hearts and especially a love of my Angelic Psalter. If only they would all start saying it and would really persevere, God, in His mercy, could hardly refuse to give them His grace. So I want you to preach my Rosary.’
In another place Blessed Alan says:
“All priests say a Hail Mary with the faithful before preaching, to ask for God’s grace. They do this because of a revelation that Saint Dominic had from Our Lady. ‘My son,’ she said one day ‘do not be surprised that your sermons fail to bear the results you had hoped for. You are trying to cultivate a piece of ground which has not had any rain. Now when Almighty God planned to renew the face of the earth He started by sending down rain from heaven – and this was the Angelic Salutation. In this way God made over the world.
‘So when you give a sermon, urge people to say my Rosary, and in this way your words will bear much fruit for souls.’
“Saint Dominic lost no time in obeying, and from then on he exerted great influence by his sermons.”
This last quotation is from the Book of Miracles of the Holy Rosary (written in Italian) and it is also to be found in Justin’s works (143d Sermon).
I have been very glad to quote these well-known authors word for word in the original Latin* for benefit of any priests or other learned people who might otherwise have doubts as to the marvelous power of the Holy Rosary.
As long as priests followed Saint Dominic’s example and preached devotion to the Holy Rosary, piety and fervor thrived throughout the Christian world and in those religious orders which were devoted to the Rosary. But since people have neglected this gift from heaven, all kinds of sin and disorder have spread far and wide.
*We have omitted the Latin quotations so as not to encumber the text.
All things, even the holiest, are subject to change, especially when they are dependent on man’s free will. It is hardly to be wondered at, then, that the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary only retained its first fervor for one century after it was instituted by Saint Dominic. After this, it was like a thing buried and forgotten.
Doubtless, too, the wicked scheming and jealousy of the devil were largely responsible for getting people to neglect the Holy Rosary, and thus block the flow of God’s grace which it had drawn down upon the world.
Thus, in 1349, God punished the whole of Europe and sent the most terrible plague that had ever been known into every land. It started first in the east and spread throughout Italy, Germany, France, Poland, and Hungary, bringing desolation wherever it came – for out of a hundred men hardly one lived to tell the tale. Big towns, little towns, villages, and monasteries were almost completely deserted during the three years that the epidemic lasted.
This scourge of God was quickly followed by two others: the heresy of Flagellants and a tragic schism in 1376.
Later on when these trials were over, thanks to the mercy of God, Our Lady told Blessed Alan to revive the ancient Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary. Blessed Alan was one of the Dominican Fathers from the monastery at Dinan, in Brittany. He was an eminent theologian and was famous for his sermons. Our Lady chose him because, since the Confraternity had originally been started in this province, it was most fitting that a Dominican from the very same province, should have the honor of reestablishing it.
Blessed Alan began this great work in 1460 after a special warning from Our Lord, Who wished to spur him on to preach the Holy Rosary, spoke to him in the Sacred Host: “How can you crucify Me again so soon?” Jesus said. “What did You say, Lord?”, asked Blessed Alan, horrified. “You crucified Me once before by your sins,” answered Jesus, “and I would willingly be crucified again rather than have My Father offended by the sins you used to commit. You are crucifying Me again now because you have all the learning and understanding that you need to preach My Mother’s Rosary, and you are not doing so. If you only did this you could teach many souls that right path and lead them away from sin – but you are not doing it and so you yourself are guilty of the sins that they commit.”
This terrible reproach made Blessed Alan solemnly resolve to preach the Rosary unceasingly.
Our Lady too spoke to him one day to inspire him to preach the Holy Rosary more and more:
“You were a great sinner in your youth,” she said, “but I obtained the grace of your conversion from my Son. Had such a thing been possible I would have liked to have gone through all kinds of suffering to save you because converted sinners are a glory to me. And I would have done this also to make you worthy of preaching my Rosary far and wide.”
Saint Dominic appeared to Blessed Alan as well and told him of the great results of his ministry: he had preached the Holy Rosary unceasingly, his sermons had borne great fruit and many people had been converted during his missions. He said to Blessed Alan:
“See the wonderful results I have had through preaching the Holy Rosary! You and all those who love Our Lady ought to do the same so that, by means of this holy practice of the Rosary, you may draw all people to the real science of the virtues.”
Briefly, then, this is the history of how Saint Dominic established the Holy Rosary and of how Blessed Alan de la Roche restored it.
Strictly speaking, there can be only one kind of Confraternity of the Rosary – one whose members agree to say the entire Rosary of one hundred and fifty Hail Marys every day. However, considering the fervor of those who say it, we may distinguish three kinds: Ordinary membership which entails saying the complete Rosary once a week; Perpetual membership which requires it be said only once a year; Daily membership which obliges one to say it all every day, that is, the fifteen decades made up one hundred and fifty Hail Marys.
None of these Rosary memberships binds under the pain of sin. It is not even a venial sin to fail in this duty because such an undertaking is entirely voluntary and supererogatory. Needless to say, people should not join the Confraternity if they do not intend to fulfill their obligation by saying the Rosary as often as is required, without, however, neglecting the duties of their state in life.
So whenever the Rosary clashes with a duty of one’s state in life, holy as the Rosary is, one must give preference to the duty to be performed. Similarly, sick people are not obliged to say the whole Rosary or even part of it if this effort might tire them and make them worse.
If you have been unable to say it because of some duty required by obedience or because you genuinely forgot, or because of some urgent necessity, you have not committed even a venial sin. You will then receive the benefits of the Confraternity just the same, sharing in the graces and merits of your brothers and sisters in the Holy Rosary who are saying it throughout the world.
And, my dear Catholic people, even if you fail to say your Rosary out of sheer carelessness or laziness, as long as you do not have any formal contempt for it, you do not sin, absolutely speaking – but in this case you forfeit your participation in the prayers, good works and merits of the Confraternity. More over, because you have not been faithful in things that are little and of superegoation, almost without knowing it you may fall into the habit of neglecting big things such as those duties which bind under pain of sin. For – “He that condemneth small things, shall fall by little and little” (Eccl. 19:1).
Ever since Saint Dominic established the devotion to the Holy Rosary up until the time when Blessed Alan de la Roche reestablished it in 1460 it has always been called the Psalter of Jesus and Mary. This is because it has the same number of Angelic Salutations as there are psalms in the Book of the Psalms of David. Since simple and uneducated people are not able to say the Psalms of David the Rosary is held to be just as fruitful for them as David’s Psalter is for others.
But the Rosary can be considered to be even more valuable than the latter for three reasons:
- Firstly, because the Angelic Psalter bears a nobler fruit, that of the Word Incarnate, whereas David’s Psalter only prophesies His coming;
- Secondly, just as the real thing is more important than its prefiguration and the body is more than its shadow, in the same way the Psalter of Our Lady is greater than David’s Psalter which did no more than prefigure it.
- And thirdly, because Our Lady’s Psalter (or the Rosary made up of the Our Father and Hail Mary) is the direct work of the Most Blessed Trinity and was not made through a human instrument.
Our Lady’s Psalter or Rosary is divided up into three parts of five decades each, for the following special reasons:
- To honor the three Persons of the Most Blessed Trinity;
- To honor the life, death and glory of Jesus Christ;
- To imitate the Church Triumphant, to help the members of the Church Militant and the lessen the pains of the Church Suffering;
- To imitate the three groups into which the Psalms are divided: a) The first being for the purgative life, b) the second for the illuminative life, c) and the third for the unitive life;
- And, finally, to give us graces in abundance during our lifetime, peace at death, and glory in eternity.
Ever since Blessed Alan de la Roche reestablished this devotion the voice of the people, which is the voice of God, called it the Rosary. The word Rosary means “Crown of Roses,” that is to say that ever time people say the Rosary devoutly they place a crown of one hundred and fifty —three red roses and sixteen white roses upon the heads of Jesus and Mary. Being heavenly flowers these roses will never fade or lose their exquisite beauty.
Our Lady has shown her thorough approval of the name Rosary; she had revealed to several people that each time they say a Hail Mary they are giving her a beautiful rose and that each complete Rosary makes her a crown of roses.
The well-known Jesuit, Brother Alphonsus Rodriguez, used to say his Rosary with such fervor that he often saw a red rose come out of his mouth at each Our Father and a white rose at each Hail Mary. The red and white roses were equal in beauty and fragrance, the only difference being in their color.
The chronicles of Saint Francis tell of a young friar who had the praiseworthy habit of saying the Crown of Our Lady (the Rosary) every day before dinner. One day for some reason or other he did not manage to say it. The refectory bell had already been rung when he asked the Superior to allow him to say it before coming to the table, and having obtained the permission he withdrew to his cell to pray.
After he had been gone a long time the Superior sent another Friar to fetch him, and he found him in his room bathed in a heavenly light facing Our Lady who had two angels with her. Beautiful roses kept issuing from his mouth at each Hail Mary; the angels took them one by one, placing them on Our Lady’s head, and she smilingly accepted them.
Finally two other friars who had been sent to find out what happened to the first two saw the same lovely scene, and Our Lady did not go away until the whole Rosary had been said.
So the complete Rosary is a large crown of roses and the Rosary of five decades is a little wreath of flowers or a small crown of heavenly roses which we place on the heads of Jesus and Mary. The rose is the queen of flowers, and so the Rosary is the rose of all devotions and it is therefore the most important one.
It would hardly be possible for me to put into words how much Our Lady thinks of the Holy Rosary and of how she vastly prefers it to all other devotions. Neither can I sufficiently express how highly she rewards those who work to preach the devotion, to establish it and spread it, nor on the other hand how firmly she punishes those who work against it.
All during life, Saint Dominic had nothing more at heart than to praise Our Lady, to preach her greatness and to inspire everybody to honor her by saying Her Rosary. As a reward he received countless graces from her; exercising her great power as Queen of Heaven she crowned his labors with many miracles and prodigies. Almighty God always granted him what he asked through Our Lady. The greatest honor of all was that she helped him crush the Albigensian heresy and made him the founder and patriarch of a great religious order.
