Online Edition – October 2005
Vol. XI, No. 7
The Rosary – A Prayer of and for Families
Madonna of the Rosary (with Mysteries of the Rosary) – by Lorenzo Lotto
(1539) Oil on canvasChurch of San Nicolo, Cingoli
“Blessed Rosary of Mary, sweet chain linking us to God”, wrote Pope John Paul II in his apostolic letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae (The Rosary of the Virgin Mary).
The letter was written three years ago, to inaugurate the Year of the Rosary — October 2002-2003. The Holy Father strongly encouraged a revival of this beloved form of prayer, which, he said, “has lost none of the freshness of its beginnings”.
Through praying and meditating on the Rosary — a prayer that is centered on Christ — the believer “is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of His love”, the pope said.
To underscore the Christological significance of the Rosary prayer, Pope John Paul II added a new set of five Gospel “mysteries” from the life of Jesus Christ, known as the “Luminous Mysteries”.
The painting by Lorenzo Lotto reproduced here shows the Madonna and the infant Jesus seated in front of a large rosebush ornamented with a Rosary containing rondels illustrating the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary — Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious — as she hands a Rosary to Saint Dominic. This 1539 oil painting is in the Church of San Nicolo, Cingoli.
Pope Benedict XVI, in his Angelus message of October 2, said, “The month of October is dedicated to the Holy Rosary, the unique contemplative prayer through which, guided by the Lord’s Heavenly Mother, we fix our gaze on the face of the Redeemer in order to be conformed to His joyful, light-filled, sorrowful and glorious mysteries”. At the conclusion of the Year of the Eucharist and in this Month of the Rosary, it seems fitting that we recall this “sweet chain linking us to God”. The following paragraphs from the conclusion of Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter focus on the Rosary as a prayer of and for families — parents and children.
To access more on the Rosary, visit Women for Faith & Family’s web page: www.wf-f.org/Rosary.html
The family: parents…
41. As a prayer for peace, the Rosary is also, and always has been, a prayer of and for the family. At one time this prayer was particularly dear to Christian families, and it certainly brought them closer together. It is important not to lose this precious inheritance. We need to return to the practice of family prayer and prayer for families, continuing to use the Rosary.
In my Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte I encouraged the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours by the lay faithful in the ordinary life of parish communities and Christian groups; I now wish to do the same for the Rosary. These two paths of Christian contemplation are not mutually exclusive; they complement one another. I would therefore ask those who devote themselves to the pastoral care of families to recommend heartily the recitation of the Rosary.
The family that prays together stays together. The Holy Rosary, by age-old tradition, has shown itself particularly effective as a prayer which brings the family together. Individual family members, in turning their eyes towards Jesus, also regain the ability to look one another in the eye, to communicate, to show solidarity, to forgive one another and to see their covenant of love renewed in the Spirit of God.
Many of the problems facing contemporary families, especially in economically developed societies, result from their increasing difficulty in communicating. Families seldom manage to come together, and the rare occasions when they do are often taken up with watching television. To return to the recitation of the family Rosary means filling daily life with very different images, images of the mystery of salvation: the image of the Redeemer, the image of His most Blessed Mother. The family that recites the Rosary together reproduces something of the atmosphere of the household of Nazareth: its members place Jesus at the center, they share His joys and sorrows, they place their needs and their plans in His hands, they draw from Him the hope and the strength to go on.
… and children
42. It is also beautiful and fruitful to entrust to this prayer the growth and development of children. Does the Rosary not follow the life of Christ, from His conception to His death, and then to His Resurrection and His glory? Parents are finding it ever more difficult to follow the lives of their children as they grow to maturity. In a society of advanced technology, of mass communications and globalization, everything has become hurried, and the cultural distance between generations is growing ever greater. The most diverse messages and the most unpredictable experiences rapidly make their way into the lives of children and adolescents, and parents can become quite anxious about the dangers their children face. At times parents suffer acute disappointment at the failure of their children to resist the seductions of the drug culture, the lure of an unbridled hedonism, the temptation to violence, and the manifold expressions of meaninglessness and despair.
To pray the Rosary for children, and even more, with children, training them from their earliest years to experience this daily “pause for prayer” with the family, is admittedly not the solution to every problem, but it is a spiritual aid which should not be underestimated. It could be objected that the Rosary seems hardly suited to the taste of children and young people of today. But perhaps the objection is directed to an impoverished method of praying it. Furthermore, without prejudice to the Rosary’s basic structure, there is nothing to stop children and young people from praying it — either within the family or in groups — with appropriate symbolic and practical aids to understanding and appreciation. Why not try it? With God’s help, a pastoral approach to youth which is positive, impassioned and creative … is capable of achieving quite remarkable results. If the Rosary is well presented, I am sure that young people will once more surprise adults by the way they make this prayer their own and recite it with the enthusiasm typical of their age group.