As for Blessed Alan de la Roche who restored the devotion to the Rosary, he received many privileges from Our Lady; she graciously appeared to him several times to teach him how to work out his salvation, to become a good priest and perfect religious, and how to pattern himself on Our Lord.
He used to be horribly tempted and persecuted by devils, and then deep sadness would fall upon him and sometimes he used to be near to despair – but Our Lady always comforted him by her sweet presence which banished the clouds of darkness from his soul.
She taught him how to say the Rosary, explaining its value and the fruits to be gained by it and gave him a great and glorious privilege: the honor of being called her new spouse. As a token of her chaste love for him she placed a ring upon his finger and necklace made of her own hair about his neck and gave him a Rosary.
Father Triteme, Cathagena and Martin of Navarre (both very learned men) and others as well have spoken of him in terms of the highest praise. Blessed Alan died at Zunolle in Flanders September 8th, 1475, after having brought over one hundred thousand people into the Confraternity.
Blessed Thomas of Saint John was well known for his sermons on the Most Holy Rosary, and the devil, jealous of the success he had with souls, tortured him so much that he fell ill and was sick so long that the doctors gave him up. One night when he really thought that he was dying, the devil appeared to him in the most horrible form imaginable. There was a picture of Our Lady near his bed; he looked at it and cried with all his heart and soul and strength: “Help me, save me, my sweet, sweet Mother!” No sooner had he said this than the picture seemed to come alive and Our Lady put out her hand, took him by the arm and said:
“Do not be afraid, Thomas my son, here I am and I am going to save you: get up now and go on preaching my Rosary as you used to do. I promise to shield you from your enemies.”
When Our Lady said this the devil fled and Blessed Thomas got up, finding that he was in perfect health. He then thanked the Blessed Mother with tears of joy. He resumed his Rosary apostolate and his sermons were marvelously successful.
Our Lady blesses not only those who preach her Rosary, but she highly rewards all those who get others to say it by their example.
Alphonsus, King of Leon and Galicia, very much wanted all his servants to honor the Blessed Virgin by saying the Rosary. So he used to hang a large rosary on his belt and always wore it, but unfortunately never said it himself. Nevertheless his wearing it encouraged his courtiers to say the Rosary very devoutly.
One day the King fell seriously ill and when he was given up for dead he found himself, in a vision, before the judgement seat of Our Lord. Many devils were there accusing him of all the sins he had committed and Our Lord as Sovereign Judge was just about to condemn him to hell when Our Lady appeared to intercede for him. She called for a pair of scales and had his sins placed in one of the balances whereas she put the rosary that he had always worn on the other scale, together with all the Rosaries that had been said because of his example. It was found that the Rosaries weighed more than his sins.
Looking at him with great kindness Our Lady said: “As a reward for this little honor that you paid me in wearing my Rosary, I have obtained a great grace for you from my Son. Your life will be spared for a few more years. See that you spend these years wisely, and do penance.”
When the King regained consciousness he cried out: “Blessed be the Rosary of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, by which I have been delivered from eternal damnation!”
After he had recovered his health he spent the rest of his life in spreading devotion to the Holy Rosary and said it faithfully every day.
People who love the Blessed Virgin ought to follow the example of King Alphonsus and that of the saints whom I have mentioned so that they too may win other souls for the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary. They will then receive great graces on earth and eternal life later on. “They that explain me shall have life everlasting life” (Eccl. 24:31).
It is very wicked indeed and unfair to other souls to hinder the progress of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary. Almighty God has severely punished many of those who have been so benighted as to scorn the Confraternity and who have sought to destroy it.
Even though God has set His seal of approval on the Holy Rosary by many miracles, and in spite of the Papal Bulls that have been written approving it, there are only too many people who are against the Holy Rosary today. These freethinkers and those who scorn religion either condemn the Rosary or try to turn others away from it.
It is easy to see that they have absorbed the poison of hell and that they are inspired by the devil – for nobody can condemn devotion to the Holy Rosary without condemning all that is most holy in the Catholic Faith, such as the Lord’s Prayer, the Angelic Salutation and the mysteries of the life, death, and glory of Jesus Christ and of His Holy Mother.
These freethinkers who cannot bear others to say the Rosary often fall into a really heretical state of mind without even realizing it and some to hate the Rosary and its holy mysteries.
To have a loathing for confraternities is to fall away from God and true piety, for Our Lord Himself has told us that He is always in the midst of those who are gathered together in His name. No good Catholic should forget the many great indulgences which Holy Mother Church has granted to Confraternities. Finally, to dissuade others from joining the Rosary Confraternity is to be an enemy of souls because the Rosary is a sure means of curing oneself of sin and of embracing a Christian Life.
Saint Bonaventure said (in his Psalter) that whoever neglected Our Lady would perish in his sins and would be damned: “He who neglects her will die in his sins.” If such is the penalty for neglecting her, what must be the punishment in store for those who actually turn others away from their devotions!
While Saint Dominic was preaching the Rosary in Carcasone, a heretic made fun of the miracles and the fifteen mysteries of the Holy Rosary, and this prevented other heretics from being converted. As a punishment God suffered fifteen thousand devils to enter the man’s body.
His parents took him to Father Dominic to be delivered from the evil spirits. He started to pray and begged everyone who was there to say the Rosary out loud with him, and at each Hail Mary Our Lady drove out one hundred devils out of the heretic’s body and they came out in the form of red hot coals.
After he had been delivered he abjured his former errors, was converted and joined the Rosary Confraternity. Several of his associates did the same, having been greatly moved by his punishment and by the power of the Rosary.
The learned Franciscan, Carthagena, as well as several other authors, say that an extraordinary event took place in 1482: The Venerable James Sprenger and other religious of his order were zealously working to reestablish devotion to the Holy Rosary and also to erect a Confraternity in the city of Cologne.
Unfortunately two priests who were famous for their preaching ability were jealous of the great influence they were exerting through preaching the Rosary. So these two Fathers spoke against this devotion whenever they had a chance, and as they were very eloquent and had a great reputation they persuaded many people not to join the Confraternity.
One of them, bound and determined to achieve his wicked end, wrote a special sermon against the Rosary and planned to give it the following Sunday. But when it came time for the sermon he never appeared and, after a certain amount of waiting somebody went to fetch him. He was found dead, and evidently had died alone without any one to help him and without seeing a priest.
After convincing himself that death had been due to natural causes, the other priest decided to carry out his friend’s plan and hoped to put an end to the Confraternity of the Rosary. However, when the day came for him to preach and it was time to give the sermon God punished him by striking him down with paralysis which deprived him both of the use of his limbs and of his power of speech.
At last he admitted his sin and likewise that of his friend and immediately, in his heart of hearts, he silently besought Our Lady to help him. He promised her that is she would only cure him he would preach the Holy Rosary with as much zeal as that with which he had formerly fought against it. For this end he implored her to restore his health and speech which she did, and finding himself instantaneously cured he rose up like another Saul, a persecutor turned defender of the Holy Rosary. He publicly acknowledged his former error and ever after preached the wonders of the Most Holy Rosary with great zeal and eloquence.
I am quite sure that freethinkers and ultra-critical people of today will question the truth of the stories in this little book, in the very same way that they have always questioned most things, but all that I have done has been to copy them from very good contemporary writers and also, in part, from a book that was written only a short time ago: “The Mystical Rose Tree,” by the Reverend Antonin Thomas, O.P.
Everyone knows that there are three different kinds of faith by which we believe different kinds of stories:
- To stories of Holy Scripture we own DIVINE FAITH;
- To stories concerning other than religious subjects, which do not militate against common sense and which are written by trustworthy authors, we pay the tribute of HUMAN FAITH; whereas
- To stories about holy subjects which are told by good authors and are not in the slightest degree contrary to reason, faith, or morals (even though they may sometimes deal with happenings which are above the ordinary run of events) we pay the tribute of PIOUS FAITH.
I agree that we must be neither too credulous nor too critical and that we should remember that “virtue takes the middle course” – keeping a happy medium in all things in order to find just where truth and virtue lie. But on the other hand I know equally well that charity easily leads us to believe all that is not contrary to faith or morals: “Charity ….believeth all things;” *1* in the same way pride induces us to doubt even well authenticated stories on the plea that they are not to be found in the Bible.
This is one of the devil’s traps; heretics of the past who denied Tradition have fallen into it and overcritical people of today are falling into it too without even realizing it.
People of this kind refuse to believe what they do not understand or what is not to their liking, simply because of their own spirit of pride and independence.
The Creed or the Symbol of the Apostles which is said on the crucifix of the Rosary is a holy summary of all Christian truths. It is a prayer that has great merit because faith is the root, foundation and beginning of all Christian virtues, of all eternal virtues and also of all prayers that are pleasing to Almighty God. “He that cometh to God, must believe…” (Heb. 11:6). Whosoever wishes to come to God must first of all believe and the greater his faith the more merit his prayer will have, the more powerful it will be, and the more it will glorify God.
I shall not take time here to explain the Creed word for word but I cannot resist saying that the first few words “I believe in God” are marvelously effective as a means of sanctifying our souls and of putting devils to rout, because these three words contain the acts of the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity.
It was by saying I BELIEVE IN GOD that the saints overcame temptations, especially those against faith, hope or charity—whether they came during their lifetime or at their death. They were also the last words of St. Peter, Martyr;* a heretic had cleft his head in two by a cruel blow of his sword and St. Peter was almost at his last gasp, but he somehow managed to trace these words in the sand with his finger before he died.
The Holy Rosary contains many mysteries of Jesus and Mary and since faith is the only key which opens up these mysteries for us we must begin the Rosary by saying the Creed very devoutly, and the stronger our faith, the more merit our Rosary will have.
This faith must be lively and informed by charity; in other words, to recite properly the Rosary, it is necessary to be in God’s grace, or at least in quest of it. This faith must be strong and constant, that is, one must not be looking for sensible devotion and spiritual consolation in the recitation of the Rosary; nor should one give it up because his mind is flooded with countless involuntary distractions or one experiences a strange distaste in the soul and an almost continual and oppressive fatigue in the body. Neither feeling, nor consolation, nor sighs, nor transports, nor the continual attention of the imagination are needed; faith and good intentions are quite enough. “Faith alone suffices.” (Pange Lingua)
*Saint Peter of Verona, O.P. 1206-1253, was a Dominican Priest who fought heresy courageously and zealously. He had the honor of receiving the habit from the hands of Saint Dominic himself. He was appointed Inquisitor for Lombardy, and it was in discharging his duties that he gave his life for the Faith.
The Our Father or the Lord’s prayer has great value–above all because of its Author Who is neither a man nor an angel but the King of angels and men, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Saint Cyprian says that it was fitting that our Savior by Whom we were reborn into the life of grace should also be our heavenly Master and should teach us how to pray.
The beautiful order, the tender forcefulness and the clarity of this divine prayer pay tribute to our divine Master’s wisdom. It is a short prayer but can teach us so very much and it is well within the grasp of uneducated people, while scholars find it a continual source of meditation on the mysteries of our Faith.
The Our Father contains all the duties we owe to God, the acts of all the virtues and the petitions for all our spiritual and corporal needs. Tertullian says that the Our Father is a summary of the New Testament. Thomas ‘a Kempis says that it surpasses all the desires of all the saints; that it is a condensation of all the beautiful sayings of all the Psalms and Canticles; that in it we ask God for everything that we need; that by it we praise Him in the very best way; that by it we lift up our souls from earth to heaven and unite them with God.
Saint John Chrysostom says that we cannot be our Master’s disciples unless we pray as He did and in the way that He showed us. Moreover God the Father listens more willingly to the Prayer that we have learned from His Son rather than those of our own making which have all our human limitations.
We should say that Our Father with the certitude that the eternal Father will hear it because it is the prayer of His Son Whom He always hears and we are His members. God will surely grant our petitions made through the Lord’s Prayer because it is impossible to imagine that such a good Father could refuse a request couched in the language of so worthy a Son, reinforced by His merits, and made at His behest.
Saint Augustine says that whenever we say the Our Father devoutly our venial sins are forgiven. The just man falls seven times a day, but in the Lord’s Prayer he will find seven petitions which will both help him to avoid downfalls and will protect him from his spiritual enemies. Our Lord, knowing how weak and helpless we are, and how many difficulties we get into, made His Prayer short and easy to say, so that if we say it devoutly and often we can be sure that Almighty God will quickly come to our aid.
I have a word for you, devout souls, who pay little attention to the prayer that the Son of God gave us Himself and asked us all to say: It is high time for you to change your way of thinking. You only like prayers that men have written—as though anybody, even the most inspired man in the whole world, could possibly know more about how we ought to pray than Jesus Christ Himself! You look for prayers in books written by other men almost as though you were ashamed of saying the prayer that Our Lord told us to say.
You have managed to convince yourself that the prayers in these books are for scholars and for rich people of the upper classes and that the Rosary is only for women and children and the lower classes. As if the prayers and praises which you have been reading were more beautiful and more pleasing to God than those which are to be found in the Lord’s Prayer! It is a very dangerous temptation to lose interest in the prayer that Our Lord gave us and to take up prayers that men have written instead.
Not that I disapprove of prayers that the saints have written so as to encourage the faithful to praise God, but it is not to be endured that they should prefer the latter to the Prayer which was uttered by Wisdom Incarnate. If they ignore this Prayer it is just as though they pass up the spring to go after the brook and refusing the clear water, drink dirty water instead. Because the Rosary made up of the Lord’s Prayer and the Angelic Salutation, is this clear and ever flowing water which comes from the Fountain of Grace, whereas other prayers which they look for in books are nothing but tiny streams which spring from this fountain.
People who say Our Lord’s Prayer carefully, weighing every word and meditating upon it, may indeed call themselves blessed for they find therein everything that they need or can wish for.
When we say this wonderful prayer we touch God’s heart at the very outset by calling Him by the sweet name of Father—Our Father. He is the dearest of fathers: all-powerful in His creation, wonderful in the way He maintains the world, completely lovable in His Diving Providence,—always good and infinitely so in the Redemption. We have God for our Father so we are all brothers–and heaven is our homeland and our heritage. This should be more than enough to teach us to love God and our neighbor and to be detached from the things of this world.
So we ought to love our Heavenly Father and should say to Him over and over again:
Our Father Who art in heaven,
Thou Who dost fill heaven and earth
With the immensity of Thy Being,
Thou Who art present everywhere-
Thou Who art in the saints
By Thy glory,
In the damned
By Thy Justice,
In the good
By Thy grace-
And even in sinners
By the patience
With which Though dost tolerate them-
Grant we beseech Thee;
Grant that we may live
As Thy true children ought to live-
Grant that we may set our course
And never swerve-
Grant that we may use
Our every power,
Our hearts and souls and strength
To tend towards Thee
And Thee Alone.
Hallowed be Thy name:
King David, the prophet, said that the name of the Lord is holy and awe-inspiring, and Isaias that heaven is always echoing with praises of the Seraphim who unceasingly praise the holiness of the Lord God of Hosts.
We ask here that all the world may learn to know and adore the attributes of our God Who is so great and so holy. We ask that He may be known, loved and adored by pagans, Turks, Jews, barbarians and by all infidels-that all men may serve and glorify Him by a living faith, a staunch hope, burning charity and by renouncing all erroneous beliefs. This all adds up to say that we pray that all men by be holy, because God Himself is all-holy.
Thy Kingdom come:
Do Thou reign in our souls
By Thy grace
So that after death
We may be found meet
To reign with Thee
In They Kingdom
In perfect and unending bliss.
Oh Lord we firmly believe
In this happiness to come;
We hope for and we expect it,
Because God the Father
Has promised it
In His great goodness;
It was purchased for us
By the merits of God the Son
And God the Holy Spirit
He who is the Light
Has made it known to us.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven:
As Tertulliaan says, this sentence does not in the least mean that we are afraid of people thwarting God’s designs because nothing whatsoever can happen without Diving Providence having foreseen it and having made it fit into His plans beforehand. No obstruction in the whole world can possibly prevent the will of God from being carried out.
Rather, when we say THY WILL BE DONE, we ask god to make us humbly resigned to all that He has seen fit to send us in this life. We also ask Him to help us to do, in all things and at all times, His Holy will, made known to us by the commandments, promptly, lovingly and faithfully as the saints and angels do it in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread:
Our Lord taught us to ask God for everything that we need whether in the spiritual or temporal order. By asking for our daily bread we humbly admit our own poverty and insufficiency and pay tribute to our God, knowing that all temporal good come from His Divine Providence.
When we say BREAD we ask for that which is just necessary to live; and of course, this does not include luxuries.
We ask for this bread today THIS DAY which means that we are concerned only for the present, leaving the morrow in the hands of Providence.
And when we ask for our DAILY BREAD we recognize that we need God’s help every day and that we are entirely dependent upon Him and for His help and protection.
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us:
Every sin, say Saint Augustine and Tertullian, is a debt which we contract towards Almighty God and His justice demands payment down to the very last farthing. Unfortunately we all have these sad debts.
No matter how many they may be we should go to God in all confidence and with true sorrow for our sins, saying “Our Father Who art in Heaven, forgive us our sins of thought and those of speech, forgive us our sins of commission and omission which make us infinitely guilty in the eyes of Thy Divine Justice.
“We dare to ask this because Thou art our loving and merciful Father and because we have forgotten those who have offended us, out of obedience to Thee and out of charity.
“Do not permit us, in spite of our infidelity to Thy graces, to give in to the temptations of the world, the devil and the flesh.”
But deliver us from evil:
The evil of sin and also of temporal punishment and everlasting punishment which we know that we have rightly deserve. Amen (So be it).
This word at the end of Our Father is very consoling and Saint Jerome says that it is a sort of seal of approbation that Almighty God puts at the end of our petitions to assure us that He will grant our requests — very much as though He Himself were answering:
“Amen! May it be as you have asked, for verily you have obtained what you asked for.” This is what is meant by the word “Amen.”
Each word of the Lord’s Prayer is a tribute we pay to the perfections of God. We honor His fertility by the name of Father:
Who throughout eternity
Dost beget a Son
Who is God like Thee-
Eternal, consubstantial with Thee
Who Is the very same essence
And is of like power
As Thou art…
Father and Son
Who from Your mutual love
Produce the Holy Spirit
Who is God like unto You;
But one God.
OUR FATHER – this means that He is the Father of mankind because He has created us and continues to sustain us, and because He has redeemed us. He is also the merciful Father of sinners, the Father Who is the friend of the just and the glorious Father of the blessed in heaven.
When we say WHO ART, by these words we pay tribute to the infinity and immensity and fullness of God’s essence. God is rightly called “He Who is” *1*; that is to say, He exists of necessity, essentially, and eternally, because He is the Being of beings and the cause of all beings. He possesses within Himself, in a supereminent degree, the perfections of all beings and He is in all of them by His essence, by His presence and by His power, but without being bounded by their limitations. We honor His sublimity and His glory and His majesty by the words WHO ART IN HEAVEN, that is to say, “Who is seated as on a throne, holding sway over all men by Thy justice.”
When we say HALLOWED BE THY NAME we worship God’s holiness; and we make obeisance to His Kingship and bow to the justice of His laws by the words THY KINGDOM COME, praying that men will obey Him on earth as the angels do in heaven.
We show our trust in His Providence by asking for our DAILY BREAD, and we appeal to His mercy when we ask for the forgiveness of our sins.
We look to His great power when we beg Him NOT TO LEAD US INTO TEMPTATION, and we show our faith in His goodness by our hope that He will DELIVER US FROM EVIL.
The Son of God has always glorified His Father by His works and He came into the word to give glory to Him. He showed men how to praise Him by this prayer which He taught us with His own lips. It is our duty, therefore, to say it often–we should say it reverently and attentively and in the spirit in which Our Lord taught it.
We make as many acts of the noblest Christian virtues as we pronounce words, when we recite attentively this divine prayer.
In saying “Our Father Who art in heaven,” we make acts of faith, adoration, and humility. When we ask that His name be hallowed and glorified we show a burning zeal for His glory, and when we ask for the spread of His Kingdom we make an act of hope; by the wish that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven, we show a spirit of perfect obedience.
In asking for our daily bread we practise poverty of spirit and detachment from worldly goods. When we beg Him to forgive us our sins we make an act of sorrow for them. By forgiving those who have trespassed against us we give proof of the virtue of mercy in its highest degree.
Through asking God’s help in all our temptations, we make acts of humility, prudence and fortitude. As we wait for Him to deliver us from evil we exercise the virtue of patience.
Finally, while asking for all these things — not for ourselves alone but also for our neighbor and for all members of the Church–we are carrying out our duty as true children of God, we are imitating Him in His love which embraces all men and we are keeping the commandment of love of neighbor.
If we are mean in our hearts what we say with our lips and if our intentions are not at variance with those expressed in the Lord’s Prayer, then by reciting this prayer, we hate all sin and we observe all of God’s laws. For whenever we think that God is in heaven — as we place ourselves in His presence we should be filled with overwhelming reverence. Then the fear of the Lord will chase away all pride and we will bow before God in our utter nothingness.
When we say the name Father and remember that we owe our existence to God by the means of our parents and even our knowledge to our teachers who hold the place and are the living images of God, then we cannot help paying them honor and respect, or, to be more exact, honoring God in them. Nothing then, too, would be farther from our thoughts than to be disrespectful to them or hurt them.
We are never farther from blaspheming than when we pray that the Holy Name of God may be glorified. If we really look upon the Kingdom of God as our heritage we cannot possibly be attached to the things of this world.
If we sincerely ask God that our neighbor may have the very same blessings that we ourselves stand in need of, it goes without saying that we will give up all hatred, quarreling and jealousy. And of course if we ask God each day for our daily bread we shall learn to hate gluttony and lasciviousness which thrive in rich surroundings.
While sincerely asking God to forgive us as we forgive those who trespass against us we no longer give way to anger and thoughts of getting even — we return good for evil and really love our enemies.
To ask God to save us from falling into sin when we are tempted is to give proof that we are fighting laziness and that we are genuinely seeking means to root out our vicious habits and to work out our salvation.
To pray God to deliver us from evil is to fear His justice and this will give us true happiness. For since the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, it is through the virtue of the fear of God that men avoid sin.
The Angelic Salutation is so heavenly and so beyond us in its depth of meaning that Blessed Alan de la Roche held that no mere creature could ever possibly understand it, and that only Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ Who was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary can really explain it.
Its enormous value is due first of all to Our Lady to whom it was addressed, to the purpose of the Incarnation of the Word for which reason this prayer was brought from heaven, and also to the Archangel Gabriel who was the first ever to say it.
The Angelic Salutation is a most concise summary of all that Catholic theology teaches about the Blessed Virgin. It is divided up into two parts, that of praise and petition: the first shows all that goest to make up Mary’s greatness and the second all that we need to ask her for and all that we may expect to receive through her goodness.
The Most Blessed Trinity revealed the first part of it to us and the latter part was added by Saint Elizabeth who was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Holy Mother Church gave us the conclusion in the year 430 when she condemned the Nestorian heresy at the council of Ephesus and defined that the Blessed Virgin is truly the Mother of God. At this time she ordered us to pray to Our Lady under this glorious title by saying:
“Hail Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death.”
The greatest event in the whole history of the world was the Incarnation of the Eternal Word by Whom the world was redeemed and peace was restored between God and men. Our Lady was chosen as His instrument for this tremendous event and it was put into effect when she was greeted with the Angelic Salutation. The Archangel Gabriel, one of the leading princes of the heavenly court, was chosen as ambassador to bear these glad tidings.
In the Angelic Salutation can be seen the faith and hope of the patriarchs, the prophets and the apostles. Furthermore it gives to martyrs their unswerving constancy and strength, it is the wisdom of the doctors of the Church, the perseverance of holy confessors and the life of all religious. (Blessed Alan de la Roche) It is also the new hymn of the law of grace, the joy of angels and men, and the hymn which terrifies devils and puts them to shame.
By the Angelic Salutation God became man, a virgin became the Mother of God, the souls of the just were delivered from Limbo, the empty thrones in heaven filled. In addition sin was forgiven, grace was given to us, sick people were made well, the dead were brought back to life, exiles were brought home, and the anger of the Most Blessed Trinity was appeased and men obtained eternal life.
Finally, the Angelic Salutation is a rainbow in the heavens, a sign of the mercy and grace which God has given to the world. (Blessed Alan da la Roche)
Even though there is nothing so great as the majesty of God and nothing so low as man insofar as he is a sinner, Almighty God does not desire our poor prayers. On the contrary, He is pleased when we sing His praises.
Saint Gabriel’s greeting to Our Lady is one of the most beautiful hymns which we can possibly sing to the glory of the Most High. “I will sing a new song to you” (Ps. 143:9). This new hymn which David foretold was to be sung at the coming of the Messiah is none other than the Angelic Salutation.
There is an old hymn and a new hymn: the first is that which the Jews sang out of gratitude to God for creating them and maintaining them in existence — for delivering them from captivity and leading them safely through the Red Sea — for giving them manna to eat and for all His other blessings.
The new hymn is that which Christians sing in thanksgiving for the graces of the Incarnation and the Redemption. As these marvels were brought about by the Angelic Salutation, so do we repeat the same salutation to thank the Most Blessed Trinity for His immeasurable goodness to us.
We praise God the Father because He so loved the world that He gave us His only Son as our Savior. We bless the Son because He deigned to leave heaven and come down upon earth — because HE WAS MADE Man and redeemed us. We glorify the Holy Spirit because he formed Our Lord’s pure Body in Our Lady’s Womb — this Body which was the Victim of our sins. In this spirit of deep thankfulness should we, then, always say the Hail Mary, making acts of faith, hope, love, and thanksgiving for the priceless gift of salvation.
Although this new hymn is in praise of the Mother of God and is sung directly to her, nevertheless it greatly glorifies the Most Blessed Trinity because any homage that we pay Our Lady returns inevitably to God Who is the cause of all her virtues and perfections. When we honor Our Lady: God the Father is glorified because we are honoring the most perfect of His Creatures; God the Son is glorified because we are praising His most pure Mother, and God the Holy Spirit is glorified because we are lost in admiration at the graces with which He has filled His Spouse.
When we praise and bless Our Lady by saying the Angelic Salutation she always passes on these praises to Almighty God in the same way as she did when she was praised by Saint Elizabeth. The latter blessed her in her most elevated dignity as Mother of God and Our Lady immediately returned the praises to God by her beautiful Magnificat. Just as the Angelic Salutation gives glory to the Blessed Trinity, it is also the very highest praise that we can give Our Lady.
One day when Saint Mechtilde was praying and was trying to think of some way in which she could express her love of the Blessed Mother better than she had done before, she fell into ecstasy. Our Lady appeared to her with the Angelic Salutation in flaming letters of gold upon her bosom and said to her: “My daughter, I want you to know that no one can please me more by saying the salutation which the Most Adorable Trinity sent to me and by which He raised me to the dignity of Mother of God.
“Bye the word Ave (which is the name Eve, Eva), I learned that in His infinite power God has preserved me from all sin and its attendant misery which the first woman had been subject to.
“The name Mary which means “lady of light” shows that God has filled me with wisdom and light, like a shining star, to light up heaven and earth.
“The words full of grace reminds me that the Holy Spirit has showered so many graces upon me that I am able to give these graces in abundance to those who ask for them through me as Mediatrix.
“When people say The Lord is with thee they renew the indescribable joy that was mine when the Eternal Word became incarnate in my womb.
“When you say to me blessed art thou among women I praise Almighty God’s divine mercy which lifted me to this exalted plane of happiness.
“And at the words blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus, the whole of heaven rejoices with me to see my Son Jesus Christ adored and glorified for having saved mankind.”
Blessed Alan De la Roche who was so deeply devoted to the Blessed Virgin had many revelations from her and we know that he confirmed the truth of these revelations by a solemn oath. Three of them stand out with special emphasis: the first, that if people fail to say the Hail Mary (the Angelic Salutation which has saved the world) out of carelessness, or because they are lukewarm, or because they hate it, this is a sign that they will probably and indeed shortly be condemned to eternal punishment.
The second truth is that those who love this divine salutation bear the very special stamp of predestination.
The third is that those to whom God has given the signal of grace of loving Our Lady and of serving her out of love must take very great care to continue to love and serve her until the time when she shall have had them place in heaven by her divine Son in the degree of glory which they have earned. (Blessed Alan, chapter XI, paragraph 2).
The heretics, all of whom are children of the devil and clearly bear the sign of God’s reprobation, have a horror of the Hail Mary. They still say the Our Father but never the Hail Mary; they would rather wear a poisonous snake around their necks than wear a scapular or carry a rosary.
Among Catholics those who bear the mark of God’s reprobation think but little of the rosary (whether that of five decades or fifteen). They either fail to say it or only say it very quickly and in a lukewarm manner.
Even if I did not believe that which has been revealed to Blessed Alan de la Roche, even then my own experience would be enough to convince me of this terrible but consoling truth. I do now know, nor do I see clearly, how it can be that a devotion which seems to be so small can be the infallible sign of eternal salvation and how its absence can be the sign of God’s eternal displeasure; nevertheless, nothing could possibly be more true.
In our own day we see that people who hold new doctrines that have been condemned by Holy Mother Church may have quite a bit of surface piety, but they scorn the Rosary, and often dissuade their acquaintances from saying it, by destroying their love of it and their faith in it. In doing this they make elaborate excuses which are plausible in the eyes of the world. They are very careful not to condemn the Rosary and Scapular as the Calvinist do – but the way they set about attacking them is all the more deadly because it is the more cunning. I shall refer to it again later on.
My Hail Mary, my Rosary of fifteen or five decades, is the prayer and the infallible touchstone by which I can tell those who are led by the Spirit of god from those who are deceived by the devil. I have known souls who seemed to soar like eagles to the heights by their sublime contemplation and who yet were pitifully led astray by the devil. I only found out how wrong they were when I learned that they scorned the Hail Mary and the Rosary which they considered as being far beneath them.
The Hail Mary is a blessed dew that falls from heaven upon the souls of the predestinate. It gives them a marvelous spiritual fertility so that they can grow in all virtues. The more the garden of the soul is watered by this prayer the more enlightened one’s intellect becomes, the more zealous his heart, and the stronger his armor against his spiritual enemies.
The Hail Mary is a sharp and flaming shaft which, joined to the Word of God, gives the preacher the strength to pierce, move and convert the most hardened hearts even if he has little or no natural gifts for preaching.
As I have already said, this was the great secret that Our Lady taught Saint Dominic and blessed Alan so that they might convert heretics and sinners.
Saint Antoninus tells us that this is why many priests got into the habit of saying a Hail Mary at the beginning of their sermons.
This Heavenly Salutation draws down upon us the blessings of Jesus and Mary in abundance, for it is an infallible truth that Jesus and Mary reward in a marvelous way those who glorify them. They repay us a hundredfold for the praises that we give them. “I love them that love me….that I may enrich them that love me and fill their treasures.” *1* Jesus and Mary have always said: “We love those who love us; we enrich them and fill their treasuries to overflowing.” “He who soweth in blessings, shall also reap blessings.” *2*
Now, if we say the Hail Mary properly, is not this a way to love, bless and glorify Jesus and Mary?
In each Hail Mary we bless both Jesus and Mary: “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.”
By each Hail Mary we give Our Lady the same honor that God gave her when He sent the Archangel Gabriel to greet her for Him. How could anyone possibly think that Jesus and Mary, who often do good to those that curse them, could ever curse those that bless and honor them by the Hail Mary?
Both Saint Bernard and Saint Bonaventure say that the Queen of Heaven is certainly no less grateful and conscientious than gracious and well-mannered people of this world. Just as she excels in all other perfections, she surpasses us all in the virtue of gratitude; so she would never let us honor her with love and respect without repaying us one hundredfold. Saint Bonaventure says that Mary will greet us with grace if we greet her with the Hail Mary.
Who could possibly understand the graces and blessings which the greeting and tender regard of Our Lady effect in us? From the very first instant that Saint Elizabeth heard the greeting that the Mother of God gave her, she was filled with the Holy Spirit and the child in her womb leaped for joy. If we make ourselves worthy of the greeting and blessings of Our Lady we shall certainly be filled with graces and a flood of spiritual consolations will come down into our souls.
It is written: “Give and it shall be given unto you” (Luke 6:38). To take Blessed Alan’s illustration of this: “Supposing each day I give you one hundred and fifty diamonds, even if you were my enemy, would you not forgive me? Would you not treat me as a friend and give me all the graces that you were able to give? If you want to gain the riches of grace and of glory, salute the Blessed Virgin, honor your good Mother.” “He that honoreth his mother (The Blessed Virgin) is as one that layeth up a treasure” (Eccl. 3:5) So every day do give her at least fifty Hail Mary’s–for each one is worth fifteen precious stones and they please Our Lady far more than all the riches of this world put together.
And you can expect such great things from her generosity! She is our Mother and our friend. She is the empress of the universe and loves us more than all the mothers and queens of the world have ever loved any one human being. This is really so, for the charity of the Blessed Virgin far surpasses the natural love of all mankind and even of all the angels, as Saint Augustine says.
One day Saint Gertrude had a vision of Our Lord counting gold coins. She summoned the courage to ask Him what He was doing. He answered: “I am counting the Hail Marys that you have said; this is the money with which you can pay your way to Heaven.”
The holy and learned Jesuit, Father Suarez, was so deeply aware of the value of the Angelic Salutation that he said that he would gladly give all his learning for the price of one Hail Mary that had been said properly.
Blessed Alan de la Roche said: “Let everyone who loves you, oh most holy Mary, listen to this and drink it:
Whenever I say
The court of heaven rejoices
And the earth
Is lost in wonderment.
And I despise the world
And my heart is brim-full
Of the love of God
When I say
All my fears
Wilt and die
And my passions are quelled
If I say
And sorrow for sin
When I say
Hope is made strong
In my breast
And the dew of consolation
Falls on my soul
More and more-
Because I say
And my spirit
And sorrow fades away
When I say
For the sweetness of this blessed salutation is so great that there are no words to explain it adequately, and even when its wonders have been sung, we still find it so full of mystery and so profound that its depths can never be plumbed. It has but few words but is exceeding rich in mystery; it is sweeter than honey and more precious than gold. We should often meditate upon it in our hearts and have it ever upon our lips so as to say it devoutly again and again.”
Blessed Alan says that a nun who had always had a great devotion to the Holy Rosary appeared after death to one of her sisters in religion and said to her: “If I were allowed to go back into my body, to have the chance of saying just one single Hail Mary – even if I said it quickly and without great fervor – I would gladly go through the sufferings that I had during my last illness all over again, in order to gain the merit of this prayer” (Blessed Alan de la Roche, De Dignitate Psalterii, Chapter LXIX) This is all the more compelling because she had been bedridden and had suffered agonizing pains for several years before she died.
Michael de Lisle, Bishop of Salubre, who was a disciple and co-worker of Blessed Alan’s in the re-establishment of the Holy Rosary said that the Angelic Salutation is the remedy for all ills that we suffer as long as we say it devoutly in honor of Our Lady.
Are you in the miserable state of sin? Then call on Mary and say to her: Ave, which means “I salute thee with the most profound respect, thou who art without sin” and she will deliver you from the evil of your sins.
Are you grouping in the darkness of ignorance and error? Go to Mary and say to her: Hail Mary; which means “Hail thou who art bathed in the light of the Sun of Justice”- and she will give you some of her light.
Have you strayed from the path leading to heaven? Then call on Mary, for her name means “Star of the Sea, the North Star which guides the ships of our souls during the voyage of this life,” and she will guide you to the harbor of eternal salvation.
Are you in sorrow? Turn to Mary, for her name means also “Sea of Bitterness which has been filled with sharp pain in this world but which is now turned into a Sea of the Purest Joy in heaven,” and she will turn your sorrow to joy and your afflictions into consolation.
Have you lost the state of grace? Praise and honor the numberless graces with which God has filled with all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and she will give you some of these graces.
Are you all alone, having lost God’s protection? Pray to Mary, and say: “The Lord is with thee – and this union is far nobler and more intimate than that which He has with saints and the just – because thou art one with Him. He is thy Son and His Flesh is thy flesh; thou art united to the Lord because of thy perfect likeness to Him and by your mutual love – for thou art His Mother.” And then say to her: “The Three Persons of the Godhead are with thee because thou art the Temple of the most Blessed Trinity,” and she will place you once more under the protection and care of Almighty God.
Have you become an outcast and have you been accursed by God? Then say to Our Lady: “Blessed art thou above all women and above all nations, by thy purity and fertility; thou hast turned God’s maledictions into blessings for us,” and she will bless you.
Do you hunger for the bread of grace and the bread of life? Draw near to her who bore the Living Bread Which came down from heaven, and say to her: Blessed be the Fruit of thy womb Whom thou hast conceived without the slightest loss of thy virginity, Whom thou didst carry without discomfort and to Whom thou didst give birth without pain. Blessed be Jesus Who has redeemed our suffering world when we were in the bondage of sin, Who has healed the world of its sickness, Who has raised the dead to life, brought home the banished, restored sinners to a life of grace and Who has saved men from damnation.” Without doubt, your soul will be filled with the bread of grace in this life and of eternal glory in the next. Amen.
Then, at the end of your prayer, pray thus with Holy Mother Church:
Holy in body and in soul
Holy because of thy incomparable
And eternal devotion
To the service of God-
Holy in thy great rank
Of Mother of God
Who has endowed thee
With eminent holiness,
A worthy attribute
Of this great dignity.
MOTHER OF GOD
And our Mother-
Our Advocate and Mediatrix
Thou who art the Treasurer of God’s graces
And who dost dispense them
As thou seest fit-
Oh, we beg of thee
Obtain for us
The forgiveness of our sins-
And grant that we may be reconciled
With God’s infinite Majesty.
PRAY FOR US SINNERS
Thou who art always filled with compassion
For those in need-
Thou who wilt never despise sinners
Or turn them away-
For but for them
Thou woulds’t never have been
Mother of the Redeemer,
Pray for us
During this short life
So fraught with sorrow and uncertainty.
Pray for us now,
Now — because we can be sure of nothing
Except the present moment.
Pray for us now
That we are being attacked night and day
By powerful and ruthless enemies…
Pray for us now
AND AT THE HOUR OF OUR DEATH
So terrible and full of danger,
When our strength is waning
And our spirits are sinking
And our souls and bodies
Are worn out with fear and pain
Pray for us then
At the hour of our death
When the devil is working
With might and main
To ensnare us and cast us into perdition.
Pray for us
At the turning point
When the die will be cast once and for all
And our lot for ever and ever
Will be heaven–
Come to the help of thy poor children,
Gentle Mother of pity:
And, oh, Advocate and Refuge of Sinners,
At the hour of our death
And drive far from us
Our bitter enemies,
The devils of our accusers,
Those with frightful presence
Fill us with dread.
Light our path
Through the valley of the shadow of death.
To thy Son’s Judgment Seat
And do not forsake us there.
Intercede for us
And ask thy Son to forgive us
And let us into the ranks of the blessed
In the realm of everlasting glory.
So be it.
No one could help admiring the beauty of the Holy Rosary which is made up of two heavenly things: the Lord’s Prayer and the Angelic Salutation. How could there possibly be any prayers more pleasing to Almighty God and the Blessed Virgin, or any that are easier, more precious or more helpful than these two prayers? We should always have them in our hearts and on our lips to honor the Most Blessed Trinity, Jesus Christ and our Savior, and His Most Holy Mother.
In addition, at the end of each decade it is very good to add a Gloria Patri,* that is to say: “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.”
*The “Gloria Patri” was a happy innovation in the recitation of the Rosary. It is quite probable that it can be attributed to Saint Louis de Montfort himself.
A mystery is a sacred thing which is difficult to understand. The works of Our Lord Jesus Christ are all sacred and divine because He is God and man at one and the same time. The works of the Most Blessed Virgin are very holy because she is the most perfect and the most pure of God’s creatures. The works of Our Lord and of His Blessed Mother can be rightly called mysteries because they are so full of wonders and all kinds of perfections and deep sublime truths which the Holy Spirit reveals to the humble and simple souls who honor these mysteries.
The works of Jesus and Mary can also be called wonderful flowers; but their perfume and beauty can only be appreciated by those who study them carefully–and who open them and drink in their scent by diligent and sincere meditation.
Saint Dominic has divided up the lives of Our Lord and Our Lady into fifteen mysteries which stand for their virtues and their most important actions. These are the fifteen tableaux or pictures whose every detail must rule and inspire our lives. They are fifteen flaming torches to guide our steps throughout this earthly life.
They are fifteen shining mirrors which help us to know Jesus and Mary and to know ourselves as well. They will also help light the fire of their love in our hearts.
They are fifteen fiery furnaces which can consume us completely in their heavenly flames.
Our Lady taught Saint Dominic this excellent method of praying and ordered him to ppreach it far and wide so as to reawaken the fervor of Christians and to revive in their hearts a love for Our Blessed Lord.
She also taught it to Blessed Alan de la Roche and said to him in a vision: “When people say one hundred and fifty Angelic Salutations this prayer is very helpful to them and is a very pleasing tribute to me. But they will do better still and will please me even more if they say these salutations while meditating on the life, death and passion of Jesus Christ – for this meditation is the soul of the prayer.”
For, in reality, the Rosary said without meditating on the sacred mysteries of our salvation would be almost like a body without a soul: excellent matter but without the form which is meditation — this latter being that which sets it apart from all other devotions.
The first part of the Rosary contains five mysteries: the first is the Annunciation of the Archangel Saint Gabriel to Our Lady; the second, the Visitation of Our Lady to her cousin Saint Elizabeth; the third, the Nativity of Jesus Christ; the fourth, the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the temple and the Purification of Our Lady; and the fifth, the Finding of Jesus in the Temple among the doctors.
These are called the JOYFUL MYSTERIES because of the joy which they gave to the whole universe. Our Lady and the angels were overwhelmed with joy the moment when the Son of God was incarnate. Saint Elizabeth and Saint John the Baptist were filled with joy by the visit of Jesus and Mary. Heaven and earth rejoiced at the birth of Our Savior. Holy Simeon felt great consolation and was filled with joy when he took the Holy Child in his arms. The doctors were lost in admiration and wonderment at the answers which Jesus gave — and how could anyone describe the joy of Mary and Joseph when they found the Child Jesus after He had been lost for three days?
The second part of the Rosary is also composed of five mysteries which are called the SORROWFUL MYSTERIES because they show us Our Lord weighed down with sadness, covered with wounds, laden with insults, sufferings and torments. The first of these mysteries is Jesus’ Prayer and Agony in the Garden of Olives; the second, His Scourging; the third, His Crowning with Thorns; the fourth, Jesus carrying His Cross; and the fifth, His Crucifixion and Death on Mount Calvary.
The third part of the Rosary contains five other mysteries which are called the Glorious Mysteries because when we say them we meditate on Jesus and Mary in their triumph and glory. The first is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ; the second, His Ascension into heaven; the third, the Descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles; the fourth, Our Lady’s glorious Assumption into heaven; and the fifth, her Crowning in Heaven.
These are the fifteen fragrant flowers of the Mystical Rose Tree; devout souls fly to them like wise bees, so as to gather their nectar and make the honey of a solid devotion.
The chief concern of the Christian should be to tend to perfection. “Be faithful imitators of God, as his well-beloved children,” the great Apostle tells us. This obligation is included in the eternal decree of our predestination, as the one and only means prescribed by God to attain everlasting glory.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa makes a delightful comparison when he says that we are all artists and that our souls are blank canvasses which we have to fill in. The colors which we use are the Christian virtues, and the original which we have to copy is Jesus Christ, the perfect living image of God the Father. Just as a painter who wants to do a lifelike portrait places the model before his eyes and looks at it before making each stroke, so the Christian must always have before his eyes the life and virtues of Jesus Christ, so as never to say, think or do anything which is not in conformity with his model.
It was because Our Lady wanted to help us in the great task of working out our salvation that she ordered Saint Dominic to teach the faithful to meditate upon the sacred mysteries of the life of Jesus Christ. She did this, not only that they might adore and glorify him, but chiefly that they might pattern their lives and actions on his virtues.
Children copy their parents through watching them and talking to them, and they learn their own language through hearing them speak. An apprentice learns his trade through watching his master at work; in the same way the faithful members of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary can become like their divine Master if they reverently study and imitate the virtues of Jesus which are shown in the fifteen mysteries of his life. They can do this with the help of his grace and through the intercession of his blessed Mother.
Long ago, Moses was inspired by God to command the Jewish people never to forget the graces which had been showered upon them. The Son of God has all the more reason to command us to engrave the mysteries of his life, passion and glory upon our hearts and to have them always before our eyes, since each mystery reminds us of his goodness to us in some special way and it is by these mysteries that he has shown us his overwhelming love and desire for our salvation. “Oh, all you who pass by, pause a while,” he says, “and see if there has ever been any sorrow like to the sorrow I have endured for you. Be mindful of my poverty and humiliations; think of the gall and wormwood I took for you in my bitter passion.
These words and many others which could be given here should be more than enough to convince us that we must not only say the Rosary with our lips in honor of Jesus and Mary, but also meditate upon the sacred mysteries while we are saying it.
Jesus Christ, the divine spouse of our souls and our very dear friend, wishes us to remember his goodness to us and to prize his gifts above all else. Whenver we meditate devoutly and lovingly upon the sacred mysteries of the Rosary, he receives an added joy, as also do our Lady and all the saints in heaven. His gifts are the most outstanding results of his love for us and the richest presents he could possibly give us, and it is by virtue of such presents that the Blessed Virgin herself and all the saints are glorified in heaven.
One day Blessed Angela of Foligno begged our Lord to let her know by which religious exercise she could honor him best. He appeared to her nailed to his cross and said, “My daughter, look at my wounds.” She then realized that nothing pleases our dear Lord more than meditating upon his sufferings. Then he showed her the wounds on his head and revealed still other sufferings and said to her, “I have suffered all this for your salvation. What can you ever do to return my lover for you?”
The holy sacrifice of the Mass gives infinite honor to the most Blessed Trinity because it represents the passion of Jesus Christ and because through the Mass we offer to God the merits of our Lord’s obedience, of his sufferings, and of his precious blood. All the heavenly court also receive an added joy from the Mass. Several doctors of the Church, including St. Thomas, tell us that, for the same reason, all the blessed in heaven rejoice in the communion of the faithful because the Blessed Sacrament is a memorial of the passion and death of Jesus Christ, and that by means of it men share in its fruits and work out their salvation.
Now the holy Rosary, recited with meditation on the sacred mysteries, is a sacrifice of praise to God for the great gift of our redemption and a holy reminder of the sufferings, death and glory of Jesus Christ. It is therefore true that the Rosary gives glory and added joy to our Lord, our Lady and all the blessed, because they cannot desire anything greater, for the sake of our eternal happiness, than to see us engaged in a practice which is so glorious for our Lord and so salutary for ourselves.
The Gospel teaches us that a sinner who is converted and who does penance gives joy to all the angels. If the repentance and conversion of one sinner is enough to make the angels rejoice, how great must be the happiness and jubilation of the whole heavenly court and what glory for our Blessed Lord himself to see us here on earth meditating devoutly and lovingly on his humiliations and torments and on his cruel and shameful death! Is there anything that could touch our hearts more surely and bring us to sincere repentance?
A Christian who does not meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary is very ungrateful to our Lord and shows how little he cares for all that our divine Savior has suffered to save the world. This attitude seems to show that he knows little or nothing of the life of Jesus Christ, and that he has never taken the trouble to find out what he has done and what he went through in order to save us. A Christian of that kind ought to fear that, not having known Jesus Christ or having put him out of his mind, Jesus will reject him on the day of judgement with the reproach, “I tell you solemnly, I do not know you.”
Let us meditate, then, on the life and sufferings of our Savior by means of the holy Rosary; let us learn to know him well and be grateful for all his blessings, so that, on the day of Judgement, he may number us among his children and his friends.
The saints made our Lord’s life the principal object of their study; they meditate on his virtues and his sufferings, and in this way arrived at Christian perfection.
Saint Bernard began with this meditation and he always kept it up. “At the very beginning of my conversion,” he said, “I made a bouquet of myrrh fashioned from the sorrows of my Savior. I placed this bouquet upon my heart, thinking of the lashes, the thorns and the nails of his passion. I applied my whole mind to the meditation on these mysteries every day.”
This was also the practice of the holy martyrs; we admire how they triumphed over the most cruel sufferings. Where could this admirable constancy of the martyrs come from, says Saint Bernard, if not from the wounds of Jesus Christ, on which they meditated so frequently? Where was the soul of these generous athletes when their blood gushed forth and their bodies were wracked with cruel torments? Their soul was in the wounds of Christ and those wounds made them invincible.
During her whole life, our Savior’s holy Mother was occupied in meditating on the virtues and the sufferings of her Son. When she heard the angels sing their hymn of joy at his birth and saw the shepherds adore him in the stable, her heart was filled with wonder and she meditated on all these marvels. She compared the greatness of the Word incarnate to the way he humbled himself in this lowly fashion; the straw of the crib, to his throne in the heart of his Father; the might of God, to the weakness of a child; his wisdom, to his simplicity.
Our Lady said to Saint Bridget one day, “Whenver I used to contemplate the beauty, modesty, and wisdom of my Son, my heart was filled with joy; and whenever I considered his hands and feet which would be pierced with cruel nails, I wept bitterly and my heart was rent with sorrow and pain.”
After our Lord’s Ascension, our Blessed Lady spent the rest of her life visiting the places that had been hallowed by his presence and on his terrible passion.
Saint Mary Magdalen continually performed the same religious exercises during the last thirty years of her life, when she lived at Saint-Baume. Saint Jerome tells us that this was the devotion of the faithful in the early centuries of the Church. From all the countries of the world they came to the Holy Land to engrave more deeply on their hearts a great love and remembrance of the Savior of mankind by seeing the places and things he had made holy by his birth, his work, his sufferings, and his death.
All Christians have but one faith and adore one and the same God, and hope for the same happiness in heaven; they know only one mediator, who is Jesus Christ; all must imitate their divine model, and in order to do this they must meditate on the mysteries of his life, of his virtues and of his glory.
It is a great mistake to think that only priests and religious and those who have withdrawn from the turmoil of the world are supposed to meditate upon the truths of our faith and the mysteries of the life of Christ. If priests and religious have an obligation to meditate on the great truths of our holy religion in order to live up to their vocation worthily, the same obligation is just as much incumbent on the laity, because of the fact that every day they meet with spiritual dangers which might cause them to lose their souls. Therefore they should arm themselves with the frequent meditation on the life, virtues, and sufferings of our Blessed Lord, which are presented to us in the fifteen mysteries of the Holy Rosary.
Never will anyone be able to understand the marvelous riches of sanctification which are contained in the prayers and mysteries of the Holy Rosary. This meditation on the meditation on the mysteries of the life and death of our Lord Jesus Christ is the source of the most wonderful fruits for those who make use of it.
Today people want things that strike and move them, that leave deep impressions on the soul. Now has there ever been anything in the history of the world more moving than the wonderful story of the life, death, and glory of our Savior which is contained in the holy Rosary? In the fifteen tableaux, the principal scenes or mysteries of his life unfold before our eyes. How could there be any more prayers more wonderful and sublime than the Lord’s Prayer and the Ave of the angel? All our desires and all our needs are expressed in these two prayers.
The meditation on the mysteries and prayers of the Rosary is the easiest of all prayers, because the diversity of the virtues of our Lord and the different situations of his life which we study, refresh and fortify our mind in a wonderful way and help us to avoid distractions. For the learned, these mysteries are the source of the most profound doctrine, while simple people find them a means of instruction well within their reach.
We need to learn this easy form of meditation before progressing to the highest state of contemplation. This is the view of Saint Thomas Aquinas, and the advice that he gives when he says that, first of all, one must practise on a battlefield, as it were, by acquiring all the virtues of which we have the perfect model in the mysteries of the Rosary; for, says the learned Cajetan, that is the way we arrive at a really intimate union with God, since without that union contemplation is nothing but an illusion which can lead souls astray.
If only the Illuminists or Quietists of these days had followed this piece of advice, they would never have fallen so low or caused such scandals among spiritual people. To think that it is possible to say prayers that are finer and more beautiful than the Our Father and the Hail Mary is to fall a prey to a strange illusion of the devil, for these heavenly prayers are the support, the strength and the safeguard of our souls.
I admit it is not always necessary to say them as vocal prayers and that interior prayer is, in a sense, more perfect than vocal. But believe me, it is really dangerous, not to say fatal, to give up saying the Rosary of your own accord under the pretext of seeking a more perfect union with God. Sometimes a soul that is proud in a subtle way and who may have done everything that he can do interiorly to rise to the sublime heights of contemplation that the saints have reached may be deluded by the noonday devil into giving up his former devotions which are good enough for ordinary souls. He turns a deaf ear to the prayers and the greeting of an angel and even to the prayer which God has composed, put into practice, and commanded: Thus all you pray: Our Father. Having reached this point, such a soul drifts from illusion to illusion, and falls from precipice to precipice.
Believe me, dear brother of the Rosary Confraternity, if you genuinely wish to attain a high degree of prayer in all honesty and without falling into the illusions of the devil so common with those who practice mental prayer, say the whole Rosary every day, or at least five decades of it.
If you have already attained, by the grace of God, a high degree of prayer, keep up the practise of saying the holy Rosary if you wish to remain in that state and by it to grow in humility. For never will anyone who says his Rosary every day become a formal heretic or be led astray by the devil. This is a statement which I would sign with my blood.
On the other hand, if God in his infinite mercy draws you to himself as forcibly as he did some of the saints while saying the Rosary, make yourself passive in his hands and let yourself be drawn towards him. Let God work and praying you and let him say your Rosary in his way, and that will be sufficient for the day.
But if you are still in the state of active contemplation or the ordinary prayer of quietude, or the presence of God, affective prayer, you have even less reason for giving up the Rosary. Far from making you lose ground in mental prayer or stunting your spiritual growth, it will be a wonderful help to you. You will find it a real Jacob’s ladder with fifteen rungs by which you will go from virtue to virtue and from light to light. Thus, without danger of being misled, you will easily arrive at the fullness of the age of Jesus Christ.
Whatever you do, do not be like a certain pious but self-willed lady in Rome, so often referred to by speakers on the Rosary. She was so devout and fervent that she put to shame by her holy life even the strictest religious in the church.
Having decided to ask St. Dominic’s advice about her spiritual life, she made her confession to him. For penance he gave her one Rosary to say and advised her to say it every day. She excused herself, saying that she had her regular exercises, that she made the Stations of Rome every day, that she wore sackcloth as well as a hair-shirt, that she gave herself the discipline several times a week, that she often fasted and did other penances. Saint Dominic urged her over and over again to take his advice and say the Rosary, but she would not hear of it. She left the confessional, horrified at the methods of this new spiritual director who had tried so hard to persuade her to take up a devotion for which she had no taste.
Later on, when she was at prayer she fell into ecstasy and had a vision of her soul appearing before the Supreme Judge. Saint Michael put all her penances and to her prayers on one side of the scale and all her sins and imperfections on the other. The tray of her good works were greatly outweighed by that of her sins and imperfections.
Filled with alarm, she cried out for mercy, imploring the help of the Blessed Virgin, her gracious advocate, who took the one and only Rosary she had said for her penance and dropped it on the tray of her good works. This one Rosary was so heavy that it weighed more than all her sins as well as her good works. Our Lady then reproved her for having refused to follow the counsel of her servant Dominic and for not saying the Rosary every day.
As soon as she came to herself she rushed and threw herself at the feet of Saint Dominic and told him all that had happened, begged his forgiveness and promised to say the Rosary faithfully every day. By this means she rose to Christian perfection and finally to the glory of everlasting life.
You who are people of prayer, learn from this the power, the value and importance of this devotion of the holy Rosary when it is said with meditation on the mysteries.
Few saints have reached the same heights of prayer as Saint Mary Magdalen, who was lifted up to heaven by angels each day, and who had the privilege of learning at the feet of Jesus and his holy Mother. Yet one day, when she asked God to show her a sure way of advancing in his love and arriving at the heights of perfect, he sent the archangel St. Michael to tell her, on his behalf, that there was no other way to reach perfection than to meditate on our Lord’s passion. So he placed a cross in the front of her cave and told her to pray before it, contemplating the sorrowful mysteries which she had seen take place with her own eyes.
The example of Saint Francis de Sales, the great spiritual director of his time, should spur you on to join the holy confraternity of the Rosary, since, great saint though he was, he bound himself by vow to say the whole Rosary every day as long as he lived.
Saint Charles Borromeo also said it every day and strongly recommended this devotion to his priests and clerics in seminaries and to all his people.
Blessed Pius V, one of the greatest popes who have ever ruled the Church, used to say the Rosary every day. Saint Thomas of Villanova, Archbishop of Valencia, Saint Ignatius, Saint Francis Xavier, Saint Francis Borgia, Saint Teresa, and Saint Philip Neri, as well as many other great men whom I do not mention, were greatly devoted to the Rosary.
Follow their example; your spiritual directors will be very pleased, and if they are aware of the benefits which you can derive from this devotion, they will be the first to urge you to adopt it.
To encourage you still more in this devotion practiced by so many holy people, I should like to add that the Rosary recited with the meditation of the mysteries brings about the following marvelous results:
- It gradually brings us a perfect knowledge of Jesus Christ;
- It purifies our souls from sin;
- It gives us victory over all our enemies;
- It makes the practice of virtue easy’
- It sets us on fire with the love of our Lord;
- It enriches us with graces and merits;
- It supplies us with what is needed to pay all our debts to God and to our fellowmen, and finally, it obtains all kinds of graces from God.
The knowledge of Jesus Christ is the science of Christians and the science of salvation; it surpasses, says Saint Paul, all human sciences in value and perfection:
- Because of the dignity of its object, which is a God-man, compared to whom the whole universe is but a drop of dew or a grain of sand;
- Because of its utility to us; human sciences only fill us with the wind and emptiness of pride;
- Because of its necessity; for no one can be saved without the knowledge of Jesus Christ, while a person who knows absolutely nothing of any other science will be saved as long as he is enlightened by the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Blessed is the Rosary which gives us this science and knowledge of our Blessed Lord through our meditations on his life, death, passion and glory.
The Queen of Sheba, lost in admiration at Solomon’s wisdom, cried out, “Blessed are your attendants and your servants who are always in your presence and hear your wisdom.” But happier still are the faithful who carefully meditate on the life, virtues, sufferings and glory of our Savior, because by this means they can gain perfect knowledge of him, in which eternal life consists.
Our Lady revealed to Blessed Alan that no sooner had Saint Dominic begun preaching the Rosary than hardened sinners were touched and wept bitterly over their grievous sins. Young children performed unbelievable penances, and everywhere he preached the Rosary such fervor was aroused that sinners changed their lives and edified everyone by their penances and the amendment of their lives.
If by chance your conscience is burdened with sin, take your Rosary and say at least a part of it in honor of some of the mysteries of the life, passion, and glory of Jesus Christ, and you can be sure that, while you are meditating on these mysteries and honoring them, he will show his sacred wounds to his father in heaven. He will plead for you and obtain for you contrition and the forgiveness of your sins. One day our Lord said to Blessed Alan, “If only these poor wretched sinners would say my Rosary often, they would share in the merits of my passion, and I would be their Advocate and would appease the justice of God.”
This life is a continual war and a series of temptations; we do not have to contend with enemies of flesh and blood, but with the very powers of hell. What better weapon could we possibly use to combat them than the prayer which our great Leader has taught us, than the Angelic Salutation which has put devils to flight, destroyed sin and renewed the world? What better weapon could we use than the meditation on the life and passion of Jesus Christ? For, as Saint Peter tells us, it is with this thought that we must arm ourselves, in order to defend ourselves against the very same enemies whom he has conquered and who molest us every day.
“Ever since the devil was crushed by the humility and the passion of Jesus Christ,” says Cardinal Hughes, “he has been practically unable to attack a soul that is armed with the meditation on the mysteries of our Lord’s life, and, if he does trouble such a soul, he is sure to be shamefully defeated.” “Put on the armor of God so as to be able to resist the attacks of the devil.”
So arm yourself with the arms of God, with the holy Rosary, and you will crush the devil’s head and stand firm in the face of all his temptations. This is why even a pair of rosary beads is so terrible to the devil, and why the saints have used them to fetter him and drive him from the bodies of those who were possessed. Such happenings have been recorded more than once.
Blessed Alan relates that a man he knew had tried desperately all kinds of devotions to rid himself of the evil spirit which possessed him, but without success. Finally, he thought of wearing his rosary round his neck, which eased him considerably. He discovered that whenever he took it off the devil tormented him cruelly, so he resolved to wear it night and day. This drove the evil spirit away forever because he could not bear such a terrible chain. Blessed Alan also testifies that he delivered a great number of those who were possessed by putting a rosary around their necks.
Father Jean Amat, of the Order of St. Dominic, was giving a series of Lenten sermons in the Kingdom of Aragon one year, when a young girl was brought to him who was possessed by the devil. After he had exorcised her several times without success, he put his rosary round her neck. Hardly had he done so when the girl began to scream and cry out in a fearful way, shrieking, “Take it off, take it off; these beads are tormenting me.” At last, the priest, filled with pity for the girl, took his rosary off her.
The very next night, when Fr. Amat was in bed, the same devils who had possession of the girl came to him, foaming with rage and tried to seize him. But he had his rosary clasped in his hand and no efforts of theirs could wrench it from him. He beat them with it very well indeed and put them to flight, crying out, “Holy Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary, come to my help.”
The next day on his way to the church, he met the poor girl, still possessed; one of the devils within her started to jeer at him, saying, “Well, brother, if you had been without your rosary, we should have made short shrift of you.” Then the good Father threw his rosary round the girl’s neck without more ado, saying, “By the sacred names of Jesus and Mary his holy Mother, and by the power of the holy Rosary, I command you, evil spirits, to leave the body of this girl at once.” They were immediately forced to obey him, and she was delivered from them.
These stories show the power of the holy Rosary in overcoming all sorts of temptations from the evil spirits and all sorts of sins, because these blessed beads of the Rosary put devils to rout.
St. Augustine assures us that there is no spiritual exercise more fruitful or more useful than the frequent reflection on the sufferings of our Lord. Blessed Albert the Great, who had St. Thomas Aquinas as his student, learned in a revelation that by simply thinking of or meditating on the passion of Jesus Christ, a Christian gains more merit than if he had fasted on bread and water every Friday for a year, or had beaten himself with the discipline once a week til blood flowed, or had recited the whole Book of Psalms every day. If this is so, then how great must be the merit we can gain from the Rosary, which commemorates the whole life and passion of our Lord?
Our Lady one day revealed to Blessed Alan de la Roche that, after the holy sacrifice of the Mass, which is the first and most living memorial of our Lord’s passion, there was indeed no more excellent devotion or one of greater merit than that of the Rosary, which is like a second memorial and representation of the life and passion of Jesus Christ.
Fr. Dorland relates that in 1481 our Lady appeared to the Venerable Dominic, a Carthusian devoted to the holy Rosary, who lived at Treves, and said to him:
“Whenever one of the faithful, in a state of grace, says the Rosary while meditating on the mysteries of the life and passion of Christ, he obtains full and entire remission of all his sins.”
She also said to Blessed Alan, “I want you to know that, although there are numerous indulgences already attached to the recitation of my Rosary, I shall add many more to every five decades for those, who free from serious sin, say them with devotion, on their knees. And whosoever shall persevere in the devotion of the holy Rosary, with its prayers and meditations, shall be rewarded for it; I shall obtain for him full remission of the penalty and the guilt of all his sins at the end of his life.
“And let this not seem incredible to you; it is easy for me because I am the Mother of the King of heaven, and he calls me full of grace. And being filled with grace, I am able to dispense it freely to my dear children.”
St. Dominic was so convinced of the efficacy of the Rosary and its great value, that when he heard confessions, he hardly ever gave any other penance, as we have seen in the story I told you of the lady in Rome to whom he gave only a single Rosary.
St. Dominic was a great saint and other confessors also ought to walk in his footsteps by asking their penitents to say the Rosary with meditation on the sacred mysteries, rather than giving them other penances which are less meritorious and less pleasing to God, less likely to help them avoid sin. Moreover, while saying the Rosary, people gain numerous indulgences which are not attached to many other devotions.
As Abbot Blosius says, “The Rosary, with meditation on the life and passion of Christ, is certainly most pleasing to our Lord and his blessed Mother and is a very successful means of obtaining all graces; we can say it for ourselves as well as for those who have been recommended to our prayers and for the whole Church. Let us turn, then, to the holy Rosary in all our needs, and we shall infallibly obtain the graces we ask for from God to attain our salvation.
There is nothing more divine, according to the mind of St. Denis, nothing more noble or agreeable to God than to cooperate in the work of saving souls and to frustrate the devil’s plans for ruining them. The Son of God came down to earth for no other reason than to save us. He upset Satan’s empire by founding the Church, but the devil rallied his strength and wreaked cruel violence on souls by the Albigenseans heresy, by the hatred, dissensions and abominable vices which he spread throughout the world in the eleventh century.
Only severe remedies could possible cure such terrible disorders and repel Satan’s forces. The Blessed Virgin, protectress of the Church, has given us a most powerful means for appeasing her Son’s anger, uprooting heresy and reforming Christian morals, in the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary, as events have shown. It has brought back charity and the frequent reception of the sacraments as in the first golden centuries of the Church, and it has reformed Christian morals.
Pope Leo X said in his bull that this Confraternity had been founded in honor of God and of the Blessed Virgin as a wall to hold back the evils that were going to break upon the Church.
Gregory XIII said that the Rosary was inspired by God that heaven might be more easily opened to us through the favors or our Lady.
Paul III and Blessed Pius V declared that the Rosary was given to the faithful in order that they might have spiritual peace and consolation more easily. Surely everyone will want to join a confraternity which was founded for such noble purposes.
Father Dominic, a Carthusian, who was deeply devoted to the holy Rosary, had a vision in which he saw heaven open and the whole heavenly court assembled in magnificent array. He heard them sing the Rosary in an enchanting melody, and each decade was in honor of a mystery of the life, passion, or glory of Jesus Chris and his holy Mother. Fr. Dominic noticed that whenever they pronounced the holy name of Mary they bowed their head, and at the name of Jesus they genuflected and gave thanks to God for the great good that he had wrought in heaven and on earth through the holy Rosary. He also saw how our Lady and the Saints present to God the Rosaries which the Confraternity members say here on earth. He noticed too that they were praying for those who practice this devotion. He also saw beautiful crowns without number, which were made of sweet-smelling flowers, for those who say the Rosary devoutly. He learned that by every Rosary that they say they make a crown for themselves which they will be able to wear in heaven.
This holy Carthusian’s vision is very much like that the Beloved Disciple had, in which he saw a great multitude of angels and saints, who continually praised and blessed Jesus Christ for all that he had done and suffered on earth for our salvation. And is not this what the devout members of the Rosary Confraternity do?
It must not be imagined that the Rosary is only for women, and for simple and unlearned people; it is also for men and for the greatest of men. As soon as St. Dominic acquainted Pope Innocent III with the fact that he had received a command from heaven to establish the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary, the Holy Father gave it his full approval, urged St. Dominic to preach it, and said that he wished to become a member himself. Even Cardinals embraced the devotion with great fervor, which prompted Lopez to say, “Neither sex nor age nor any other condition has kept anyone from devotion to the Rosary.”
Members of the Confraternity have come from all walks of life: dukes, princes, kings, as well as prelates, cardinals, and Sovereign Pontiffs. It would take too long to list them in this little book. If you join this Confraternity, dear reader, you will share in their devotion and their graces on earth and their glory in heaven. “Since you are united to them in their devotion, you will share in their dignity.”